- As the calendar turns to February, did your team make the cut for out latest March Madness bracket projection?
Status quo has reigned across the college basketball landscape since our last Bracket Watch, so this midweek update is going to look a lot like the field of 68 that kicked off the final week of January. Sixty-seven of the 68 teams returned, with Florida jumping into the field at the expense of UCF. There aren’t any major seeding changes, either, with Texas the lone team to get a statement win thus far this week, knocking off Kansas at home. In other words, consider this a cosmetic update to the Bracket Watch. Chances are strong that the quietude that has pervaded the sport over the last few days will come to an end this weekend, with a loaded slate that features four games between top-25 teams. Until then, here’s where our working field of 68 stands.
Last Four Byes
Last Four In
First Eight Out
Next Eight Out
Everything changed for Nebraska the moment Isaac Copeland tore his ACL against Ohio State last Saturday. Not only did the team lose one of its best players, significantly recalibrating what it's capable of this season, it is now in real jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament. Nebraska lost that game against the Buckeyes, and then dropped a 62–51 decision against Wisconsin at home. After those two losses, Nebraska is ranked 28th in NET with a 3–5 Quadrant 1 record, and 2–0 record in Quadrant 2 games. Most of that, however, happened with Copeland on the floor. The Selection Committee evaluates teams as they are going into the tournament, meaning it’s going to put much more weight on what Nebraska does without the senior. If the Cornhuskers struggle in the second half of the Big Ten schedule, it won’t matter what they accomplished when Copeland was healthy. They need to start getting back on the right track by beating Illinois in Champaign on Saturday.
(1) Duke vs. (16) Robert Morris/Prairie View A&M
(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) TCU
(5) Texas Tech vs. (12) VCU
(4) Purdue vs. (13) South Dakota State
(6) Buffalo vs. (11) Seton Hall
(3) Houston vs. (14) UC-Irvine
(7) Kansas State vs. (10) Nebraska
(2) Kentucky vs. (15) Loyola-Chicago
Kansas has lost two straight games and three of its last four, losing to West Virginia, Kentucky and Texas over the last two weeks. The Jayhawks are now 5–3 in the Big 12, tied with Iowa State and Texas Tech for third place, half a game behind Baylor and Kansas State. The Jayhawks have made fools of so many people ready to proclaim the end of their ownership of the Big 12, but this really could be the season. They’re inconsistent on the offensive end of the floor, ranking 30th in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, and lack reliable perimeter scoring outside of Lagerald Vick, hardly the hallmark of a Bill Self team. They embark on a huge two-game stretch through Tuesday of next week, during which they’ll play Texas Tech at home and Kansas State on the road. Wins in both of those games would right the ship, while losses in both could herald the end of one of the most impressive streaks in sports.
(1) Tennessee vs. (16) Sam Houston State/Norfolk State
(8) Cincinnati vs. (9) Baylor
(5) Villanova vs. (12) Arizona State/Florida
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Hofstra
(6) Mississippi State vs. (11) Lipscomb
(3) Kansas vs. (14) Northern Kentucky
(7) NC State vs. (10) Wofford
(2) Michigan vs. (15) Montana
The last time LSU lost, there were still three weeks left in the NFL’s regular season. On Dec. 12, they let a 15-point, second-half lead at Houston slip away, ultimately losing 82–76. The Tigers have ripped off 10 straight wins since then, playing their way to a No. 5 seed in this version of the Bracket Watch. It’s worth noting, however, that just two of those wins—over Alabama and Mississippi—came against teams also in our current field. That makes the next two weeks a proving ground for the Tigers. After hosting Arkansas on Saturday, they’ll visit Mississippi State, return home to take on Auburn, and then hit the road for a monster game against Kentucky. LSU is almost certainly a tournament team. We’ll learn if they’re one that could do some damage over the new few weeks.
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Rider
(8) Washington vs. (9) Ohio State
(5) LSU vs. (12) Murray State
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) New Mexico State
(6) Iowa vs. (11) Alabama
(3) Marquette vs. (14) Texas State
(7) Florida State vs. (10) Texas
(2) Gonzaga vs. (15) Radford
Why is Indiana, losers of seven straight, still in the field, notably after a loss to Rutgers? Well, first and foremost, the Hoosiers are the last team in the field, which places them just ahead of UCF, Arizona, Clemson and Butler. Despite this recent slide, however, the Hoosiers résumé barely holds up against those teams. They still have those wins over Marquette and Louisville, both of which seem to get better by the day. Those two Quadrant 1 wins equal the number that UCF, Arizona, Clemson and Butler have combined. And while no team can lose its way into the tournament, it’s worth noting that all of Indiana’s losses before it fell to Rutgers were Q1. The Hoosiers need to start winning some games, but for now they’re in the field by the thinnest of margins.
(1) Michigan State vs. (16) Lehigh
(8) Auburn vs. (9) Syracuse
(5) Iowa State vs. (12) Indiana/Temple
(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Vermont
(6) Maryland vs. (11) St. John's
(3) Nevada vs. (14) Yale
(7) Oklahoma vs. (10) Minnesota
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) North Texas