After Villanova and Purdue both lost on Wednesday, a new No. 1 overall seed moved to the first position on the top line, while a new Selection Committee emphasis on road and neutral games affected the bracket elsewhere.
SI.com's first Bracket Watch of the week is released on Monday. On Thursday, we go back to the bracket drawing board after the week's early results to reassess the field. See the updated bracket below.
The first three days of this week were as wild as last week’s were tame. Villanova and Purdue, two of our No. 1 seeds, lost at home on Wednesday, the former to a team nowhere near the at-large picture. Auburn, a No. 2 seed, lost at home to Texas A&M, while Michigan State and Xavier, which just became a No. 1 seed, escaped challenges on the road. It was the sort of week that forces you to rethink the top of the bracket.
The one major change? We have a new No. 1 overall seed. Virginia has moved to the top of the top line, supplanting Villanova after the latter’s shocking loss to St. John’s. Virginia started slowly at Florida State on Wednesday, but outscored the Seminoles by 14 in the second half to emerge from Tallahassee with a 59-55 win. The Cavaliers are now 23-1 on the season and 12-0 in the ACC, riding a 15-game winning streak into a home game with Virginia Tech on Saturday. Villanova didn’t fall far, remaining on the top line as the No. 2 overall seed.
Beyond that, however, the top of the field remains largely the same. Purdue is not only still a No. 1 seed, but still the No. 3 overall seed. Auburn remains on the No. 2-line. Xavier strengthened its No. 1-seed bona fides with Tuesday’s win at Butler. Michigan State did flip with Texas Tech, dropping the former to a No. 3 with the latter rising to a No. 2, but that move was long overdue, given the Red Raiders 5-3 record in Quadrant 1 games, the Selection Committee’s new designation for valuing victories based on RPI and game location.
The one team I struggled with was Ohio State. The Buckeyes pulled off one of the best wins of the season on Wednesday, rallying from a seven-point deficit at Purdue with just more than five minutes remaining to knock off the Boilermakers, 64-63. Typically, that’s a win that moves a team up a seed line, especially one that is now 21-5 overall and 12-1 in the Big Ten. Compared with West Virginia, North Carolina and Oklahoma, though, Ohio State still falls just short, thanks to those Quadrant 1 records. The Buckeyes are 2-4 in Q1 games. West Virginia is 5-5, North Carolina is 4-5 and Oklahoma is 5-6. All things being equal—and they roughly are between those four teams—Q1 record is a worthy tiebreaker.
Why were there so few changes, despite losses by the country’s top teams? These teams had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get to the top of the seed list in the first place. One loss for a team worthy of a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed at this stage of the season, no matter how unsightly, is forgivable. Keep that in mind as the rest of what promises to be an unpredictable month unfolds.
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