This was a pretty weird week in college basketball, punctuated by a pretty weird weekend. Simply doing what you were supposed to do likely moved you up the ranks, and quite a few teams failed to do just that.
Who I Like
Again there is little rhyme or reason for the names that appear in the Who I Like and Who I Don't Like sections -- it's just simply teams I like or dislike more than others might. This week, it's a 1-seed and three mid-majors.
Duke (19-2) - Okay, I don't "like" Duke in a way that I'm rooting for them or anything ... but in perusing the Google Reader after their loss to St. John's yesterday, you'd think they were on a five-game losing streak or something. They are certainly not as good without Kyrie Irving, and if their 3-point shooting is as off as it was yesterday, they're going to be very vulnerable, but ... strengths are not strengths in every game. Duke is not an amazingly athletic team, and the one strength St. John's brings to the table is athleticism. Duke's draw will be important, but they're still one of the six or eight best teams in the field without a doubt. At the moment, I think they're still a 1-seed.
Cleveland State (18-3) - A Top 30 RPI and a Top 50 KenPom ranking. That's not too bad a resume for a team that has only played four games against KenPom Top 100 teams. All three losses came on the road against a Top 100 team -- West Virginia, Butler, and Valpo. If (IF) they beat Butler at home this coming Saturday, I think they'll be in position for an at-large bid whether or not they win the Horizon League tournament.
Duquesne (14-5) - The Dukes' RPI is just 77th, which is a problem, but at 33rd in the KenPom rankings, you know they'll be a favorite of mine. They're 2-4 versus KenPom's Top 100, with wins over Temple and Dayton and competitive losses to Pittsburgh, Penn State (on the road), West Virginia and George Mason. The tight losses will obviously get them a lot more credit in KenPom's system than the RPI, but ... this is a solid team.
George Mason (17-5) - Remember these guys? They're currently 28th in KenPom and 33rd in RPI. In other words, they're in the field and should be in safely at the moment. Without a doubt, they have suffered some iffy losses (vs NC State, vs Wofford, at Dayton, at Hofstra), but they're 9-2 in a tough Colonial, and they took out both Duquesne and Harvard. Mid-major resumes are typically incomplete -- GMU has only gotten a couple of opportunities to truly prove itself -- but I think GMU has done enough with their schedule at hand. Now they just need to keep doing it. They host Old Dominion this Saturday -- that is a huge game.
Who I Don't Like
Connecticut (17-3) - "Reasonably big, athletic team who relies on one guy to win every game for them in the last minute" is the perfect description of a dangerous 11-, 12-, 13- or 14-seed -- it virtually describes Missouri State to a T. Unfortunately it is not what you want to read about a potential 2-seed ... or in the case of Jerry Palm's Friday bracket, a 1-seed. I don't trust them at all.
Florida State (15-6) - The 'Noles have one of the best defenses in the country; they currently rank third in KenPom's D rankings. But they also rank 194th on offense. They turn the ball over like crazy, they don't draw fouls, and their shot comes and goes. I know, I know ... defense wins championships, blah blah blah, but ... this team is not going far in the NCAA's unless they figure something out offensively.
Boston College (14-7) - The Eagles are the anti-FSU. They're very efficient on offense (sixth in KenPom's rankings) ... and horrid on D (246th). They don't prevent good shots, they don't grab defensive rebounds, and they REALLY don't force turnovers. They've lost three of four, and they have losses to Yale (KenPom No. 163) and Rhode Island (No. 134) on the resume. At 4-3 in the ACC with a No. 38 RPI, they're currently still in ... but how Jerry Palm had them as an 8-seed last week and Joe Lunardi a 9-seed, I have no idea. I had to compromise just to bump them up to a 10.
Michigan State (12-8) - Again, I realize this is just piling on ... and I'm sure that if they make the field, they'll probably end up in the damn Final Four again. But ... woof. Sum of parts >>> whole.
Memphis (16-5) - Jerry Palm had them as a 10-seed on Friday. Nuh uh. Best win: UAB. Second-best win: Miami. They've played three Top 50 teams (Kansas, Georgetown, Tennessee) and lost by an average of 17 points. They're an auto-bid-or-nothing team for me. Right now, I'm giving them the auto bid, but UAB is going to have something to say about that.
