On Saturday, the top two teams in the country both lost on the same day for the first time since 2013 (not all that impressive) and to unranked foes for the first time since 2006 (okay, now we're talking). While the then-top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners and second-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels -- who not only lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday but also the Louisville Cardinals hours after last week's polls were released -- tumbled in Monday's new rankings, bracketology takes a different view: a longer-term one.
So, the Villanova Wildcats, while tops in both the AP and coaches' polls, still sit behind the Sooners on the top line of this projection, thanks not only to OU's head-to-head victory but also three wins against the RPI top 25. Nova has just one.
On the other hand, the Tar Heels indeed fell from the group of one seeds, replaced by the Xavier Musketeers, who looked for a time in its Saturday home contest with Marquette looked ready to join the upset list. While UNC and Villanova share the same 1-2 mark against the top 25, the Heels still have that bad early loss to Northern Iowa.
As for their replacement, Chris Mack's squad is 2-1 in top 25 games, though both wins happened over Thanksgiving weekend at the Advocare Invitational. Xavier must improve that total over the final five weeks (perhaps that home rematch with Villanova on Feb. 24?) to have a legitimate chance at remaining in an anchor spot.
The Big Ten-leading Iowa Hawkeyes are 4-3 against the top 25 and remain on the top line, thanks to sweeps of Michigan State Spartans and the Purdue Boilermakers in Big Ten play. North Carolina, the Kansas Jayhawks (still a legitimate threat to get back on the top line, thanks to three Top 25 wins of their own), Maryland Terrapins and Oregon Ducks fill line two.
Louisville's self-imposed postseason ban will have impacts from the protected seed group all the way down to the cut line. I'll discuss those more after today's full bracket and rundown.
|(1) SOUTH |
|Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Oklahoma||1||Villanova (Big East)|
|16||New Mexico State (WAC)||16||Bucknell/Texas Southern|
|8||Wichita State (MVC)||8||Pittsburgh|
|Denver (Thu/Sat)||Denver (Thu/Sat)|
|12||Chattanooga (SoCon)||12||San Diego State (MW)|
|13||South Dakota State (Summit)||↑13||Yale (Ivy)|
|Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)||Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)|
|14||UNC Wilmington (CAA)||14||Akron (MAC)|
|Raleigh (Thu/Sat)||Raleigh (Thu/Sat)|
|2||Maryland||↓2||North Carolina (ACC)|
|15||North Florida (A-Sun)||↓15||Belmont (OVC)|
|(4) WEST |
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Des Moines (Thu/Sat)|
|1||Xavier||1||Iowa (Big Ten)|
|16||UNC Asheville (Big South)||16||Fairleigh Dickinson/Hampton|
|Spokane (Fri/Sun)||Providence (Thu/Sat)|
|*12||Oregon State||12||Butler/George Washington|
|↑4||Dayton (A 10)||4||Miami|
|*13||Hawai'i (Big West)||13||Little Rock (Sun Belt)|
|Providence (Thu/Sat)||St. Louis (Fri/Sun)|
|11||Gonzaga (WCC)||*11||Temple (American)|
|↑3||West Virginia (Big 12)||3||Michigan State|
|↓14||Stony Brook (AE)||↑14||UAB (C-USA)|
|Spokane (Fri/Sun)||Des Moines (Thu/Sat)|
|15||Montana (Big Sky)||15||Stephen F. Austin (Southland)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Des Moines||Tuesday: To Providence|
|*16||Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC)||12||Butler|
|16||Hampton (MEAC)||12||George Washington|
|Wednesday: To Brooklyn||Wednesday: To Brooklyn
|16||Texas Southern (SWAC)||↓11||Washington|
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|ACC: 8||Florida State (38)||Fairleigh Dickinson (NEC)||Louisville|
|Pac-12: 8||Syracuse (39)||Hawai'i (Big West)||Saint Joseph's|
|Big 12: 6||Seton Hall (40)||LSU (SEC)||Saint Mary's|
|Big Ten: 6||Oregon State (41)||Oregon State||UC Irvine (Big West)|
|Big East: 5||LAST FOUR IN||Temple (American)||Wagner (NEC)|
|SEC: 5||Washington (45)|
|AAC: 3||Geo. Washington (46)|
|A 10: 3||Cincinnati (47)|
|One-Bid Conferences: 24||Butler (48)|
|FIRST FOUR OUT|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered (in order): UCLA, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Georgia, Tulsa, Georgetown, Ohio State, Boise State, Creighton
On Friday, Louisville -- a No. 6 seed in last Tuesday's projection -- removed itself from postseason consideration as a preemptive response to one of the more sordid NCAA investigations in recent memory. With the SMU Mustangs banned by the NCAA before the season began, this is the very rare season where two surefire tournament teams will sit out for March Madness.
Given the Cardinals' remaining ACC schedule, it was conceivable that they could have picked up enough quality wins to earn a protected seed. Their elimination means there's one fewer contender breathing down the necks of the teams on the three and four lines.
But Louisville's absence, like SMU's, opens up a place for a team who might have otherwise been an NIT No. 1 seed in a previous season. Based on my Friday look at the bubble, the team to replace the Cardinals would have been the LSU Tigers. However, thanks to the combination of the Bayou Bengals' Saturday win over Mississippi State and Texas A&M's home loss to surprising South Carolina, LSU holds the SEC's auto bid for the moment. So, the Butler Bulldogs, the final at-large team in the field, are the immediate beneficiaries of Friday's news.
Louisville's removal also affects the race among the conferences, the ACC is unlikely to see Friday's 10 projected teams again, unless a surprise team wins the conference tournament in Washington, D.C. The conference's total actually dropped to eight as the Clemson Tigers fell out, after following up a Saturday road loss to Virginia Tech with a rare home loss to Notre Dame. The ACC's total now merely equals the Pac-12's for the national lead.
The Big 12 and Big Ten return the same six teams, though Kansas State saw its chances improve slightly by topping Oklahoma on Saturday night and Wisconsin is hanging around the cut line after reeling off five wins in a row (and Michigan could see trouble in the future after two straight bad home losses). LSU's inclusion brings the SEC's total to five, which matches the Big East's.
The American Athletic only provides three entries at the moment because the Temple Owls are included as the leader among its eligible teams, while the Atlantic 10 provides a trio, as well.
Indeed, barring a late rally by Saint Mary's in the West Coast or upsets in the Horizon, Metro Atlantic, Missouri Valley and perhaps Mountain West, Southern and Sun Belt tournaments, it looks increasingly likely that we will see just eight conferences earn multiple bids. That last time fewer than 10 leagues sent two or more teams was 2009 (nine). However, exactly 10 leagues did so in both 2011 and 2014 -- and this might be a more reasonable total to anticipate, since it feels like a year when upsets will happen in both mid-major and power conference tournaments. The Championship Fortnight is going to be an absolute roller coaster to witness.
But we still have plenty of regular season to go. Currently, of the 32 conference leaders only four remain perfect in conference play -- Stony Brook (America East), Yale (Ivy League), San Diego State (Mountain West and Stephen F. Austin (Southland). The Bulldogs have the biggest challenge in remaining perfect, as five of their six conference wins have come at home. They'll have to hit the road for two straight weekends before playing their final two Ivy games of the year at Lee Amphitheater, before visiting Cornell and Columbia, with the latter currently a game back, to close the regular season.
I'll be back on Friday to check in on the bubble picture, which should be as cloudy as ever with a little more than four weeks left.