Tuesday January 18th, 2011

If bracket life were 100 percent objective, San Diego State would be a No. 1 seed this week. Losses by Duke and Syracuse caused a thorough re-evaluation of the top two seed lines and yielded some fairly interesting results. The chart to the right lists the 1-seed candidates in RPI order.

Yes, the Aztecs are tied for the best top-50 mark, have by far the best road/neutral record and have the best average RPI for its wins. So why did they end up fifth on this week's S-curve? Well, Kansas and Ohio State are also unbeaten and, in my mind, better teams at this point than San Diego State. Both the Jayhawks and Buckeyes have much greater scoring margins than the Aztecs, meaning they have been much more dominant against a somewhat softer schedule.

As for the two one-loss teams that ended up on the 1-seed line, Pitt and Syracuse both have three top-25 wins and Syracuse gets an asterisk for its loss Monday, having played tough without Kris Joseph.

I think this is fair enough, for now. That said, I thought about it. Hard. Other bracket projections do have the Aztecs as a No. 1 seed this week, and you definitely could make an argument for them. They have earned consideration with their scheduling and play. Given the greater strength and depth of several of the BCS leagues, it will be difficult for SDSU to end up as a 1, but it's not impossible. For now, consider them the TCU of the basketball world and enjoy the ride.

RELATED: Glockner: Pitt replaces Duke as a No. 1 seed in Bracket Watch

Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Monday's collegerpi.com RPI report.

GW = good wins BL = bad losses (N) = neutral-site game

Send your feedback to bubblewatch@gmail.com or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response.

Locks: Duke

The Blue Devils suffered their first loss of the season at Florida State, the third time in the past decade Duke has lost there when ranked No. 1. The home win over Virginia wasn't terribly impressive, either. The result of this week is Duke is no longer a No. 1 seed.

SHOULD BE IN

Boston College (13-5, 3-1; RPI: 36, SOS: 22) The Eagles couldn't back up their good home win over N.C. State, losing a close one at Miami for their first league defeat. The overall profile remains solid, but after wounded Virginia's visit, things get much tougher over the next seven games, starting with trips to Florida State and Duke. GW: Texas A&M (N), Cal (N)?, at Maryland BL: Yale, Harvard?

IN THE MIX

North Carolina (12-5, 2-1; RPI: 26, SOS: 21) After barely slipping past Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Heels were blown out at league minnow Georgia Tech Sunday night. The schedule gets stiffer now (as much as it can in a down ACC) and only the Kentucky win is keeping UNC's profile from being very empty at this point. GW: Kentucky BL: None

Florida State (13-5, 3-1; RPI: 63, SOS: 84) What's a good way to follow up a disastrous week? Beat Duke and N.C. State at home to inject some legitimacy into your profile. The next eight are relatively soft, so it's moving time for the 'Noles. GW: Duke, Baylor (N)? BL: at Auburn

Miami (12-5, 1-2; RPI: 32, SOS: 35) The 'Canes held off BC for a crucial home win to kick off a defining stretch that includes five of seven at home in league play. The two road games are at UNC and Virginia Tech, which are (for this season's ACC) opportunities to impress and hurt a competitor for at-large status. GW: West Virginia, Ole Miss BL: at Rutgers

Virginia Tech (11-5, 2-2; RPI: 73, SOS: 72) The Hokies deserved to win at Chapel Hill and then took out their frustrations on bottom-feeder Wake Forest. This is like Bizarro Season for Virginia Tech. The Hokies scheduled up in nonleague play and are impressing in the league, but a collection of factors may see them miss the NCAAs yet again. GW: OK State (N)? BL: Virginia

Maryland (11-6, 1-2; RPI: 91, SOS: 83) The Terps were a controversial bracket inclusion last week, staying in under the "all of these profiles are very flawed, so I'm going with the team I think is best" corollary. In return, Maryland had another week where it looked impressive and did very little to help its resume after fading late at Villanova. GW: None BL: None, really

Clemson (13-4, 2-1; RPI: 90, SOS: 179) The Tigers beat Georgia Tech, which is mostly win-column filler this season, but winning the games you're supposed to win is how you'll stay afloat in the ACC standings. Now they head to UNC and Maryland in search of legitimacy. GW: at College of Charleston? BL: Michigan (at home)?, at South Carolina?

