The following is a non-comprehensive list of events that happened during the first weekend of conference play across the country.
Virginia waxed a fellow top-10 team at home to move to 13–0.
Michigan ran Indiana out of Ann Arbor, building a 30–13 lead in the first half and never looking back. The Wolverines are now 15–0.
Nevada, which, like Virginia and Michigan, entered the weekend undefeated, got boatraced by New Mexico, scoring just 58 points in a stunning loss that will almost certainly have a major effect on its NCAA tournament seeding.
Iowa State rolled Kansas in Ames, and the loss turned out to be the least of the Jayhawks’ worries. Udoka Azubuike suffered a season-ending hand injury that threatens to derail their title hopes.
So, yeah, it was a pretty big weekend, and we’ve only just scratched the surface, focusing on teams at the top of the polls. We’ll dig a bit deeper as we take a look at the Bracket Watch to begin the first full week of January.
Last Four Byes
Last Four In
First Eight Out
Next Eight Out
The SI.com Bracket Watch has yet to weigh in on the potential shame that is to befall the Pac-12 this season, so now seems like an appropriate time to check that box. Arizona State is the No. 10 seed in the East Region of our bracket, and that is as the conference’s automatic qualifier. It’s just the first week of January, but it’s already safe to say that only a handful of teams—three or four, at most—in this conference can build a résumé worthy of an at-large bid. Arizona and Washington are among our first teams out, and there’s always a possibility that another team figures things out and puts together an impressive run over the next two months.
Still, right now it’s just the Sun Devils, Wildcats and Huskies who can even think about an at-large invite, and all three could go into March on the bubble. Even the conference’s best team hasn’t been immune to head-scratching losses. The Sun Devils have wins over Kansas and Mississippi State, but they ended their non-conference schedule by losing to Princeton at home and started Pac-12 play with a home loss to Utah. A one-bid Pac-12 is a very realistic possibility.
(1) Duke vs. (16) Stephen F. Austin/Norfolk State
(8) Cincinnati vs. (9) Maryland
(5) Wisconsin vs. (12) Wofford
(4) Mississippi State vs. (13) New Mexico State
(6) Louisville vs. (11) VCU
(3) Nevada vs. (14) Yale
(7) Seton Hall vs. (10) Arizona State
(2) Texas Tech vs. (15) Montana
Our own bracket is going to change countless times between now and Selection Sunday, and there’s no guarantee that the selection committee’s working file looks anything like ours. Still, we have to point out that the 5–12 matchup we have in the Midwest Region would be among the best games of the first round if it were to come to fruition. Even at this early stage of conference play, we can say that NC State and Lipscomb are second-weekend contenders that both happen to play a very entertaining brand of basketball. The Wolfpack rank 15th in kenpom.com’s adjusted tempo and 16th in average possession length. The Bisons, meanwhile, are 11th and 21st, respectively, in those stats.
You like basketball games where both teams do what they can to maximize possessions? Then you’d love a game featuring these two squads. The only drawback of them meeting so early in the tournament is that only one would be able to reach the Sweet 16.
(1) Michigan vs. (16) Texas Southern/Sacred Heart
(8) TCU vs. (9) LSU
(5) NC State vs. (12) Lipscomb
(4) Kentucky vs. (13) South Dakota State
(6) Buffalo vs. (11) Butler/Alabama
(3) Florida State vs. (14) UC-Irvine
(7) Iowa State vs. (10) Minnesota
(2) Gonzaga vs. (15) Northern Kentucky
Purdue moved to 2–1 in the Big Ten with an 86–70 win over Iowa last week. Carsen Edwards led the way—what else is new?—scoring 21 points while going 8-for-17 from the floor. He finally got some help from his teammates, though, with the rest of the Boilermakers shooting 55.6% from the floor, including 6-for-15 from behind the arc. There’s a sleeping giant somewhere inside this team, and the only way it’s going to awaken is if the supporting cast can regularly play as well as it did against the Hawkeyes. Matt Haarms was the only other regular in double-digits, but the Boilermakers also got key contributions from Nojel Eastern, Evan Boudreaux and Ryan Cline. Edwards is always going to have to shoulder the scoring load, but it was encouraging to see the rest of the team step up in a way it hasn’t consistently this season.
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Rider
(8) St. John’s vs. (9) Nebraska
(5) Indiana vs. (12) Syracuse/Ole Miss
(4) Oklahoma vs. (13) Loyola-Chicago
(6) Marquette vs. (11) Clemson
(3) Auburn vs. (14) Old Dominion
(7) Purdue vs. (10) Creighton
(2) Michigan State vs. (15) Radford
Is Houston going to go undefeated this season? The Cougars have a very real chance in a solid, though not spectacular, American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati and UCF are both in our bracket as at-large teams, while Temple is one of our first eight out. Get beyond those three, and this is a soft conference, giving the Cougars a remaining schedule filled with layups. The first big hurdle comes on Wednesday when they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple. They don’t play Cincinnati or UCF until February, so if they pass this week’s test, there’s a great chance they end January with an unblemished record. We’ll check back in on the Cougars if they do indeed go into February undefeated. For now, however, it’s something to keep in the back of our collective consciousness.
(1) Tennesse vs. (16) Lehigh
(8) Iowa vs. (9) Texas
(5) Houston vs. (12) Murray State
(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Hofstra
(6) Ohio State vs. (11) UCF
(3) North Carolina vs. (14) Vermont
(7) Villanova vs. (10) Florida
(2) Kansas vs. (15) Georgia State