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Bracketology 2018: Kansas jumps to the top line

The Jayhawks capped a busy Martin Luther King holiday slate by winning a thriller in Morgantown. Yet West Virginia didn’t tumble all that far after the loss.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Indeed, the West Virginia Mountaineers remain on the top line, but as the fourth No. 1 seed overall anchoring the West Region — behind the Villanova Wildcats (East, No. 1 overall), Purdue Boilermakers (Midwest) and Kansas Jayhawks (South). With the Jayhawks’ rise, the Duke Blue Devils, a top seed one week ago, slide down to what’s now an ACC-heavy group of two seeds. The league-leading Virginia Cavaliers and surprising Clemson Tigers, 15-2 and boasting five Group 1 wins, join the Blue Devils, with the Big 12’s Oklahoma Sooners the lone interloper.

The presence of the North Carolina Tar Heels and Texas Tech Red Raiders among the three seeds means the ACC and Big 12 each placed a quartet among this projection’s top 12 teams. The Wichita State Shockers and the SEC’s surprise leader, an Auburn Tigers squad with a 16-1 mark and five Group 1 victories to its name, join the Tar Heels and Red Raiders. Meanwhile, the Arizona Wildcats, Cincinnati Bearcats, Kentucky Wildcats and Seton Hall Pirates comprise the four seed line.

The Arizona State Sun Devils and Xavier Musketeers, two seeds last Tuesday; the Michigan State Spartans, a three; and the TCU Horned Frogs, formerly a four, all dropped out of the pool of protected seeds. While the realities of conference play have hit the Sun Devils and Horned Frogs hard, a lack of quality wins has allowed several teams to pass the Musketeers and Spartans. Each has just a single Group 1 victory to its name at this point.

After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll take a quick look at how comprehensively four conferences are dominating the at-large picture at the moment.

1. East (Left) and 2. Midwest (Right)

Boston (Fri./Sun.) Omaha (Fri./Sun.)
Boston (Fri./Sun.) Omaha (Fri./Sun.)
Pittsburgh (Thu./Sat.) Detroit (Fri./Sun.)
1. Villanova (Big East) 1. Purdue (Big Ten)
16. FGCU/Jackson State 16. Nicholls State/N.C. Central
8. Louisvlle 8. Florida State
9. Rhode Island (A 10) 9. Alabama
San Diego (Fri./Sun.) Boise (Thu./Sat.)
5. Michigan State 5. Tennessee
12. Buffalo (MAC) 12. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)
4. Kentucky 4. Seton Hall
13. Wright State (Horizon) 13. William & Mary (CAA)
Dallas (Thu./Sat.) Dallas (Thu./Sat.)
6. Arkansas 6. Florida
11. Saint Mary's (WCC) 11. Providence/Missouri
3. North Carolina 3. Texas Tech
14. Radford (Big South) 14. Murray State (OVC)
Wichita (Thu./Sat.) Charlotte (Fri./Sun.)
7. Miami (Fla.) 7. Notre Dame
10. Nevada (MW) 10. Texas
2. Oklahoma 2. Virginia (ACC)
15. Montana (Big Sky) 15. Bucknell (Patriot)

4. West (Left) and 3. South (Right)

Los Angeles (Thu./Sat.) Atlanta (Thu./Sat.)
Los Angeles (Thu./Sat.) Atlanta (Thu./Sat.)
Pittsburgh (Thu./Sat.) Wichita (Thu./Sat.)
1. West Virginia 1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. Penn (Ivy) 16. Robert Morris (NEC)
8. Gonzaga 8. Ohio State
9. Texas A&M 9. Marquette
San Diego (Fri./Sun.) Boise (Thu./Sat.)
5. Xavier 5. Arizona State
12. New Mexico State (WAC) 12. South Dakota State (Summit)
4. Arizona (Pac-12) 4. Cincinnati
13. Vermont (AE) 13. ETSU (SoCon)
Detroit (Fri./Sun.) Nashville (Fri./Sun.)
6. TCU 6. Creighton
11. Georgia 11. St. Bonaventure/LSU
3. Wichita State (American) 3. Auburn (SEC)
14. Cal State Fullerton (BIg West) 14. Louisiana (Sun Belt)
Nashville (Fri./Sun.) Charlotte (Fri./Sun.)
7. Butler 7. Michigan
10. USC 10. Houston
2. Clemson 2. Duke
15. Drake (MVC) 15. Canisius (MAAC)

First Four (Dayton)

EAST MIDWEST MIDWEST SOUTH
EAST MIDWEST MIDWEST SOUTH
To Pittsburgh (Tue.) To Detroit (Wed.) To Dallas (Tue.) To Nashville (Wed.)
16. FGCU (ASUN) 16. Nicholls State (Southland) 11. Providence 11. St. Bonaventure
16. Jackson State (SWAC) 16. N.C. Central (MEAC) 11. Missouri 11. LSU

