Monday, February 28, 2011

NCAA Bracket Analysis - February 28, 2011

13 days until selection Sunday...conference tournaments start this week, while the regular season wraps up for others.  At the bottom, the bubble is still there for the taking.  The weekend brought a big change to the bottom of my bracket and there are no certainties from day-to-day.  The top is less volatile, but seed jockeying continues there, as well as in the middle of the bracket where certain teams are hot and others are not.  Here is a little look along my S-curve at some teams and what lies ahead.

The Race for #1's
1.  Ohio State, 27-2, 14-2 (at Penn State, vs Wisconsin, Big Ten Tourney)
2.  Kansas, 27-2, 12-2 (vs Texas A&M, at Missouri, Big 12 Tourney)
3.  Pittsburgh, 25-4, 13-3 (at South Florida, vs Villanova, Big East Tourney)
4.  BYU, 26-2, 13-1 (vs New Mexico, vs Wyoming, Mountain West Tourney)
5.  Duke, 26-3, 12-2 (vs Clemson, at North Carolina, ACC Tourney)
6.  Texas, 24-5, 12-2 (vs Kansas State, at Baylor, Big 12 Tourney)

The four #1's should come from this pool of 6.  Ohio State and Kansas are close to locking up #1 seeds.  BYU likely needs to win out, including the Mountain West Tourney to hold onto a #1.  Texas also would need to win out at this point and garnering a 2nd win over Kansas in the Big 12 tourney could be enough.  Pittsburgh has the upper-hand on Duke for now based on better wins.

7.  Purdue, 24-5, 13-3 (vs Illinois, at Iowa, Big Ten Tourney)
8.  Notre Dame, 23-5, 12-4 (vs Villanova, at Connecticut, Big East Tourney)
9.  Syracuse, 24-6, 11-6 (vs DePaul, Big East Tourney)
10.  Wisconsin, 22-6, 12-4 (at Indiana, at Ohio State, Big Ten Tourney)
11.  San Diego State, 25-2, 12-2 (at Wyoming, vs Colorado State, Mountain West Tourney)
12.  Louisville, 22-7, 11-5 (vs Providence, at West Virginia, Big East Tourney)
13.  Florida, 22-6, 11-3 (vs Alabama, at Vanderbilt, SEC Tourney)
14.  North Carolina, 22-6, 12-2 (at Florida State, vs Duke, ACC Tourney)
15.  Connecticut, 21-7, 9-7 (at West Virginia, vs Notre Dame, Big East Tourney)

If Purdue takes care of their final two Big Ten games, it will be tough to move them off the two line even with a poor showing against a desperate 7 seed in the Big Ten Tourney.  Notre Dame's hold on the last #2 is a bit more tenuous based on their remaining schedule and the Big East Tournament free-for-all.  Syracuse should cruise in their finale, giving them the opportunity to jump if they make a Big East Tourney run (check out the road wins the 'Cuse now has).  Wisconsin would have a case to move-up with a win in Columbus, but with a loss will have to avoid a fall by winning one, if not two Big Ten Tourney games.  San Diego State will be interesting if they win out.  They would be borderline #2 depending on what else happens around them.  If they lose to BYU again, a seed drop is likely.  Louisville is making a seeding push, but has the same Big East Tourney gauntlet as the others plus a trip to West Virginia.  Not everyone will impress in the Big East Tourney.  Louisville is probably maxed at a #3, unless they can somehow jump both Notre Dame and Syracuse in the Big East pecking order.  Florida got a seed reduction this week, but can be a #3 with a strong finish.  North Carolina and Connecticut have the schedules and opportunity to move up or down at this point.

16.  St. John's, 19-9, 11-5 (at Seton Hall, vs South Florida, Big East Tourney)
17.  Vanderbilt, 21-7, 9-5 (at Kentucky, vs Florida, SEC Tourney)
18.  Kentucky, 20-8, 8-6 (vs Vanderbilt, at Tennessee, SEC Tourney)
19.  Georgetown, 21-8, 10-7 (at Cincinnati, Big East Tourney)
20.  Villanova, 21-8, 9-7 (at Notre Dame, at Pittsburgh, Big East Tourney)
21.  Texas A&M, 21-6, 9-5 (at Kansas, vs Texas Tech, Big 12 Tourney)
22.  Xavier, 22-6, 13-1 (vs Charlotte, at St. Louis, A-10 Tourney)
23.  West Virginia, 18-10, 9-7 (vs Connecticut, vs Louisville, Big East Tourney)
24.  Arizona, 23-6, 12-4 (vs Oregon State, vs Oregon, Pac-10 Tourney)
25.  UNLV, 22-7, 10-5 (at Utah, Mountain West Tourney)
26.  Missouri, 21-7, 8-6 (at Nebraska, vs Kansas, Big 12 Tourney)
27.  UCLA, 21-8, 12-4 (at Washington, at Washington State, Pac-10 Tourney)
28.  George Mason, 25-5, 16-2 (Colonial Tourney)
29.  Temple, 22-6, 12-2 (at Massachusetts, vs LaSalle, A-10 Tourney)
30.  Kansas State, 19-9, 8-6 (at Texas, vs Iowa State, Big 12 Tourney)
31. Old Dominion, 24-6, 14-4 (Colonial Tourney)

A couple highlights from this group...St. John's seems maxed at a #4, but who would have thought they would have been that a few short weeks ago.  The schedules dictate that Vanderbilt and Kentucky will decide their own pecking order, with the loser potentially dropping to a #6.  Arizona and UCLA are waging a battle for seed rights in the Pac-10.  UCLA has the bigger wins, Arizona the more consistent resume.  A Pac-10 Tourney grudge match would clear it all up, although UCLA has a tougher week this week to earn a title share.  Georgetown was the biggest loser of the week and conference mate Villanova is not far behind.  Not only did the Hoyas go 0-2, but Chris Wright was injured and may not return for the Dance.  While not a superstar player, this bears watching.  Villanova also went 0-2 and now has two brutal road games before the Big East Tourney.  The three Big 12 teams above have no cakewalks upcoming, so there will be some potential shuffling of that deck as well.

