Bracket Watch: Villanova replaces Wisconsin on top line
After a wild Saturday of battles between ranked teams that saw No. 3 Virginia topple No. 13 Notre Dame in South Bend, No. 18 North Carolina clip No. 5 Louisville thanks to the heroics of Marcus Paige and No. 17 Iowa State outlast No. 14 West Virginia in Morgantown, Sunday was supposed to be the day we caught our collective breath. So much for that idea.
Three top-seven teams lost road games to unranked teams yesterday, highlighted by No. 2 Duke suffering its first defeat of the season at the hands of North Carolina State. A few hours later, Rutgers upset a No. 4 Wisconsin, playing without Frank Kaminsky, and then Oregon State provided the nightcap with a two-point win over No. 7 Arizona. A day that was supposed to be academic was anything but, and that helped lead to a big shakeup in the Bracket Watch.
Wisconsin is off the top line for the first time in the 2014-15 season, though the Badgers only fell down to a 2-seed. Duke inched back one slot, remaining a 1-seed but now ranking No. 3 overall behind Kentucky and Virginia. Villanova took care of their business last week, and took advantage of Wisconsin’s loss to grab the top spot in the West Region. Finally, it appears we have a new favorite in the Pac-12, though we may get a more definitive answer on Saturday when Utah and Arizona meet in the desert.
1. Kentucky (15-0, Last week: South 1) – The Wildcats were pushed to the brink last week but remained perfect, holding off Ole Miss in overtime on Tuesday and Texas A&M in double overtime on Saturday. According to KenPom, they have a 19.1-percent chance to finish the season undefeated.
2. Gonzaga (16-1, LW: West 2) – The Bulldogs continue to cruise in West Coast Conference play, knocking off San Francisco and Santa Clara last week by a combined 43 points. The weakness of the WCC could eventually help land the Zags on a top line by Selection Sunday.
3. Arizona (14-2, LW: S2) – After losing at Oregon State on Sunday, the Wildcats are no longer the Pac-12 favorite, ceding that honor to Utah. Those two teams meet in Tucson on Saturday.
4. North Carolina (12-4, LW: Midwest 4) – The Tar Heels got the signature win on Saturday they were previously lacking, defeating Louisville in a 72-71 thriller in Chapel Hill. They’re 6-1 since losing to Kentucky and have wins over Louisville, Ohio State and Davidson, as well as name-brand programs Florida and UCLA.
1. Virginia (15-0, LW: W1) – The Cavaliers went into South Bend and picked up an impressive win over a strong Notre Dame team on Saturday. They’re now the No. 2 overall seed in our field of 68.
2. Wisconsin (15-2, LW: MW1) – The Badgers suffered their first setback in the Bracket Watch after losing at Rutgers on Sunday. They get a little slack since Frank Kaminsky was out, but they still should have been able to beat a team like the Scarlet Knights, which had already lost this year to the likes of St. Francis (Pa.) and St. Peter's.
3. Iowa State (12-2, LW: W4) – The Cyclones had a great week, notching wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the latter of which came on the road. The deep Big 12 offers no rest, however. They're at Baylor and home for Kansas this week.
4. Virginia Commonwealth (13-3, LW: East 5) – The Rams are clearly the class of the Atlantic 10, but they’re getting it done this year with a better offense than usual. They rank 18th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and are nearly as good at protecting the ball (eighth in offensive turnover percentage) as they are at taking it away (fifth in defensive turnover percentage).
1. Duke (14-1, LW: E1) – North Carolina State knocked the Blue Devils from the ranks of the unbeaten, but that wasn’t enough to push them down a full seed line. That may not have been the case if Wisconsin had taken care of business at Rutgers, however.
2. Utah (13-2, LW: E3) – The Utes cruised to a 25-point win over Colorado in their only game last week. Their two losses this year are by a combined seven points to Kansas and San Diego State, respectively. A win at Arizona on Saturday would cement Utah as the team to beat in the Pac-12.
3. Kansas (13-2, LW: W3) – Six of the 10 teams in the Big 12 were ranked last week, but the Jayhawks proved they’re still at the head of the class with an impressive road win over Baylor. Their next four games, three of which are against ranked foes, will be telling: vs. Oklahoma State, at Iowa State, vs. Oklahoma and at Texas.
4. Maryland (15-2, LW: S3) – The Terrapins suffered their first Big Ten loss, falling at Illinois in the Illini’s first game after losing Rayvonte Rice to a broken hand. They bounced back with a win at Purdue and now get home games this week against Rutgers and Michigan State.
1. Villanova (15-1, LW: E2) – The Wildcats move up to the top line in the West by virtue of their clean week against St. John’s and DePaul, and Wisconsin’s loss to Rutgers. They’re one of three teams to be ranked in the top 15 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The other two are Kentucky and Virginia.
2. Louisville (14-2, LW: MW2) – We’re not penalizing the Cardinals for a hard-fought, one-point loss at North Carolina on Saturday. Their tendency to fall into scoring droughts, however, reared its ugly head in that loss. They scored a combined 22 points in the final 10 minutes of each half.
3. Notre Dame (15-2, LW: MW3) – The Irish nearly had a huge week but came up just short of dealing Virginia its first loss of the season. Still, they picked up a major win at North Carolina to start the week and boast the nation’s best offense by both adjusted efficiency and effective field goal percentage.
4. West Virginia (14-2, LW: E4) – The Mountaineers hold onto their spot in the top 16 despite a home loss to Iowa State over the weekend. They’ll be firmly in, or firmly out of the top quarter of the bracket, next week, depending on their results against Oklahoma and Texas.