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Bracketology: Chaotic week causes major turnovers in NCAA Tournament projection

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Michigan State has dropped from a No. 1 seed to a No. 3 seed. Duke and Kentucky are a five and six-seed, respectively. Rising to the top? The Xavier Musketeers.

Harry How/Getty Images

The Big 12 and Big East dominate the top line this week. The polls' top-ranked team—the Oklahoma Sooners—is the third overall seed, following their Monday night loss at Iowa State. That defeat bumped the Kansas Jayhawks up to the top spot. Second goes to Big East-leading Villanova Wildcats, top team in the RPI and KenPom tables, while the Xavier Musketeers, whose only loss came at the hands of the Wildcats, sit fourth. The two Big East squads replace the Michigan State Spartans and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Now, the Spartans lost twice since last Tuesday's bracket, so their drop makes sense. On the other hand, the Heels won their only game in that span, over North Carolina State. So, what gives?

Well, Xavier and UNC both boast 9-1 records against the RPI top 100, but the Musketeers are slightly superior against the top 50, with two more wins against that group than Roy Williams' squad currently has. Plus, Xavier's loss is a bit better than the two Carolina defeats—the setback at Northern Iowa looks worse by the day, even if you account for Marcus Paige's absence.

North Carolina's back-loaded schedule plays a role as well. In their first five conference games, the Tar Heels have played four bubble teams—new arrivals Florida State and Syracuse, a Clemson team that will be a threat if it can get a road win, and fading Georgia Tech. The rest of January is also relatively easy, for this season's ACC anyway. But starting with the Big Monday road trip to Louisville on Feb. 1, eight of UNC's 10 remaining conference games come against NCAA hopefuls. They'll have plenty of opportunities to rise over the final six weeks of the season.

So, for the moment, North Carolina sits on a radically different two line, which also features the returning Maryland Terrapins (coincidentally, the Tar Heels' best win), the Iowa Hawkeyes (twice conquerors of Michigan State) and the SEC-leading Texas A&M Aggies, who have replaced inconsistent Kentucky as that conference's best bet for a protected seed.

After this week's full bracket and rundown, I'll take a look at a few of the other most significant changes on this Tuesday.

Arrows indicate rising or falling seeds, while new entries are marked with an asterisk.

(1) MIDWEST
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
(2) EAST
Philadelphia (Fri/Sun)
Des Moines (Thu/Sat) Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)
1 Kansas (Big 12) 1 Villanova (BE)
16 Mt. St. Mary's/Texas Southern *16 Navy (Patriot)
8 Monmouth (MAAC) 8 George Washington
*9 Colorado 9 UCLA
Spokane (Fri/Sun) Denver (Thu/Sat)
5 USC (Pac-12) 5 Arizona
*12 VCU (A 10) *12 Chattanooga (SoCon)
4 Providence 4 Purdue
13 UAB (C-USA) 13 Little Rock (Sun Belt)
Providence (Thu/Sat) Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)
6 Kentucky 6 Pittsburgh
11 California/Syracuse 11 Florida/Ohio State
3 Virginia 3 West Virginia
*14 Stony Brook (AE) 14 Princeton (Ivy)
Des Moines (Thu/Sat) Raleigh (Thu/Sat)
7 Butler 7 Indiana
10 Valparaiso (Horizon) ↓10 Connecticut
2 Iowa 2 North Carolina (ACC)
*15 UNC Asheville (Big South) 15 North Florida (A-Sun)
(4) WEST
Anaheim (Thu/Sat)
(3) SOUTH
Louisville (Thu/Sat)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)
1 Xavier 1 Oklahoma
16 Hampton/Stephen F. Austin *16 Tennessee State (OVC)
8 Texas 8 South Carolina
*9 Notre Dame 9 Wichita State (MVC)
Spokane (Fri/Sun) Providence (Thu/Sat)
5 Duke 5 Dayton
12 William & Mary (CAA) *12 San Diego State (MW)
4 Oregon 4 Miami
*13 Memphis (AAC) *13 IPFW (Summit)
Denver (Thu/Sat) St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
6 Louisville 6 Baylor
11 Gonzaga *11 Florida State
3 Iowa State 3 Michigan State
14 Hawai'i (Big West) ↓14 Northern Illinois (MAC)
Raleigh (Thu/Sat) Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)
7 Utah 7 Michigan
10 Seton Hall 10 Saint Mary's (WCC)
2 Maryland (Big Ten) 2 Texas A&M (SEC)
15 Cal State Bakersfield (WAC) 15 Montana (Big Sky)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Des Moines Tuesday: To Providence
*16 Mount St. Mary's (NEC) 11 California
16 Texas Southern (SWAC) *11 Syracuse
Wednesday: To St. Louis Wednesday: To Brooklyn
16 Hampton (MEAC) 11 Florida
*16 Stephen F. Austin (Southland) 11 Ohio State

