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Bracketology: It's a late January mess

While the top teams in the country are solidifying their places, there are still plenty of bids at stake for teams appearing in and absent from Chris Dobbertean's Tuesday bracket projection.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Things at the top of the bracket haven't changed at all since last week's projection, as the Kentucky Wildcats, Virginia Cavaliers, Duke Blue Devils, and Gonzaga Bulldogs remain No. 1 seeds for the second bracket in a row.

It's a different story at the bottom of the at-large pool, which is as muddled as it always seems to be in late January. I'll explain further after today's full projection and rundown.

Cleveland (Thu/Sat)
(2) EAST
Syracuse (Fri/Sun)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
1 Kentucky (SEC) 1 Virginia (ACC)
16 Colgate/North Florida 16 St. Francis-Brooklyn/Texas Southern
8 Ohio State 8 88 Arkansas
9 Miami 9 Colorado State
Seattle (Fri/Sun) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
5 Louisville 5 Butler
12 Green Bay (Horizon) 122 Illinois/Kansas State
4 Georgetown 4 Iowa State
*13 Louisiana Tech (C-USA) 13 Iona (MAAC)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
6 Stanford 666 Northern Iowa
11 Xavier 11 Oklahoma State
3 Notre Dame 3 Utah
14 N.C. Central (MEAC) 14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
7 Seton Hall *7 SMU (American)
10 George Washington 10 LSU
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 Wisconsin (Big Ten)
15 Georgia State (Sun Belt) 15 South Dakota State (Summit)
(4) WEST
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
Houston (Fri/Sun)
Seattle (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
1 Gonzaga (WCC) 1 Duke
16 Long Beach State (Big West) *16 Albany (AE)
8 Iowa 8 Indiana
*9 San Diego State (MW) 9 Dayton
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)
5 Baylor 5 West Virginia
12 St. John's/Tennessee 12 Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
4 Wichita State (MVC) 4 VCU (A 10)
13 Harvard (Ivy) *13 Bowling Green (MAC)
Jacksonville (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
6 Oklahoma 6 Cincinnati
11 Georgia 11 Wofford (SoCon)
3 North Carolina 3 Maryland
*14 High Point (Big South) 14 Murray State (OVC)
Portland (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
7 Providence 7 Texas
10 Michigan State 10 N.C. State
2 Arizona (Pac-12) 2 Villanova (Big East)
15 New Mexico State (WAC) *15 William & Mary (CAA)
Tuesday: To Louisville Tuesday: To Louisville
16 Colgate (Patriot) 12 Illinois
16 North Florida (A-Sun) *12 Kansas State
Wednesday: To Charlotte Wednesday: To Columbus
16 St. Francis-Brooklyn (NEC) 12 St. John's
16 Texas Southern (SWAC) 12 Tennessee

* = new team

Big 12: 8 LSU Albany Alabama
ACC: 7 Georgia Bowling Green Buffalo
Big East: 7 Xavier High Point Coastal Carolina
Big Ten: 7 Oklahoma State Kansas State Hofstra
SEC: 5 LAST FOUR IN Louisiana Tech Old Dominion
A 10: 3
Kansas State SMU Syracuse
Pac-12: 3 Tennessee William & Mary Vermont
AAC: 2 Illinois

MVC: 2 St. John's


One-bid conferences: 22 Texas A&M






Old Dominion



Also considered (in alphabetical order): Boise State, BYU, Connecticut, Davidson, Loyola-Chicago, Michigan, New Mexico, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Purdue, Rhode Island, St. Mary's, UTEP, Valparaiso, Wyoming

Even though this is my tenth season of participating in this ultimately fruitless activity, I still am surprised at how messy the picture near the cut line appears every single year at this exact time. (Note to self: please do a better job of anticipating this in season 11.)

Therefore, this week's First Four features a collection of different profile types. Kansas State appears thanks to its strong performance early in the Big 12 season, which has resurrected the hopes of a team that frankly didn't do very much during November and December. Illinois is still around, mostly due to the strength of wins over Maryland and Baylor, along with a lack of losses to teams outside of the RPI Top 100. St. John's clings to life, though the Red Storm would have been far safer had they defeated Duke on Sunday afternoon. Finally, Tennessee also hangs on, thanks to victories over Butler, Arkansas, and Kansas State.

