Bracket Watch: Oklahoma Sooners solidifying spot as No. 1 overall seed
We finally had a relatively tame week at the top of the rankings, and that fact is reflected in the latest Bracket Watch. There was some jockeying here and there among the top 16 teams, but all the No. 1 seeds remained the same and only one team that was a No. 1 or No. 2 last week—Texas A&M—is not there this week. Despite a notable home win over Iowa State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, the Aggies fell to a No. 3, while Virginia moved up to a No. 2 seed after routing Louisville on the road.
Last Four In
Syracuse: The Orange got another great win last week, taking down Notre Dame at home. Add that to wins over Texas A&M and Duke, and that’s enough to get them one of the last four spots.
UCLA: The Bruins are holding on here by a thread. Three of their four conference wins have come against Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State, which don’t move the needle at all, and they have losses to those same Cougars, as well as a non-conference defeat to Wake Forest.
Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks have won six straight games, though that doesn’t mean a whole lot in the Atlantic 10 this season. If they can beat Dayton in a few weeks, they’ll be headed toward moving safely into the field.
First Four Out
LSU: If the Tigers would have been able to beat Oklahoma on Saturday, they’d be on the right side of the bubble. Alas, they lost by two, and now must wait until a Feb. 13 game against Texas A&M to get another crack at a season-changing victory.
George Washington: The Colonials fell out of the field of 68 after losing to Richmond last week. When your résumé already includes losses to DePaul and Saint Louis, a third to a team like Richmond is too much to ignore.
Connecticut: It’s starting to look more and more realistic that the American will only get one team in the Big Dance. Connecticut and Cincinnati are the only two teams that could earn an at-large berth, and the Bearcats are ahead of the Huskies in the standings after beating UConn last week.
Georgetown: The Hoyas got on the at-large radar by winning at Xavier a couple weeks ago and added another nice win over Creighton last week. They have the good fortune of being in the Big East, so they’ll have plenty more opportunities for résumé-building wins. In fact, they get two this week, with trips to Butler and Seton Hall.
Virginia is starting to assert itself as the best team in the ACC not named North Carolina, evidenced by a 63–47 win over the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday. Texas A&M and Oregon showed how dangerous they can be with big wins last week. The Aggies' 72-62 win over the Cyclones may have been their best of the season and, aside from a Feb. 20 matchup against Kentucky that is their only remaining scheduled game against a ranked team, it might be until the Sweet 16 before Texas A&M faces an opponent of that caliber. Oregon, meanwhile, is in first place in the Pac-12 after an 83-75 win last Thursday at Arizona that snapped the Wildcats' best-in-the-nation 49-game home winning streak, and a follow-up win at Arizona State.
North Carolina remained undefeated in the ACC with a 27-point home win over Boston College last Saturday. The Tar Heels will start getting some real conference test this week, as they face Louisville on Monday and Notre Dame on Saturday, both on the road.
Iowa State may have lost at Texas A&M, but held its spot as the No. 2 seed in this region thanks in part to having an impressive win over then-No. 4 Kansas last Monday.
Maryland finally got the signature win it lacked by taking down then-No. 3 Iowa in College Park last week. The Terrapins followed that with a hard-fought win at Ohio State on Sunday. The win over Iowa pushed the Terps up to a No. 3 seed, forcing Providence down to No. 4. The Friars suffered a home loss at the hands of Xavier last week, but rebounded to beat Georgetown in D.C. After what should be an easy game with DePaul on Tuesday, Providence will host Villanova o Saturday looking to for its second win over the Wildcats in as many weeks.
Iowa's loss at Maryland was its first in the Big Ten, but there's no reason for that to cost the Hawkeyes a No. 1 seed. Star forward Jarrod Uthoff shot just 2-for-13 from the floor, yet Iowa still took the game right down to the wire.
Xavier has won three straight games after a surprising home loss to Georgetown, with two of those wins coming against teams in our field of 68 (Seton Hall and Providence). The Musketeers have about as easy a week as a team could in the Big East, with home games against St. John’s and Marquette.
West Virginia fell to Florida in Gainesville on Saturday without forward Jonathan Holton, who has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. The Mountaineers now start a brutal stretch during which they’ll play Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas in the next 10 days.
Miami started the week with a great win over Duke at home on Monday, but ended it with a loss at North Carolina State on Saturday. Still, the Hurricanes have earned plenty of leash from the Bracket Watch thanks in part to wins over Utah, Butler and Syracuse, so they remain a No. 4 seed this week.
Villanova played just one game last week, cruising to a 68–53 win over St. John’s. The Wildcats host Creighton and visit Providence, which dealt them their only conference loss, this week.
Kansas remains on the 2-line in this region after a week in which it lost at Iowa State and beat Kentucky in an overtime thriller at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks get a rare soft week in the Big 12, with matchups against Kansas State and TCU. Next week, however, will be a different story. That’s when Kansas faces its toughest remaining regular season week with matchups against West Virginia and Oklahoma.
Michigan State followed up last week’s great win over Maryland with a couple of easy victories against Northwestern and Rutgers. The Spartans are doing a good job of putting their three-game losing streak in the rear-view mirror, and they’ll get a chance to move up a seed line or two. Their next three games are against Michigan (Saturday in Ann Arbor), Purdue (road) and Indiana (home). Baylor, too, will have an opportunity to climb up the bracket this week. The Bears host Texas on Monday and take a trip to Morgantown for a date with West Virginia on Saturday.