Kansas State (13-8) - I realize it was before their debacle in Lawrence, but somehow Palm had them a 10-seed on Friday. I don't get it. Don't get me wrong: I want more than four Big 12 teams in the field, and just in terms of potential upside, I want KSU in the field. But I can't do it. They've lost five of seven, and ... it's been a long time since they were even playing well enough to beat Washington State.
Oklahoma State (14-7) - I mentioned last week that it was just a matter of time before they tumbled out of the bracket ... and then they lost at Texas Tech on Saturday. Lunardi had them as the first team out last week, and Palm still had them a 12-seed as of Friday ... I have them waaaaaay out at the moment.
St. John's (12-8) - Don't get me wrong -- I've always liked St. John's for some reason, and I want them to get hot and make the field. But Palm had them as a 10-seed on Friday before they upset Duke. What? I mean, they're definitely a tough team to judge. They now have wins over Duke, Georgetown, West Virginia and Notre Dame. I understand the draw. But they're 12-8, with losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham. Not that it matters what we think now, of course -- of their ten remaining opponents, seven are ranked 66th or better in KenPom's rankings, five are 25th or better. By the time they reach March, they're going to either be clearly in or clearly out.
Minnesota (16-5) - I don't really have any serious qualms with the Gophas -- it's just that Palm had them as a 4-seed on Friday, and they look like a custom-made 6 to me.
Utah State (20-2) - Always.
Maryland (14-7) - They rank 13th in KenPom's rankings, and only one of their seven losses was to a team outside the Top 40 (No. 67 Boston College). They've won three in a row now and can solidfy their spot with a win over Duke on Wednesday, but I think folks are sleeping on the Turtles a bit.
Louisville (17-4) - Somehow the Cardinals have flown under the radar this year, despite playing in the Big East and despite having Rick Pitino as coach. Their win over UConn on Saturday was huge, giving them two big wins for the week (they beat West Virginia on Wednesday) and placing them at 6-2 in the conference. I had them ranked 29th overall a week ago, now I've got them 17th. They're still just a 5-seed ... but they've got a case for a 4- or a 3. Beat Georgetown in DC tonight, and they're definitely a 3.
Belmont (20-4) - They did lose a conference game this week -- they lost by nine at Lipscomb -- but I still think they've got enough to claim an at-large bid. Three competitive in-state road losses -- to Tennessee twice by single digits and to Vandy by single digits -- were their only glitches until Lipscomb, so as long as they don't slip again, they'll continue to be safely in my field of 68.
UAB (15-5) - Honestly, I probably have them ranked a bit too high -- they're only 64th in KenPom and 37th in RPI -- but they took care of business against two CUSA contenders this week (Marshall at home, UCF on the road) and stand at 6-2 in the conference. In all, their resume is at least as impressive as Memphis'.
Louisville (17-4) - This is what happens when you beat West Virginia and Georgetown.
Xavier (15-5) - They crushed Richmond by 23 on the road on Saturday, and they've won seven in a row.
Tennessee (14-7) - The most schizophrenic team in the field handled an interesting Ole Miss team by 17 on the road and have now won four in a row in the SEC.
Georgetown (16-5) - They're baaaaaack. They slumped as the calendar turned to 2011 -- they lost four of five from 12/29 to 1/12 -- but now they've won four in a row. They destroyed St. John's on Wednesday and took out Villanova on the road on Saturday. They rank 15th in KenPom and fifth in RPI.
Washington State (15-6) - Their RPI (64th) is holding them back, but they're 34th in KenPom, and they came up with a huge home win over Washington yesterday. I have them vulnerable but in the field right now.
Oklahoma State (14-7) - I know Texas Tech is better now than they were a few weeks ago, but ... their loss in Lubbock was their fifth in six games. Missouri will be facing a desperate team on Wednesday night at Gallagher-Iba.
Florida (16-5) - They got by Georgia on the road on Tuesday, but that was not a very good Mississippi State team they lost to on Saturday.
UCLA (14-7) - They couldn't take out Arizona mid-week, and they struggled against a weak Arizona State team on Saturday. Their margin of error was small enough that this knocked them just out of the field of 68.
Michigan State (12-8) - A home loss to Michigan? Really? Followed by a one-point OT win over Indiana? They're dropping like a rock. Let's just say they better not lose at Iowa this Wednesday.