N.C. State (11-6, 1-2; RPI: 104, SOS: 142) With two more losses this week, these coming with Tracy Smith available, the 'Pack is really a marginal candidate at this point. Can they shock Duke on Wednesday to jumpstart an NCAA push? GW: George Mason (N)? BL: None

Locks: Kansas

The Jayhawks were tested twice more but won both, and then went on national TV and ripped Baylor in Waco. Amazingly in a deep Big 12, the Jayhawks may only have one road game all season against a ranked team: the season-finale at Missouri, a team Kansas traditionally handles very well. Texas and Texas A&M both come to Lawrence. Were we looking at the wrong part of the country for an undefeated season?

SHOULD BE IN

Texas A&M (15-1, 3-0; RPI: 17, SOS: 73) The Aggies won the best game I've seen this season on Saturday, 91-89 in OT over Missouri. Incredibly high-level stuff from both teams and a cap to a breakout week for the Aggies, who are starting to answer the lingering questions posed in last week's feature on them. Next up: at Texas and vs. K-State. GW: Temple (N), Washington, Missouri BL: None

Texas (14-3, 2-0; RPI: 41, SOS: 61) The 'Horns pounded two league minnows and now get to host Texas A&M before heading to Kansas on Saturday for a two-pack of mouthwatering matchups. Texas remains one of the most dangerous and underrated teams in the nation. The nation could find that out in the next five days. GW: Illinois (N), North Carolina (N), at Michigan State BL: at USC?

Missouri (16-3, 2-2; RPI: 30, SOS: 78) The Tigers have been in practically every great game in the country this season, and came back to rout K-State after falling at A&M. They only have Iowa State at home this week and then get a week to prepare for a trip to Texas, so they should be ready to deliver another compelling game. GW: Vanderbilt, Illinois (N), Old Dominion BL: at Colorado?

IN THE MIX

Colorado (13-4, 3-0; RPI: 71, SOS: 170) The Buffaloes have surged from the outside to take a fairly significant position in the Big 12 order in just two weeks. That's what happens when you open league play by beating Missouri, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Winners of six D-I games in a row, they now have winnable road games at Nebraska and Oklahoma before Kansas comes calling. GW: Missouri, at Kansas State (sans Kelly) BL: at San Francisco

Kansas State (12-6, 1-3; RPI: 51, SOS: 25) Curtis Kelly is back, so there's no good way to excuse the beating K-State took at Missouri after a dominant win over Texas Tech. Things don't get any easier, either, with the next three at A&M, home to Baylor (a game that both teams really need) and at Texas. A preseason top-five team is working its way toward missing the NCAAs altogether. GW: Gonzaga (N), at Washington State? BL: None

Baylor (12-5, 2-2; RPI: 100, SOS: 178) Speaking of highly regarded teams that are in increasing danger of missing the NCAAs, the Bears got crushed in their last two outings. Home to Kansas isn't great, but is excusable. But at Iowa State? The Bears are entering the relatively soft part of the slate, so they need to stack some wins quickly. Then they need to beat someone(s) of substance in the final few weeks. GW: None BL: at Iowa State (by 15)?

Oklahoma State (13-4, 1-2; RPI: 42, SOS: 80) After a second-half beatdown in College Station, the Pokes went to Boulder and got beat by surging Colorado. Now the home date with Iowa State is virtually a must-win before the schedule toughens. GW: None, really BL: None

Iowa State (14-4, 1-2; RPI: 85, SOS: 160) Give Kansas a huge scare and then thump Baylor? Another impressive week for the Cyclones. We'll find out this week if they have any real designs on NCAA contention when they're at OK State and Mizzou. GW: None BL: at Nebraska?

Nebraska (13-4, 1-2; RPI: 108, SOS: 216) The Huskers battled Mizzou and KU very hard on the road, but came back with two losses. The games this week -- vs. Colorado and at Texas Tech -- are both must-gets, with A&M, at K-State and KU looming after. GW: USC (N)? BL: Davidson (N)?