BIDS BY CONFERENCE AVOIDING DAYTON ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
ACC: 9 Seton Hall (37) Chattanooga (SoCon) Albany (AE)
Big Ten: 7 Connecticut (40) Colorado Boise State (MW)
Pac-12: 7 Gonzaga (41) Florida State Bucknell (Patriot)
Big 12: 5 Florida State (42) IPFW (Summit) ETSU (SoCon)
Big East: 5 LAST FOUR IN Memphis (AAC) High Point (Big South)
SEC: 4 California (43) Mt. St. Mary's (NEC) Houston (AAC)
A 10: 3 Ohio State (44) Navy (Patriot) Iona (MAAC)
AAC: 2 Florida (45) Notre Dame Omaha (Summit)
WCC: 2 Syracuse (46) San Diego State (MW) St. Bonaventure (A 10)
One-Bid Conferences: 23 FIRST FOUR OUT Stephen F. Austin (Slnd) Tennessee Tech (OVC)

Boise State Stony Brook (AE) Texas A&M-CC (Sthlnd)
Washington Syracuse Texas Tech

Clemson Tennessee State (OVC) UT Arlington

Texas Tech UNC Asheville (Big South) Wagner (NEC)

NEXT FOUR OUT VCU (A 10) Washington (Pac-12)

Oregon State


Saint Joseph's


UT Arlington


St. Bonaventure

Also considered: Alabama, Arizona State, BYU, Cincinnati, Creighton, Davidson, Evansville, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, LSU, Marquette, Ole Miss, Rhode Island, Richmond, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech

In the span of a week, Michigan State tumbled from the first overall seed to the three line, where they're joined by West Virginia, which came close to knocking off two top seeds last week; Virginia, more on the strength of their early season results, not the three losses they've suffered in their last four games; and Iowa State.

Duke, losers of three in a row to unranked opponents, and Kentucky, which fell at Auburn and struggled to defeat Mississippi State in Lexington in the past seven days, are now both out of the top 16. With Amile Jefferson still out and the Blue Devils struggling in his absence, Louisville and Pittsburgh may have better protected seed prospects long-term than last season's national champions.

While the ACC leads the way with nine teams, the Big Ten and Pac-12 follow behind with seven apiece. The difference between those two conferences is that the Midwesterners aren't likely to build upon that number. The West Coasters, however, saw their total remain stable this week despite Washington falling out of the conference lead, which cost them the auto bid in this projection. Colorado, winners over both Oregon and Oregon State, simply jumped in to replace the Huskies. Plus, UW, the Beavers and Stanford all remain in the picture. The Big Ten, with a pitiful second division, cannot offer that kind of depth.

With the Metro Atlantic and Sun Belt dropping down to a single bid each this week, the Mountain West's continuing struggles and Gonzaga moving perilously close to the cut line following a home loss to BYU, it's looking like there won't be many at-large bids from outside of the power conferences in 2016. On Friday, as we move closer to the first look at who's safe and who's on the bubble for this season, I will attempt to forecast how many bids each conference will claim on Selection Sunday.