Rundown

LAST EIGHT IN FIRST EIGHT OUT ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
LAST EIGHT IN FIRST EIGHT OUT ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Texas Washington Bucknell Bethune-Cookman
Houston N.C. State Canisius Colgate
USC Syracuse FGCU Lipscomb
Georgia Colorado Houston Maryland
St. Bonaventure (Dayton) UCLA Louisville Minnesota
Missouri (Dayton) SMU LSU New Orleans
Providence (Dayton) WKU Middle Tennessee Old Dominion
LSU (Dayton) Minnesota Missouri Oral Roberts
N.C. Central Rider
Nicholls State SMU
South Dakota State UCLA
USC Washington

Bids by Conference

Conference Bids Teams (in Seed List Order)
Conference Bids Teams (in Seed List Order)
SEC 10 Auburn (auto bid), Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Missouri (First Four), LSU (First Four)
ACC 8 Virginia (auto bid), Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami, Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville
Big East 7 Villanova (auto bid), Seton Hall, Xavier, Creighton, Butler, Marquette, Providence (First Four)
Big 12 6 Kansas (auto bid), West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas
Big Ten 4 Purdue (auto bid), Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State
American 3 Wichita State (auto bid), Cincinnati, Houston
Pac-12 3 Arizona (auto bid), Arizona State, USC
A 10 2 Rhode Island (auto bid), St. Bonaventure (First Four)
WCC 2 Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (auto bid)

Of the 36 at-large bids available, the SEC and ACC alone manage to claim 16. And with the Big East and Big 12 taking another 11, that leaves just nine spots going to the rest of the nation.

The SEC’s incomprehensible bid total isn’t necessarily stable, however, as half of its 10 teams sit on seed lines nine or lower. The last team in today’s field, the LSU Tigers, has somehow not won a conference home game yet, though the Tigers get another chance tonight when the Georgia Bulldogs visit. And those very Bulldogs are looking to end a two-game skid that dropped them from the relative safety of an 8/9 game to the very last guaranteed spot in the first round. The Missouri Tigers‘ midweek home victory over Mark Fox’s squad pushed the Tigers back in, but Saturday’s two-point loss at the Arkansas Razorbacks limited their rise. Meanwhile, the Texas A&M Aggies still haven’t won an SEC game, so the Aggies’ non-conference performance is the only thing driving their presence on seed line nine. The first team to defeat Billy Kennedy’s outfit in conference play — the Alabama Crimson Tide — joins A&M in that particular position, thanks to a 2-0 week.

The presence of so many SEC teams near the cut line leads to a bit of a traffic jam in the 6/11 games — the Florida Gators could get an unwanted rematch of their thrilling win over Missouri in the first round, thanks to the Tigers’ presence in the First Four. (Remember, the Selection Committee can be a bit flexible with these matchups, if necessary). LSU could encounter Auburn in the Second Round — provided the Bayou Bengals get past the St. Bonaventure Bonnies in their hypothetical Dayton game. Even Georgia’s position as the final at-large in the main draw complicated the matchups — as the Bulldogs can’t face either Florida or Arkansas in round one.

The Louisville Cardinals‘ victories over Florida State Seminoles and Virginia Tech Hokies helped to establish the Cardinals as the eighth ACC team in at the moment. And if the North Carolina State Wolfpack can get past Sunday’s loss at Virginia and resume their winning ways and the Syracuse Orange ends their four-game skid, the league’s total could eventually meet or exceed the SEC’s. Then there are the Boston College Eagles, who have already defeated both Duke and FSU in Chestnut Hill. If the Eagles can win a road game or two, they’ll soon find themselves in the thick of the conversation.

While the the Big East and Big 12 can’t match the SEC and ACC’s raw bid totals, each places 60 percent or more their respective memberships in the field. But the news isn’t so rosy for the Big Ten and Pac-12. Both the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Maryland Terrapins exit, dropping the Midwesterners to four bids. Meanwhile, the West Coast’s power league is down to three entrants. The Washington Huskies slid out following a devastating Saturday home loss to the Stanford Cardinal. The Pac-12’s lineup includes one newcomer, the USC Trojans, who impressively swept the visiting Mountain schools, replace the UCLA Bruins, who were handled by the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday night. That win was the Buffs’ first ever at Pauley Pavilin.

The American Athletic’s bid total of three is unchanged from one week ago, but the Houston Cougars replace an SMU Mustangs squad that’s lost three in a row — with the Wednesday’s loss to the Temple Owls snapping a 33-game home winning streak. After a week off, the Mustangs will get a chance to make a statement tomorrow night — Tim Jankovich’s Ponies visit Wichita State.

The Atlantic 10 and West Coast conferences remain two-bid leagues. But St. Bonaventure is barely hanging on after a Saturday road loss to the Rhode Island Rams dropped them to 2-3 in league play. Meanwhile, the Saint Mary’s Gaels can give their at-large case a major boost by topping the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane Thursday night. The Gaels have won 12 straight after dropping consecutive games to Washington State and Georgia in the Wooden Legacy over Thanksgiving weekend.

On Friday, I’ll be back with a look at the contenders for No. 1 seeds with seven weeks to go. Based on today’s crop of protected seeds, expect some unexpected names to surface.