Locks: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut

The top four teams in the league spent MLK Day squaring off, although the absence of Kris Joseph took some oomph out of the Pitt-'Cuse nightcap. Two solid contests, one great ending and four teams that look to have the quality to make the second weekend of the NCAAs ... and in a couple of cases, maybe beyond.

SHOULD BE IN

Notre Dame (14-4, 3-3; RPI: 13, SOS: 11) Last week's Bubble Watch: "The only gripe you can have at this point is that ND hasn't been able to close the deal on the road." Oops. The Irish were thrashed at both Marquette and Saint John's. Not a good statement for a program that has consistently been roadkill in the Big East. GW: Wisconsin (N), Gonzaga, Georgetown, UConn BL: None

West Virginia (12-4, 3-2; RPI: 9, SOS: 5) It was an excellent week for the Mountaineers, who crushed Providence and then beat Big Ten standout Purdue. That is, until the 'Eers fans stormed the court after the 68-64 win over the Boilermakers. You guys know you were favored and went to the Final Four last year, right? GW: Vandy (N), at Georgetown, Purdue, Cleveland State? BL: St. John's (at home)?, at Miami?

Georgetown (13-5, 2-4; RPI: 3, SOS: 1) The Hoyas' Big East slide started to hit alert level with a 15-point home loss to Pitt. They righted themselves with a win at Rutgers and have a couple chances this week to get back to .500, but this isn't the same team right now that we saw in December. GW: at Missouri, Utah State, at Memphis BL: None

Louisville (14-3, 3-1; RPI: 40, SOS: 47) An underrated component in epic comebacks is a team just refusing to call it a day. Louisville opted not to pack it in with six minutes left, down 18 to Marquette, and pulled off a stunning comeback win that helped make up for a 14-point loss at Villanova. With St. John's and at Provy next, can the Cards string a few together? GW: Butler, UNLV BL: Drexel?

IN THE MIX

St. John's (11-5, 4-2; RPI: 14, SOS: 3) Another sign of a budding team: responding well to adversity. After Syracuse came in and crunched the Johnnies, they rebounded by manhandling Notre Dame on Sunday. If it wasn't already, Steve Lavin's first season in the Apple is becoming a story. Wobbling Louisville and Cincinnati are up next. Hmm ... GW: at West Virginia, plus a couple of strong home wins in league BL: St. Bonaventure, at Fordham

Cincinnati (16-2, 3-2; RPI: 54, SOS: 221) What we're learning about the Bearcats: They're pretty decent and very physical, but maybe not enough of each to handle road games at the better teams in the conference. That's an issue, because the next four games include trips to ND, St. John's and Pitt. GW: Dayton, Xavier BL: None

Marquette (12-6, 3-2; RPI: 70, SOS: 54) The Golden Eagles played 75 terrific minutes of basketball this week. Sadly, the five bad ones resulted in a mystifying collapse at Louisville that cost TBW what looked like a sure road W. With three of the next four at the Bradley Center, this is still a team on the rise, but that loss could potentially end up being costly. GW: None, really BL: None

Locks: Ohio State

Yes, the Buckeyes are struggling to close out games, but they should be commended for the end of the Penn State game. They went inside to Jared Sullinger and he was called for a charge. After Penn State tied the game, they went back to Sullinger and he converted a three-point play. After Penn State tied it a second time, they yet again went inside to Sullinger, who kicked it out, quickly reposted, got the ball back and again scored and was fouled, providing the final margin of victory. Thank you, Ohio State, for knowing your strengths and for executing properly under pressure.

SHOULD BE IN

Purdue (15-3, 4-1; RPI: 15, SOS: 39) No need for Boiler fans to hit the panic button despite two tough road losses. The 4-0 league start came against the bottom part of the league, so Purdue is finding its level a bit, but the road efforts were encouraging. Still a very solid team that has the schedule coming up to pick up more wins. GW: at Virginia Tech BL: None

Illinois (13-5, 3-2; RPI: 34, SOS: 26) The Illini couldn't avoid "pulling a Michigan State" and lost at Penn State before also falling at Wisconsin. Now they have two huge home dates this week against Michigan State and Ohio State. Three of the last five league games are away at those two teams and at Purdue, so picking up wins now is paramount. GW: Maryland (N), UNC, Gonzaga (N) BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Penn State?

