Bracket Watch: Iowa surges to No. 1 overall seed in latest projection
The bracket underwent its first change at the very top after Oklahoma lost to Kansas State last Saturday and Iowa picked up two more wins in the Big Ten. That moves the Hawkeyes to the No. 1 overall seed, although the Sooners do remain on the top line. That’s more than can be said for North Carolina. The Tar Heels surged to first place in the ACC by winning their first eight conference games, but their best win in that stretch was at Florida State. Then North Carolina lost at Louisville and at Notre Dame lost week, costing UNC its No. 1 seed.
Where does everyone else stand? Find out in the SI.com Bracket Watch for the week of Feb. 8.
Last Four In
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs remain on the right side of the bubble, but one bad loss could knock them out of the field of 68. Losing at an 11-15 Portland team on Thursday would certainly qualify. Losing at SMU, ranked No. 16 by the AP, in a non-conference game would not.
Saint Joseph’s: A loss vs. St. Bonaventure last Wednesday snapped the Hawks' seven-game winning streak, but it wasn't enough to cost them their spot in the Big Dance. Saint Joseph's is still just one game out in the Atlantic 10, and it has a crucial road test at George Washington (see below) on Wednesday.
Washington: The Huskies slipped a bit in the Bracket Watch after they needed overtime to beat Arizona State at home last Wednesday, and then fell to Arizona on Saturday. They spend this entire week in a dangerous place for Pac-12 teams: on the road. They visit Utah and Colorado.
George Washington: The Colonials got back into the field thanks to a huge road victory over VCU last Saturday. They have a tough week ahead, however, with games against Saint Joseph’s and surprisingly good St. Bonaventure.
First Four Out
Vanderbilt: The Commodores picked up their biggest win of the season last Thursday by beating Texas A&M at home. They followed it by losing at Mississippi on Saturday. That inconsistency has them on the wrong side of the bubble right now.
UCLA: Like Vanderbilt, the Bruins have been wildly inconsistent all season and are now 4–6 in the Pac-12 after losing at USC by 19 points on Thursday. They get more than a week off before having a huge opportunity to impress the committee: a road trip to Arizona, where they will look to finish a season sweep of the Wildcats.
Wisconsin: The Badgers have won five straight games—including victories over Michigan State and Indiana—and are starting to get on the right track under interim coach Greg Gard. They host Nebraska and visit Maryland this week. A win over the second-ranked Terrapins, who beat Wisconsin by three in Madison last month, would be the Badgers' best win yet.
Oregon State: The Beavers had a great week, beating Utah and Colorado to take a major step toward inclusion in the field of 68. Still, they are 0–4 on the road in Pac-12 play and have crucial trips to Stanford and California this week.
The Hawkeyes don't have another ranked team remaining on their schedule, and thus have a very real possibility of winning out leading into the Big Ten tournament. They do have road games remaining against Indiana and Michigan, but kenpom.com gives them at least a 57% chance in each game for the remainder of the regular season. If that were to happen, Iowa will have a great shot at being the No. 1 overall seed.
North Carolina failed in its first two real tests in the ACC, losing at Louisville by six on Monday and at Notre Dame by five on Saturday. That pushed the Tar Heels to a No. 2 seed, and also called into question their ability to consistently beat high-level competition outside of Chapel Hill. Their schedule won't get much easier, either. Aside from Tuesday's visit to winless-in-the-ACC Boston College, six of UNC's final seven games are against teams that make our projected field.
West Virginia, on the other hand, had arguably the best week in college basketball, beating then-No. 13 Iowa State on the road and then No. 15 Baylor at home. The Mountaineers now lead Oklahoma by a game in the Big 12 and a win at Kansas on Tuesday would make it awfully hard to keep them off the 2-line.
Baylor remained a No. 4 seed despite losses last week to Texas and West Virginia. The 4/5 slots feel a bit soft at this point of the season, which helped keep the Bears from sliding. It’s worth mentioning, however, that their only great win this year came at Iowa State on Jan. 9.
It’s always tough to win on the road, but Oklahoma still should have been able to emerge from Manhattan with a win over Kansas State, which is now just 3-7 in Big 12 action. The Sooners, however, do remain a safe No. 1 seed.
Virginia has ripped off six straight wins in the ACC after starting 2–3. Three of those wins came on the road, including last Saturday’s victory at Pittsburgh. Right now, it appears the Cavaliers, and not the Tar Heels, are the conference’s best team.
Oregon has also won six consecutive games, knocking off USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. Last week, the Ducks won their two games by a combined 37 points. The bet here is that this team will wind up at least one line higher.
Despite ultimately shooting 3-for-25 from behind the arc and attempting 22 fewer free throws than Maryland, Purdue actually had a good chance at an upset las Saturday in College Park. Alas, the Boilermakers couldn't hold their four-point lead and wound up losing by 11. Still, that’s not a loss that should cost them in the seeding department.
Villanova has yet to inhabit the top overall spot in our field of 68, but it is the No. 1 team in the country on kenpom.com and, for the first time in school history, in the AP poll as well. The Wildcats have won three straight games since losing to Providence on Jan. 24, most recently getting revenge by taking the Friars down on the road last Saturday. With DePaul and St. John’s (combined Big East record: 2-20) on tap this week, Villanova should be able to enjoy that No. 1 ranking a little longer.
Maryland has four consecutive victories, with Iowa and Purdue included in that stretch. The Terrapins still need to prove themselves on the road, but won’t get that chance until they visit West Lafayette for a rematch with the Boilermakers on Feb. 27.
Iowa State is always going to be able to point to its wins over Kansas and Oklahoma as proof of its tournament bona fides, but both of those came at home. The Cyclones welcome another ranked team to Hilton Coliseum on Saturday, when No. 24 Texas visits, and then will try to avenge an earlier loss to Baylor in a game in Waco on Feb. 16.
Miami enjoyed a perfect week, beating Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes have a sneakily tough week ahead with games against Pittsburgh and Florida State. They would be wise to avoid losing any games they shouldn't, because a brutal four-game stretch lies ahead starting later this month: road games at North Carolina and Notre Dame sandwiched around home games against Virginia and Louisville.
Kansas is back on the top line thanks to North Carolina’s two losses this week. Xavier, the West region’s No. 2 seed, could also lay claim to the top line, but the Jayhawks résumé remains superior, thanks to their wins over Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas. The Musketeers have a handful of solid wins—over USC, Dayton, Providence and Seton Hall—but they still lack a signature victory.
The No. 3 seed in this region, Michigan State, is still a real threat to end up as a No. 1. Sweeping Purdue and Indiana this week would give them a good chance to take the first step and move up to a No. 2.
Finally, Texas A&M’s stature took a huge hit after losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina, the latter of which came at home last Saturday by three points. The Aggies have now lost three of four games and have fallen to second place in the SEC, trailing LSU. That makes this Saturday's trip to Baton Rouge all the more important.