The four No. 1 seeds last Tuesday all remain in place for the first bracket update in February -- the first of two this week. That's right. Now that football season is over, it's time for more frequent projections. I'll release updates on Tuesdays and Fridays from now until Championship Week, when things will pick up considerably.
As for this bracket, the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats remain cemented in the top spot with a pair of intriguing tests -- against Georgia at Rupp Arena and the possibly resurgent Florida Gators in Gainesville -- on the Cats' schedule for the week. One-loss Virginia remains ahead of Duke for the No. 2 spot, despite the Blue Devils' win Saturday in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers followed up that disappointment by rolling past North Carolina, one of a trio of projected No. 3 seeds from the ACC, on Monday night. Gonzaga rounds out the crop of top seeds, with Arizona's losses to Oregon State and UNLV keeping the Wildcats behind the Bulldogs, despite an impressive head-to-head win in Tucson.
Villanova, Wisconsin and Kansas -- the leaders of the Big East, Big Ten and Big 12 -- join Arizona on the two line. None of those four are out of the top seed chase with six weeks left, and you'll want to keep an eye on the Jayhawks in particular. KU made light work of Iowa State in Lawrence Monday night to seize control of the Big 12 race. Given how the selection committee loves to reward teams that can claim both their conference regular season and tournament titles, Kansas looks to be in the best position of any of the top eight to complete the double this year, other than Kentucky or Gonzaga, of course.
Of last week's top 16, only Wichita State and Georgetown have fallen from the group of protected seeds. The Shockers dropped after Northern Iowa surprisingly ran them off the floor in Cedar Falls, while a comprehensive win over struggling Creighton was not enough to keep the Hoyas up after Xavier completed a season sweep at midweek. Replacing Wichita State and Georgetown are Louisville, another ACC three seed, and West Virginia, the third-highest of seven Big 12 bracket entrants.
A look at this week's changes near the cut line follows the full bracket and rundown.
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Charlotte (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Kentucky (SEC)||1||Virginia (ACC)|
|16||Colgate/Texas Southern||16||New Mexico State/St. Francis-Brooklyn|
|↑ 8||Michigan State||↓ 8 88||Seton Hall|
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Columbus (Fri/Sun)|
|↓ 5||Wichita State (MVC)||↓ 5||Georgetown|
|12||Oklahoma State/St. John's||122||Illinois/Tennessee|
|4||VCU (A 10)||4||Iowa State|
|↑ 13||William & Mary (CAA)||13||Harvard (Ivy)|
|Columbus (Fri/Sun)||Portland (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 6||Indiana||↑ 6666||Texas|
|11||Wofford (SoCon)||↓ 11||N.C. State|
|↓ 14||Louisiana Tech (C-USA)||14||Stephen F. Austin (Southland)|
|Omaha (Fri/Sun)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 7||Ohio State||7||SMU (American)|
|↓ 10||Miami||↓ 10||Colorado State|
|2||Kansas (Big 12)||2||Wisconsin (Big Ten)|
|15||Georgia State (Sun Belt)||*15||UC Irvine (Big West)|
|(4) WEST |
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
|Seattle (Fri/Sun)||Charlotte (Fri/Sun)|
|↓ 16||South Dakota State (Summit)||16||Albany (AE)|
|↓ 8||Arkansas||↓ 8||Stanford|
|↑ 9||George Washington||↑ 9||Georgia|
|Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)||Seattle (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 5||Northern Iowa||↑ 5||Butler|
|12||Eastern Washington (Big Sky)||↑ 12||Iona (MAAC)|
|↓ 4||Maryland||↑ 4||West Virginia|
|↑ 13||Murray State (OVC)||*13||Akron (MAC)|
|Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)||Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)|
|*11||Texas A&M||↓ 11||Iowa|
|3||North Carolina||↑ 3||Louisville|
|*14||Valparaiso (Horizon)||14||N.C. Central (MEAC)|
|Portland (Thu/Sat)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|7||Providence||↑ 7||San Diego State (MW)|
|2||Arizona (Pac-12)||2||Villanova (Big East)|
|*15||Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun)||↓ 15||High Point (Big South)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Louisville||Tuesday: To Louisville|
|16||Colgate (Patriot)||↓ 12||Oklahoma State|
|16||Texas Southern (SWAC)||*12||St. John's|
|Wednesday: To Charlotte||Wednesday: To Columbus
|↓ 16||New Mexico State (WAC)||12||Illinois|
|16||St. Francis-Brooklyn (NEC)||12||Tennessee|
* = new team
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|ACC: 7||Cincinnati||Akron||Bowling Green|
|Big 12: 7||Iowa||Florida Gulf Coast||Green Bay|
|Big East: 7||N.C. State||Texas A&M||Kansas State|
|Big Ten: 7||Texas A&M||UC Irvine||Long Beach State|
|SEC: 6||LAST FOUR IN||Valparaiso||North Florida|
|A 10: 3
|Pac-12: 3||St. John's|
|MW: 2||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|One-bid conferences: 22||Old Dominion|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Boise State, BYU, Clemson, Davidson, Green Bay, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rhode Island, St. Mary's, UTEP, Wyoming
One change at the bottom of the at-large pool affected this week's conference distribution. Texas A&M becomes the sixth SEC team in the projected field, knocking Kansas State out, which reduced the Big 12's total to seven, a number that equals the leading total also provided by the ACC, Big East and Big Ten. The Atlantic 10 and Pac-12 remain three-bid leagues, while the American, Missouri Valley and Mountain West each provide a pair.