Wisconsin (13-4, 3-2; RPI: 30, SOS: 46) Like Notre Dame, the Badgers annually have trouble winning on the road, and the late-game fade at Michigan State didn't help that rep. The schedule is very favorable over the next seven games, so expect the Badgers to head to Purdue on Feb. 16 with a very shiny league mark. GW: at Marquette, Boston College (N), N.C. State? BL: None

Minnesota (14-4, 3-3; RPI: 20, SOS: 38) This is about where the Gophers should be after a brutal opening stretch and then a couple of winnable home games. The good news is that they only have one road game left against a top-half team and three of the remaining six home games are also against lower-level clubs. Expect 11 or 12 league wins. GW: North Carolina (N), West Virginia (N) BL: Virginia

Michigan State (11-5, 4-1; RPI: 18, SOS: 7) The 4-1 league mark is great, but things are still not humming in East Lansing, despite overtime escapes against Wisconsin and Northwestern. This week (at Illinois and at Purdue) will tell us everything we need to know about the Spartans' progress. GW: Washington (N) BL: at Penn State

IN THE MIX

Penn State (10-7, 3-3; RPI: 57; SOS: 10) Coming off the MSU win, the Nittany Lions edged Illinois but just missed pulling off what Ken Pomeroy judged to be a 500-1 trifecta when they fell late at Ohio State. Still, with two high-quality wins in their pocket, they're back in the at-large picture. This week only features the rematch with Purdue, which handled PSU easily in State College earlier this month. GW: Michigan State, Illinois BL: Maine

Northwestern (11-5, 2-4; RPI: 60, SOS: 88) The Wildcats may rue letting Michigan State escape in OT. The good news: They're done with road games against the league's elite. The bad news: They're running out of chances for impressive wins. The stretch from Jan. 23 through Feb. 5 (with home games against Wisconsin, OSU and Illinois and a trip to Minnesota) will decide things. GW: None BL: None

Locks: None

Washington repaid Arizona's Oregon State gift with a surprising loss at Stanford, throwing the league race back into some semblance of openness. The top couple of teams need to be careful. There's not a ton in their resumes that will help should they finish a distant second (or worse) in the league.

SHOULD BE IN

Washington (13-4, 5-1; RPI: 21, SOS: 32) With nothing really of note accomplished in nonleague play, sloppy losses like the one at Stanford are not a good idea. Now the Huskies are tied in the loss column with Arizona, which visits Thursday night. GW: None, really (at UCLA and USC?) BL: None

IN THE MIX

Arizona (15-3, 4-1; RPI: 28, SOS: 69) The 'Cats cruised past in-state rival Arizona State and now get their first shot at Washington in a game for first-place in the league. Those two teams are the best the Pac has to offer, but that doesn't guarantee a 1-2 finish. GW: at N.C. State? BL: at Oregon State

Washington State (13-5, 3-3; RPI: 56, SOS: 91) The Cougars got nipped in OT at Cal for another harmful loss. Will they benefit from Arizona's focus on Washington this weekend and get a home sweep over the Southwest schools? They need it. Wazzu currently has better wins than either of the top two, but the overall profile (and perception) lags. GW: Gonzaga, Baylor (N) BL: at Cal?

UCLA (11-6, 3-2; RPI: 64, SOS: 33) The Bruins swept the Oregon trip while rival USC fell twice and plunged off the watch, despite having two excellent wins and having beaten UCLA. Now the Bruins have six of their next eight at home, so the record could inflate, but the biggest game may be at Arizona on Jan. 27. They need quality wins. GW: BYU (N) BL: Montana

Locks: Kentucky, Florida

For lack of better options in the league and around the country, the Gators remain very safe at this point for NCAA selection, despite a home loss to South Carolina. The increased parity around the league, though, could result in suppressed seeding for the SEC come March. Worth noting: No one in the SEC West is currently a viable at-large candidate, although if Mississippi State keeps winning now that Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney are available, it will be an interesting case to discuss.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Tennessee (11-6, 1-2; RPI: 24, SOS: 1) The Vols are going to have one of the nation's weirdest and hardest-to-evaluate profiles. They barely split home games with Florida and Vandy and now travel to Georgia and UConn, the latter game with Bruce Pearl making a coaching cameo mid-suspension. Who knows at this point. GW: Villanova (N), at Pitt, VCU (N)? BL: at Charlotte, Oakland (at home), College of Charleston (at home)

Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2; RPI: 22, SOS: 35) The Commodores were on their way to a great week until they let Tennessee rally from 17 down to steal one in Knoxville. They get two home dates this week, including a bubbly nonleague meeting with St. Mary's, to make things right again. GW: North Carolina (N) BL: None

Georgia (13-3, 2-1; RPI: 38, SOS: 84) I like what I'm seeing from the Bulldogs, who are starting to live up to preseason hype. After losing at Vandy, they crushed Ole Miss on the road and ended up 2-1 on a tough opening stretch. Now they have a huge chance to make a statement with consecutive home games against Tennessee, Miss. State and Florida before a trip to Lexington to try to sweep Kentucky. GW: Kentucky BL: None

South Carolina (11-5, 2-1; RPI: 94, SOS: 154) The Gamecocks split the week in unexpected fashion, losing at Alabama and then prevailing at Florida to add a second quality win to the upset of Vandy. There's still a good amount of work to do, but that could begin on this three-game homestand, with Arkansas and Auburn sandwiched around Kentucky. GW: at Florida BL: at Furman, at Alabama

Locks: None

Amazing. With all the injuries and struggles and sturm und drang concerning Xavier all season, we look at the A-10 standings on Jan. 18 and they're in a tie for first at 3-0. They're like the Michigan State of the conference. Overall, though, this wasn't a great week for the league as top teams keep getting beat.

SHOULD BE IN

Temple (12-4, 3-1; RPI: 33, SOS: 46) That trip to undervalued Duquesne mentioned last week? The Owls found themselves down 19-2 and eventually ate a 14-point loss. With Maryland and G'town both struggling some, Temple's profile is starting to decay a bit. After a Big 5 tilt with Penn, the Owls head to Xavier on Saturday in what's suddenly a very big game this early. GW: Maryland (N), Georgetown BL: Cal (N)?

IN THE MIX

Xavier (11-5, 3-0; RPI: 39, SOS: 20) The Musketeers are a big winner after thumping UMass and edging Dayton. Yup, that's about all it takes this year to push up the ladder. After a trip to Olean, Temple comes in for a big showdown. A win by the X-men would push them two games ahead of the Owls in the loss column. GW: Butler, at Rhode Island? BL: Miami (Ohio)

Richmond (13-5, 2-1; RPI: 80, SOS: 129) Oh, Spiders. Why do you do this to yourselves? A home loss to Rhode Island dumped the RPI well past feel-good range. After GW at home, they're at UMass and then Dayton before hosting Xavier, so this profile could move sharply one way or the other shortly. GW: Purdue, VCU BL: at Iona, Georgia Tech (N)?, Bucknell

Dayton (14-5, 2-2; RPI: 66, SOS: 123) The Flyers dropped their rivalry game at Xavier by five and continue to float along. They do still get Richmond, Xavier and Temple all at home, so they can still help themselves. GW: A collection of OK ones in Ole Miss, George Mason and New Mexico BL: East Tennessee State, margin at Cincinnati (by 34), at UMass?

Rhode Island (11-6, 2-1; RPI: 62, SOS: 58) Make up for the Xavier blowout, indeed! The Runnin' Rams grabbed an upset at Richmond and then squeaked past St. Bona to get back into the mix. Even with three of the next five on the road, they're all winnable. Time for some consistency. GW: Boston College BL: Illinois-Chicago, at Quinnipiac

Locks: San Diego State, BYU

SDSU slugged its way past UNLV to stay perfect and is locked in on a trip to Provo a week from Wednesday. It very well could be a matchup between teams that are 36-1 combined in D-I games.

SHOULD BE IN

UNLV (14-4, 2-2; RPI: 21, SOS: 29) After falling in a tussle at San Diego State, the Rebels rallied past Air Force to salvage a split of the week. Three of the next four are at home with the road game at Wyoming, so the Rebels have a legit chance to be 6-2 when they head to Provo for a rematch with BYU. They very well may need to beat one of the top two to feel better about at-large hopes come March. GW: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech (N), at K-State (without Pullen/Kelly)? BL: UC Santa Barbara

IN THE MIX

None.