32.  Cincinnati, 22-7, 9-7 (at Marquette, vs Georgetown, Big East Tourney)
33.  Illinois, 18-11, 8-8 (at Purdue, vs Indiana, Big Ten Tourney)
34.  Marquette, 18-11, 9-7 (vs Cincinnati, at Seton Hall, Big East Tourney)
35.  Georgia, 19-9, 8-6 (vs LSU, at Alabama, SEC Tourney)
36.  Washington, 19-9, 10-6 (vs UCLA, vs USC, Pac-10 Tourney)
37.  Utah State, 25-3, 13-1 (at New Mexico State, at Louisiana Tech, WAC Tourney)
38.  Tennessee, 17-12, 7-7 (at South Carolina, vs Kentucky, SEC Tourney)
39.  Michigan State, 15-12, 8-8 (vs Iowa, at Michigan, Big Ten Tourney)
40.  Florida State, 20-8, 10-4 (vs North Carolina, at NC State, ACC Tourney)

This would be the almost locks group.  If each team can win one more game, it will likely punch a dance card.  Close with two regular season losses and the conference tourney games will make it interesting.  This group also has limited upward mobility in seed as the divide between them and most teams in the next tier is quite significant.

41.  Virginia Tech, 19-8, 9-5 (vs Boston College, at Clemson, ACC Tourney)
42.  Richmond, 22-7, 11-3 (at St. Joseph's, vs Duquesne, A-10 Tourney)
43.  Butler, 20-9, 13-5 (Horizon Semifinals)
44.  UAB, 20-7, 10-4 (at Southern Miss, vs East Carolina, C-USA Tourney)
45.  St. Mary's, 21-7, 11-3 (West Coast Semifinals)
46.  Gonzaga, 20-9, 11-3 (West Coast Semifinals)
47.  Memphis, 21-8, 9-5 (at East Carolina, vs Tulane, C-USA Tourney)
48.  Clemson, 19-9, 8-6 (at Duke, vs Virginia Tech, ACC Tourney)
49.  Colorado, 17-11, 7-7 (at Iowa State, vs Nebraska, Big 12 Tourney)
50.  Michigan 17-12, 8-9 (vs Michigan State, Big Ten Tourney)

Butler, the C-USA winner and the West Coast winner are in this list as automatic berths.  The status of these teams will also be predicated on what happens around them.  So far this year, very few teams from this group or the next have shown the ability to go on a hot streak and beat good teams.  If a bunch of them do that, then teams that continue to muddle their way to the finish will be left out.  The trend would indicate that muddling will be enough for quite a few of these teams.  My take on Butler, St. Mary's and Gonzaga is that they are all in if they win one game and get to their conference title games.  I believe the NCAA will want to populate the First Four games with at least two mid-majors, to show they did not expand the tournament for only the BCS leagues.  The loser of the West Coast final, if it is Gonzaga vs St. Mary's, would be a great candidate for one of those games.  Butler might be too with a Horizon Final loss.  Maybe Richmond if they stumble this week.  Or Memphis, who does have 9 top 100 wins, even though the majority are writing them off.  On a side note, the Conference USA Tourney is going to be the craziest group of games involving mediocrity that I can remember (any one of 7 teams could win it).  The last three in, Clemson, Colorado and Michigan are in by a shoestring.  Clemson made it ahead of Boston College due to similar resumes, but a recent victory over the Eagles.  With Clemson's schedule this week, this appearance is likely short-lived, but someone needs to take the spot.  Colorado got the ultra-impressive win of the weekend and now has 3 RPI Top 25 and 5 RPI Top 50 wins.  That alone appears good enough to make this tourney, if you don't lose both games the next week (hello, Nebraska, good job).  Michigan replaces Minnesota as a 6th Big Ten team, but maybe this is just a 5 bid league.  A win over Michigan State and a first round Big Ten win might convince me otherwise.

BUB.  Boston College, 17-11, 7-7 (at Virginia Tech, vs Wake Forest, ACC Tourney)
BUB.  Colorado State, 17-10, 8-6 (vs Utah, at San Diego State, Mountain West Tourney)
BUB.  Penn State, 15-12, 8-8 (vs Ohio State, at Minnesota, Big Ten Tourney)
BUB.  Alabama, 19-9, 11-3 (at Florida, vs Georgia, SEC Tourney)
BUB.  Baylor, 17-10, 7-7 (at Oklahoma State, vs Texas, Big 12 Tourney)
BUB.  Minnesota, 17-11, 6-10 (at Northwestern, vs Penn State, Big Ten Tourney)
BUB.  Nebraska, 18-10, 6-8 (vs Missouri, at Colorado, Big 12 Tourney)
BUB.  Southern Miss, 18-7, 9-5 (vs UAB, at Tulsa, C-USA Tourney)
BUB.  Missouri State, 23-7, 15-3 (Missouri Valley Tourney)
BUB.  USC, 17-12, 9-7 (at Washington State, at Washington, Pac-10 Tourney)
BUB.  Oklahoma State, 17-11, 5-9 (vs Baylor, at Oklahoma, Big 12 Tourney)

Many of these teams on this list have golden opportunities for big wins, some at home, some on the road.  If any can capitalize on these, there will likely be a couple spots open.  Good conference tournament runs would be extremely helpful to this group as well.  I am not sure any could absorb a first round ouster. 

The remaining bids will be automatic bids to one-bid leagues.

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