In which Missouri flirts with escaping the 8-9 line...
- For this week, I compared my bracket to that of the Bracket Matrix, a wonderful amalgamation of bracketologists' picks. So when you see the "overrated" and "underrated" sections below, know that I'm basing those opinions off of where I disagree with the Matrix.
- You should probably never disagree with the Matrix.
- Bracketing the 5-12-4-13 line was particularly weird this time, so I ended up having to do what I hate: potentially pairing two conference mates in the Round of 32. Sorry, Oklahoma State and Iowa State. I don't like it either.
- And yes, with Kansas now a 1 and Missouri still an 8, I tried to pair them up, but Mizzou would have ended up in Florida's region, which is a no-no. So Mizzou gets Colorado again.
- The sites for the rounds of 64 and 32 are interesting this year. Michigan and Michigan State could both end up in Auburn Hills, while Lexington could host two teams that aren't liked very much by Kentucky fans: Louisville and Duke.
- The SEC may not be a great conference, but it is a crazy one. I've been keeping track of my rankings each week since the first Rock-M-Tology three weeks ago. Since February 11, Tennessee has gone from 100th to 59th, Arkansas from 87th to 63rd, and LSU from 116th to 92nd. These are among the four biggest rises for current Top 100 teams (the other one: Evansville, from 128th to 96th). On the flipside, Ole Miss (36th to 58th) and Kentucky (33rd to 53rd) are among the biggest tumbles.
- The SEC still has a ton riding on the next couple of weeks, then. The conference could end up with anywhere between two and five teams, six if Arkansas gets smoking hot. Three seems most likely, however.
- Other three-week tumbles: Illinois State (74th to 103rd), Cincinnati (21st to 41st), Baylor (46th to 61st) and Butler (15th to 29th).
Wisconsin (20-9) - It's hard to figure out what the hell to do with a team capable of winning at Indiana, destroying Ohio State (by 22 in Madison) and losing (by 13) to Purdue at home. The Badgers are 11-5 in a tough conference and a firm No. 4 seed in the mocks, but I had them right on the 6-7 border. That's probably unfair, especially considering their No. 8 Pomeroy ranking, but their non-conference RPI was poor (they played four good teams and went 0-4 with an average loss of 11 points), and their 4.5 road-neutral wins (I count road wins as 1, neutral as 0.5) are among the lowest among current tourney teams.
(Fine, I'll probably have them higher next week.)
Notre Dame (22-7) - Lose to St. Joseph's, beat Louisville. Lost to Providence and St. John's, beat Pittsburgh on the road. Pomeroy's numbers are not a fan of the Irish, and it's not hard to see why -- three iffy losses and two overtime games versus DePaul -- but the big wins are pretty damn big. The Matrix has them a 7, but I have them a 10.
Baylor (16-12) - According to the Matrix, Baylor is one of the first four teams out. I have them seventh out, just ahead of Iowa and Arkansas. The Bears' second-best win is over Kentucky (best: Oklahoma State), and they have lost seven of 10, losing to every decent-to-good team they've played in that stretch. It's a stretch to say they've got a chance at the moment. But if they hadn't botched the end of the Kansas State game...
(I could have just as easily put Villanova here. I have them on the outside looking in, while the Matrix has them a 12.)
VCU (23-6) - They're 17th in Pomeroy's rankings and 31st in the RPI; that alone suggests they should be somewhere around a 6-seed, not the 8 they're getting in the Matrix. They have just one iffy loss (at Richmond in overtime), though obviously their resume is hurt by a marquee win -- their best wins according to Pomeroy rank: No. 37 Memphis, No. 40 Belmont, No. 60 Butler. Still, they're 11-3 in a good conference. They certainly have an opportunity to finish strong, first in a revenge attempt versus Richmond on Wednesday, then at Temple on Sunday.
New Mexico (25-4) - The Lobos are No. 2 in RPI, are 10-3 away from home (7-3 on the road, 3-0 neutral), are 12-2 in an excellent Mountain West, and took out UConn (which would have been in the tourney without the APR ban) in non-conference for resume effect. I initially had them as an easy 2-seed, but the Matrix has them as the third No. 3. Not a huge difference, obviously, but I think they might be getting hurt by Gonzaga being on the No. 1 line. "Well we can't have two of them in the top eight..."
N.C. State (21-8) - As is customary, the most underrated teams on my list are mid-majors -- VCU, Creighton, New Mexico, Memphis, San Diego State -- but I'll give a quick shout-out to N.C. State, which should probably be creeping toward a 6-seed instead of the 8 they currently have in the Matrix. Of course, they can only get so much of a shoutout considering they lost to Wake Forest and have lost four straight to Top 90 teams. They can help themselves by beating a team with a pulse in the ACC Tournament. (They have to wait until then because they finish with Wake Forest and Florida State.)
We talked about SEC teams rising and falling pretty dramatically over the past month. Here are the teams who have risen notably in the last week.
UCLA (22-7) - The Bruins dodged a bullet with an overtime win (at home) over Arizona State, then pulled off a lovely resume-maker with a win over Arizona. Beat the Washington schools on the road this week, and they could be in line for a 6-seed heading into the Pac-12 tourney.