St. John's (with new life after sweeping Providence), Tennessee (treading water after splitting with Arkansas and Auburn) and Illinois (hanging tough despite injuries and suspensions) remain just in, barely ahead of Old Dominion (the Monarchs' Conference USA struggles diminish some excellent non-conference work), Tulsa (whose lack of non-league success keeps it down despite a perfect American record) and Ole Miss (a team that has a chance to make a case in the coming days).
Since this week marks the return of my Friday updates, my Tuesday post will focus on a few games to watch between now and Thursday. I'll have a set of weekend and Monday contests with my next update.
St. John's at Butler, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
The Red Storm's Jan. 14 win at Providence is the only one the Johnnies have been able to collect on their conference travels so far -- having dropped games at Seton Hall, DePaul and Creighton. Picking up a second Big East road win at the expense of a strong Bulldog team would provide a needed boost to St. John's profile. Butler won at Carnesecca Arena by just four on Jan. 3.
West Virginia at Oklahoma, Tuesday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
While Buddy Hield scored 21 for the Sooners when the pair met in Morgantown on Jan. 13, the Mountaineers picked up a victory by exactly that many points, thanks in no small part to 22 OU turnovers. Oklahoma will be aiming for a split, but WVU has only lost once away from home all season, an inexplicable 27-point loss at Texas on Jan. 17.
Louisville at Miami, Tuesday 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
You should probably pity those viewers who are getting the other ACC Network Regional selection for tonight, North Carolina State at Wake Forest, as they'll need to rely on the Internet to see the more attractive matchup on offer. The Cardinals, fresh off a thrilling comeback overtime win over North Carolina, travel to Coral Gables to face a Hurricane team that blew a 16-point lead en route to taking a bad loss at Florida State on Sunday afternoon.
Ohio State at Purdue, Wednesday 6:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
While the Buckeyes have won three straight -- knocking off ranked Maryland and Indiana in their last two -- to solidify their position, the Boilermakers have reeled off a similar streak, with home victories over the Hoosiers and Iowa, to put themselves back in the frame.
Texas A&M at Ole Miss, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
The Aggies move into this projection after extending their win streak to six, thanks to victories over Auburn and Vanderbilt. (In the SEC, this is known as "avoiding obvious traps" and is considered a significant accomplishment.) However, the Rebels, on a three-game tear of their own, will see this as an opportunity to pick up a win that can help balance out some questionable losses (Charleston Southern, TCU, Western Kentucky) on their confusing profile.
Providence at Georgetown, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
What would be the best way for the Friars to bounce back from being swept? By completing a sweep of their own, of course. Providence defeated the Hoyas at home, though they needed overtime to do it, back on Jan. 10.
Iowa at Michigan, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
On Sunday, the Wolverines took Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing, and promptly managed to get shut out over the extra five minutes. That result, and a recent home OT loss to Wisconsin, illustrate that, while Michigan is improving, it might not be ready to make a late charge at a bid. I'm not sure defeating a struggling Hawkeye team that's dropped three straight will change that, but it would be in Iowa's best interest to prevent such a scenario from becoming reality.
Cincinnati at SMU, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Bearcats, who lost to East Carolina on Sunday, are now three losses behind Tulsa in the American race, and in shakier at-large position as a result. Meanwhile, the host Mustangs are one loss back, with a showdown in Oklahoma conveniently scheduled for less than 48 hours after the conclusion of this one.
UCLA at Stanford, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Even though the Bruins swept Utah and Colorado last week, they're not quite in the bid picture yet. Go two-for-two on the Bay Area swing, starting with a win over a Cardinal team that lost at Washington State on Saturday night, and that might very well change.
My next update will come in just three days. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ChrisDobbertean) for my nightly insights.