The teams on the outside looking in at the moment are even more flawed. Texas A&M and Tulsa are a pair of teams with great computer numbers that don't yet have the quality wins to match. Washington looked like a lock in December, but has struggled in Pac-12 play. Syracuse would have remained in had they defeated North Carolina and Miami in a 48-hour span. Instead, the Orange suffered a pair of disappointing losses. The SEC's bid total for the week dropped from six to five, as Alabama fell at Arkansas in overtime on Thursday night, a loss they may very well regret come Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, Old Dominion is quickly discovering that Conference USA isn't the place to drop games in January. That league simply doesn't offer the quality win opportunities needed to cover up bad losses.

With Kansas State's arrival and Syracuse's departure, the Big 12 takes the lead in the conference bid race from the ACC, by an eight-to-seven count. The Big East and Big Ten also continue to provide seven teams, though Nebraska and Purdue could increase the latter's total as the season rolls on. The SEC drops to five, while the Atlantic 10 and Pac-12 hold steady with three. Finally, there number of two-bid leagues jumps back up to three, as the American joins the Missouri Valley and Mountain West again, thanks to the inclusion of new projected leader SMU.

January is winding down. That means rematches, as unpredictable and sporadic as they may be in this age of unbalanced schedules in super-sized conferences, start to become part of the college basketball tapestry. Several intriguing ones appear in this week's list of games with significant bracket impact.

West Virginia at Kansas State, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Mountaineers and Wildcats both sit a loss behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings, with K-State needing to keep winning to boost its stock after an uninspiring non-conference schedule and WVU teetering a bit -- thanks to two losses (and an OT win over TCU) in its last four outings.

Xavier at Georgetown, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
The Hoyas have risen up to a four seed, while the Musketeers could use a quality win, as they are perilously close to the cut line.

George Washington at VCU, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
The Colonials share second in the Atlantic 10 with Dayton, but of the pair, only GW gets to play the Rams home and away. The two meet again at Foggy Bottom on Valentine's Day.

Duke at Notre Dame, Wednesday 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Now that Coach K has his 1000th career win, the Blue Devils' focus shifts to two titanic ACC contests, both on the road. Duke's Saturday opponent, Virginia, is the only team to have defeated the Irish at Purcell Pavilion this season.

Stanford at Washington, Wednesday 11 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
A victory over the Cardinal, who toppled the Huskies after overtime back on January 4th, would be a nice boost to Washington's NCAA hopes.

Maryland at Ohio State, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
If the Terrapins dig themselves a hole similar to the one they found themselves in at home against Northwestern on Sunday night in Columbus, the Buckeyes should be able to pick up a marquee win.

Connecticut at Cincinnati, Thursday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Huskies, 62-56 winners in Hartford on January 10th, can complete a somewhat surprising regular season sweep of the Bearcats. Such a result would be vital for UConn's fading hopes.

Oregon State at Arizona, Friday 10 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Networks)
Heading into Wednesday's game at Arizona State, the Beavers (and Stanford) currently sit a game behind the Wildcats (and Utah) in the Pac-12 race. However, thanks to a lack of quality non-conference wins, Wayne Tinkle's squad might need to defeat Arizona for a second time to earn at-large consideration.

Wisconsin at Iowa, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Do you think the Hawkeyes would like to improve upon the 82-50 beating they took in Madison on January 20th?

North Carolina at Louisville, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Back on January 10th, Marcus Paige's incredible layup with 8.5 seconds left capped an unexpected Tar Heel comeback in Chapel Hill. I can't wait to see what's in store when the scene shifts to Louisville, especially with the hosts needing a quality win.

Wichita State at Northern Iowa, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Provided the Shockers and Panthers make it through their respective midweek games against Loyola of Chicago and Southern Illinois, a pair of Valley undefeated will square off in Cedar Falls, the first of three possible meetings for a pair of teams in the hunt for conference honors and a protected seed.

Texas at Baylor, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Longhorns, losers of four of their last six, could really use a win in Waco.

Duke at Virginia, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Cavaliers will have had nearly a week off before the Blue Devils visit Charlottesville for the pair's only regular season meeting. Will UVa remain undefeated or will Duke capture a vital road win and take the ACC favorite mantle in the process?

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
It seems wrong that this season's Bedlam home-and-home will be completed on January 31st. The Cowboys, barely in this projection, will look to reverse the 17-point loss they suffered in Norman on January 17th.

Virginia at North Carolina, Monday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
A mere 48 hours after hosting Duke, the Cavaliers will face a road test even sterner than the one they encountered in Blacksburg on Sunday.

Iowa State at Kansas, Monday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
This week full of  rematches concludes with a reprise in Lawrence of a Cyclones-Jayhawks rivalry that has become one of the nation's most entertaining -- witness KU's failed, yet valiant late rally in an 86-81 loss in Ames back on January 17th.