Locks: None

Several of the top teams in this category continue to drop games in league play, which may be a tribute to the quality in those leagues but isn't helping anyone's at-large chances.

Gonzaga (12-5, 3-0; RPI: 47, SOS: 32) The Zags picked up two easy wins over 250ish RPI teams and dropped 13 spots in the RPI. The first meeting with Saint Mary's, on Jan. 27 at K-2, can't come soon enough. GW: Baylor (N), Marquette (N), Xavier, OK State BL: None

Old Dominion (13-4, 4-2; RPI: 35, SOS: 53) The Monarchs got outslugged at Drexel but gave Hofstra its first league loss. Still, they are staring up at a number of teams in the CAA standings. Two of the 5-1 league leaders -- James Madison and VCU -- come to ODU this week. GW: Clemson (N), Xavier (N), Richmond, Dayton BL: at Delaware

Central Florida (13-2, 1-2; RPI: 19, SOS: 81) The Knights lost again, this time by 17 at Southern Miss, and the bloom may be falling off this rose. They may be able to get right at home this week, but then the schedule turns very difficult. Still, they have four wins in the RPI top 55, which is a lot more than many teams at this stage. GW: Miami (Fla.) (N), Florida (N) BL: None

Butler (12-6, 5-2; RPI: 24, SOS: 14) The Bulldogs got beat at Wright State to fall to third in the league and their best two wins of the season (RPI-wise) are over Valpo and Cleveland State. Hmmm. After hosting the UW schools (including Milwaukee, which beat Butler by 24 earlier this month), the Bulldogs' at-large hopes may be at stake on a three-game trip that includes sweep attempts at both the Crusaders and Vikings. GW: Florida State (N), Washington State (N) BL: Evansville (without Nored)

Saint Mary's (14-2, 4-0; RPI: 31, SOS: 112) The Gaels keep rolling and, after a visit from lowly San Diego, have a really interesting nonleague game at Vanderbilt, one which could help the winner greatly. Then they visit the Zags and Portland. Fun! GW: St. John's? BL: None

Missouri State (15-3, 7-0; RPI; 38, SOS: 125) The Bears remain perfect, which is pretty close to what they'll need to be in the Valley to retain at-large hopes. The win at Wichita State remains the difference between the two teams and is definitely MO State's best work of the season. The rematch comes in the league finale on Feb. 26. GW: at Wichita State BL: at Tulsa?

Wichita State (14-3, 6-1; RPI: 42, SOS: 88) The Shockers remain a good team with a weak profile. They, too, may need to win practically every game the rest of the way to compile something for consideration. They may very well be better than some of the other at-large candidates, but blown opportunities against UConn and San Diego State hurt. GW: Virginia (N)? BL: None

Harvard (10-3, 1-0; RPI: 46, SOS: 141) It's virtually impossible for the Ivy, without a conference tournament, to generate an at-large team, but with wins over Colorado and at Boston College, the Crimson have a couple of things to hang their hat on should they end up in a 13-1 tie or something and lose a playoff. GW: at BC, Colorado? BL: None

Utah State (16-2, 5-0; RPI: 44, SOS: 190) The Aggies should roll through the WAC. The next highest RPI team is New Mexico State at No. 146. But what if they stumble in the WAC tourney? They currently have a 1-2 mark against the top 100, with a home romp over Long Beach State being their best win of the season. Best be careful ... GW: None BL: None

Memphis (13-4, 2-1; RPI: 75, SOS: 114) The Tigers had a disastrous loss at SMU (for the second straight season). Now their at-large hopes may very well be at stake this week on the road at Southern Miss and UAB. GW: Miami (Fla.) BL: None

Belmont (16-3, 8-0; RPI: 78, SOS: 284) Sort of like Utah State, if a team goes 30-4 and beats no one of note, does it make a sound? That could be a relevant question come mid-March if the Bruins run the table until losing in the A-Sun final. They're currently winning their league games by almost 30 points a contest. They almost beat Tennessee twice. They also were close-ish at Vandy. If the bubble stays super-soft and they rack up a ton of wins? Probably not, but who knows ... GW: None BL: None

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