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.
Two weeks ago, Villanova looked all but unbeatable, sitting at 22-1 overall and 9-1 in the Big East. They’ve lose two of three since then, falling to a St. John’s team that has no hopes of an at-large bid, and Providence, which is tracking for the tournament but likely as no better than a No. 7 or 8 seed. That’s not exactly how the Wildcats wanted to go into this weekend’s showdown at Xavier.
Speaking of Xavier, the Musketeers bumped up to our No. 2 overall seed in this edition of the Bracket Watch, pushing Villanova down a peg. The Wildcats remain on the top line however, and there isn’t much practical difference between the No. 2 and 3 overall seeds. Their clash in Cincinnati will be the game of the weekend. The Wildcats cruised in the first meeting between the two this season, picking up an 89-65 win.
That slight tweak among No. 1 seeds was the only change at the top of the field of 68. This week’s big gainer was Florida State, which moved up to a No. 6 seed after beating Clemson at home in overtime on Wednesday. The win doesn’t hurt Clemson’s stock, but significantly improves Florida State’s, which now has six Quadrant 1 victories on the year.
Oklahoma slipped just one line to No. 5, but it’s hard not to view the Sooners as one of the biggest losers this week. They’ve lost four in a row, five of six, and seven of nine, and what once looked like a possible Final Four season is falling to pieces. Their defense, ranked 91st in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency, is a legitimate problem and Trae Young cannot do it all by himself on the other end of the floor. This is looking more and more like a team that won’t make it out of the first weekend of the tournament.
Finally, NC State didn’t pick up any ground compared with Monday’s Bracket Watch and Missouri was bumped up just one line, but those two scored significant wins this week. NC State went into Syracuse and dealt the Orange a damaging loss on their home floor. For the Wolfpack, it was a huge win over a fellow bubble team and one that could separate them from the Orange in the committee room on Selection Sunday. For the Orange, it was yet another piece of evidence suggesting they do not belong in the field of 68. They have just one Q1 win, a road victory at Louisville.
Missouri, meanwhile, took down Texas A&M at home. The Aggies had been surging of late, winners of four straight games before falling at Columbia. The Tigers season seemed a lost cause when Michael Porter Jr. went on the shelf, but now they look like a safe bet for their first tournament since 2013.
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