Virginia (20-9) - The Cavs are now 18th in Pomeroy's rankings, and they did themselves a major favor by beating Duke on Thursday. It would have been an even bigger favor, however, had they not laid an egg and lost at Boston College on Sunday. They went from out, to in, to right on the borderline.
Boise State (18-8) - This is another "who the hell knows?" team, but the Broncos have helped themselves out tremendously of late. They beat Colorado State by 13 on Saturday after pasting Nevada on Wednesday. Losses to Nevada (in January) and Utah (in December) still make their resume a little iffy, but at 20-8, 8-6 in a good league, 44th in RPI and 52nd in Pomeroy, I think they might get in if the selection show were today.
Charlotte (18-10) - The 49ers fooled people into thinking they might be a tourney team after a win at Butler. That they followed that win up with losses by double-digits to St. Louis and Temple didn't finish them off ... but 21-point losses to Dayton and St. Bonaventure did. They're sinking like a stone.
Indiana State (16-13) - My numbers kind of liked ISU as a bubble team a couple of weeks ago. Then they lost to Drake and Evansville after barely beating Iona. So never mind on that one.
Wichita State (24-7) - Gregg Marshall's Shockers are still pretty safe, but it's probably not a good idea to head into Championship Week with a home loss to Evansville and a 12-point loss at Creighton.
Last Few In
Names in italics would be among the last in without their conference's automatic bid.
Wichita State (24-7)
Middle Tennessee (27-4)
Boise State (18-8)
La Salle (20-7)
Louisiana Tech (25-3)
Iowa State (19-10)
Stephen F. Austin (20-3)
Southern Miss (20-7)
First Few Out
Ole Miss (21-8)
7 - Big East
5 - Atlantic 10, ACC, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12
3 - SEC
2 - Conference USA, Missouri Valley, West Coast
FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)
Virginia (20-9) vs. Southern Miss (20-7)
Iowa State (19-10) vs. Kentucky (20-9)
Northeastern (19-11) vs. Southern (18-9)
N.C. Central (17-8) vs. Gardner-Webb (17-11)
EAST REGIONAL (in Washington, DC)
1 Duke (25-4) vs. 16 Robert Morris (22-9)
8 Creighton (24-7) vs. 9 Illinois (20-9)
5 VCU (23-6) vs. 12 Louisiana Tech (25-3)
4 Kansas State (23-5) vs. 13 Bucknell (24-5)
in Kansas City
6 Colorado State (20-7) vs. 11 Belmont (22-6)
3 Michigan State (21-7) vs. 14 Stony Brook (22-6)
in Auburn Hills
7 UCLA (22-7) vs. 10 St. Mary's (25-5)
2 Louisville (24-5) vs. 15 Harvard (16-9)
WEST REGIONAL (in Los Angeles)
1 Gonzaga (28-2) vs. 16 Pacific (15-12)
8 Missouri (21-8) vs. 9 Colorado (19-9)
in San Jose
5 St. Louis (23-5) vs. 12 Virginia / Southern Miss
4 Ohio State (21-7) vs. 13 Akron (22-5)
6 Pittsburgh (23-7) vs. 11 California (20-9)
3 New Mexico (25-4) vs. 14 South Dakota State (19-9)
in Salt Lake City
7 Wisconsin (20-9) vs. 10 Cincinnati (20-9)
2 Miami (23-5) vs. 15 Weber State (20-5)
MIDWEST REGIONAL (in Indianapolis)
1 Indiana (25-4) vs. 16 Northeastern / Southern
8 North Carolina (20-8) vs. 9 Oklahoma (19-9)
5 Oklahoma State (22-6) vs. 12 La Salle (20-7)
4 Syracuse (22-7) vs. 13 Iowa State / Kentucky
6 Memphis (25-4) vs. 11 Boise State (18-8)
3 Arizona (23-6) vs. 14 Valparaiso (23-7)
in Salt Lake City
7 N.C. State (21-8) vs. 10 Wichita State (24-7)
2 Georgetown (23-4) vs. 15 Loyola-Maryland (21-10)
SOUTH REGIONAL (in Arlington)
1 Kansas (25-4) vs. 16 N.C. Central / Gardner-Webb
8 San Diego State (18-8) vs. 9 Oregon (23-6)
in Kansas City
5 UNLV (21-7) vs. 12 Temple (21-8)
4 Marquette (21-7) vs. 13 Stephen F. Austin (20-3)
in San Jose
6 Minnesota (20-9) vs. 11 Middle Tennessee (27-4)
3 Florida (23-5) vs. 14 Davidson (22-7)
7 Butler (21-7) vs. 10 Notre Dame (22-7)
2 Michigan (23-5) vs. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (19-10)
in Auburn Hills
My At-First-Glance Final Four
Second glance: Duke-Ohio State-Indiana-Florida
Missouri's inevitable path to destiny™ (ahem)
Colorado-Gonzaga-Ohio State-Miami-Louisville-Georgetown. Not bad.