Syracuse (18-4) - This one was almost too obvious to point out, but ... they've lost four in a row. A tight road loss to Marquette is forgivable, but ... a 22-point home loss to Seton Hall? Seriously? They've fallen from a 1-seed to a 4-seed in just two weeks, and they're playing like an NIT team.
Last 8 In
Washington State (15-6)
Michigan State (12-8)
Virginia Tech (14-6)
The following teams are in because of the automatic bid, but if they were to end up not securing the auto bid, they'd be right on the edge of the bubble: Belmont (20-4), Missouri State (17-5), Harvard (13-3), VCU (18-5).
First 9 Out
St. John's (12-8)
New Mexico (14-7)
Kansas State (13-8)
Oklahoma State (14-7)
By the way, here would be the Last Four In and First Four Out if we had indeed moved to a 96-team tournament this past offseason:
Last Four In
Central Florida (13-6)
Ole Miss (13-8)
First Four Out
N.C. State (12-9)
Michigan (12-9)? Safely in. Miami (12-9) too. And probably Valparaiso (14-6).
10 - Big East
6 - Big Ten, ACC
5 - SEC
4 - Big 12, Atlantic 10
3 - Mountain West, Pac-10, Colonial
2 - Conference USA, Missouri Valley
FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)
Richmond (16-6) vs Virginia Tech (14-6)
Marquette (14-8) vs Duquesne (14-5)
Maine (13-7) vs Bethune Cookman (8-9)
McNeese State (9-7) vs Jackson State (9-9)
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL (in New Orleans)
1 Ohio State (22-0) vs 16 Austin Peay (12-9)
8 Xavier (15-5) vs 9 Utah State (20-2)
5 Louisville (17-4) vs 12 Harvard (13-3)
4 Texas A&M (16-3) vs 13 VCU (18-5)
6 St. Mary's (16-4) vs 11 UAB (15-5)
3 Villanova (17-4) vs 14 College of Charleston (15-7)
7 Vanderbilt (15-5) vs 10 Boston College (14-7)
2 San Diego State (19-1) vs 15 Kent State (13-7)
WEST REGIONAL (in Anaheim)
1 Duke (19-2) vs 16 Maine-Bethune Cookman
8 Temple (15-5) vs 9 Illinois (14-7)
5 West Virginia (14-6) vs 12 Missouri State (17-5)
4 Kentucky (16-4) vs Memphis (16-5)
6 Washington (15-5) vs 11 Belmont (20-4)
3 Notre Dame (17-4) vs 14 Coastal Carolina (16-2)
7 Cincinnati (18-4) vs 10 George Mason (17-5)
2 BYU (19-2) vs 15 Long Beach (11-10)
SOUTHWEST REGIONAL (in San Antonio)
1 Kansas (20-1) vs 16 McNeese State-Jackson State
8 Old Dominion (17-5) vs 9 Georgia (14-6)
5 North Carolina (15-5) vs 12 Michigan State (12-8)
4 Syracuse (18-4) vs 13 Oakland (15-8)
6 Florida (16-5) vs 11 Maryland (14-7)
3 Purdue (18-4) vs 14 Fairfield (16-4)
7 Arizona (18-4) vs 10 Wichita State (17-4)
2 Connecticut (17-3) vs 15 Long Island (16-5)
in Washington, DC
EAST REGIONAL (in Newark)
1 Pittsburgh (20-2) vs 16 Florida Atlantic (14-7)
8 Tennessee (14-7) vs 9 Florida State (15-6)
in Washington, DC
5 Missouri (16-4) vs 12 Richmond-Virginia Tech
4 Wisconsin (15-5) vs Marquette-Duquesne
6 Minnesota (16-5) vs 11 Washington State (15-6)
3 Georgetown (16-5) vs 14 Montana (14-5)
7 UNLV (16-5) vs 10 Cleveland State (18-3)
2 Texas (18-3) vs 15 Bucknell (15-8)
My At-First-Glance Final Four
Ohio State, Notre Dame, Kansas, Texas
Second glance: Villanova, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh
Missouri's Inevitable Path to Destiny™ (ahem)
Richmond, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Texas, Kansas, Ohio State.
That might be my least favorite Inevitable Path to Destiny ever. Holy moly.