Bracketology: Never Too Early Edition IV

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.   He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

Conference play is beginning to heat up (what a game between Wake Forest and North Carolina on Sunday night) and that means the bracket is starting to become a bit less muddled. This week saw 10 teams trade places in the bracket and a major shift amongst the top four seeds. I used RPI, SOS, record, conference record and wins vs. RPI top 1-50 while evaluating the true bubble teams by their individual resumes. Please leave any thoughts/gripes in the comments.

Quick notes:

  • By now you know the routine: I factor in conference tournaments for the automatic bids. Meaning that while Tennessee probably doesn’t deserve their 5-seed, I have them projected to win their conference tournament. That results in three extra wins prior to Selection Sunday and a seed boost. This used to apply for Oklahoma (1), California (3) and Michigan State (3), but now you can make the argument those are proper seeds regardless of the conference championship. Memphis (6), Gonzaga (7) and San Diego State (9) do receive the slight boost.
  • The top seeds are much more clear this week with the #1’s going to Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Duke and Oklahoma. North Carolina drops to 0-2 in the ACC and a 2 seed, joining undefeated Clemson and one-loss Connecticut and Syracuse. Not too much debate there. Projected Big 10 champion Michigan State garners a 3-seed, while the Cal Bears huge 3OT victory in Seattle mean they move ahead of UCLA as the projected Pac-10 champion. The other 3-seeds are Georgetown and those Bruins.
  • Arkansas had a golden opportunity to claim the projected SEC champion berth, but fell at home in a stunner to Mississippi State. Tennessee at 1-0 remains in that position with their squeaker over Georgia.
  • Dayton barely sneaks into the field as my Last Team In, carrying two wins over the RPI Top 50 (most notably Marquette), while Kentucky’s best win is a squeaker over 8-seed West Virginia. Oklahoma State’s 21 SOS, 2 wins over the RPI Top 50, 12-3 record and conference victory over Texas A&M on Saturday carry them barely into the bracket. Maryland (bad loss to Morgan State but have those quality wins over both Michigan schools) and Florida State (riding that win over Cal, also beat Florida) also sneak in.
  • Illinois State’s bad loss at Indiana State, along with a 251 SOS, mean they’re removed from the field. Boston College had a terrible week after their monumental upset in Chapel Hill, losing to Harvard and Miami at home, dropping the Eagles out. Missouri losing at Nebraska was a crucial defeat.

Last Four In: Dayton, Oklahoma State, Maryland, Florida State
Last Four Out: Kentucky, Illinois State, Boston College, Missouri
Next Four Out: Creighton, Stanford, Arizona, South Carolina

bracketology-011109

Multiple bids per conference: Big East (9), Atlantic Coast (7), Big 10 (7), Big 12 (6), Pacific 10 (4), SEC (3), Mountain West (3), West Coast (2), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Xavier, Wake Forest, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Weber State, VMI, Michigan State, Long Beach State, George Mason, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Miami (OH), Morgan State, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Robert Morris, Morehead State, California, Navy, Tennessee, Davidson, Stephen F. Austin, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

New additions: Binghamton, East Tennessee State, Long Beach State, Miami (OH), Morgan State, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma State, Robert Morris, San Diego State, Weber State.

Dropped out: Belmont, Boston College, Illinois State, Missouri, LSU, Oakland, Portland State, Stanford, Quinnipiac, Vermont.

Key bubble games for next week:

  • Florida State @ NC State, 1/13– The Seminoles can’t afford to slip up on the road to a bottom-three ACC team, while Sidney Lowe’s squad needs to protect their home court in-conference to stay in the hunt.
  • Bradley @ Indiana State, 1/13– You just saw previously 14-0 Illinois State lose to the Sycamores on the road. Bradley shouldn’t let it happen to them, too.
  • Kentucky @ Tennessee, 1/13– Big time opportunity for Billy Gillispie’s squad to pick up an enormous road conference victory both for their resume and for the SEC.
  • Michigan State @ Penn State, 1/14– Purdue fell victim to the up-and-coming Nittany Lions. Any chance Tom Izzo’s squad becomes their next victim?
  • San Diego State @ Wyoming, 1/14– I’ve got the Aztecs in as the Mountain West champion and the automatic bid. That could change with a loss to a pretty good Wyoming team.
  • Florida @ Auburn, 1/14– A young Florida team can’t look past Auburn in the SEC. Look what just happened to Tennessee when they visited Georgia: a near terrible loss. The Gators don’t exactly have the most glowing resume, either.
  • Michigan @ Illinois, 1/14– Big chance for Michigan to solidify their spot in the field.
  • Wake Forest @ Boston College, 1/14– Last week was a disaster for the Eagles, but they’re right there for a spot in the tournament. This is a huge opportunity to topple another ACC power on their home court.
  • Maryland @ Miami (FL), 1/14– Two ACC teams around the bubble making this the top bubble game of the entire week.
  • Baylor @ Texas A&M, 1/14– Let’s just say the Aggies need quality wins. Badly.
  • Xavier @ Rhode Island, 1/15– The Rams lost a devastating 3OT game to Atlantic 10 rival St. Joseph’s on Saturday. Here’s their chance to rebound against the favorite in the conference on the Rams home floor.
  • Arizona @ UCLA, 1/15– As Jekyll-and-Hyde Arizona has been this season, we wouldn’t rule it out.
  • Northern Iowa @ Drake, 1/16– Much like San Diego State, Northern Iowa’s auto bid from the MVC isn’t exactly stable. This is a difficult road game for the Panthers.
  • Miami (OH) @ Kent State, 1/16– Huge game for the MAC regular season title.
  • Maryland @ Florida State, 1/16– Fair to say this is a very important week for the Terrapins. Hopefully they don’t have another Morgan State collapse.
  • Oklahoma State @ Baylor, 1/16– Baylor certainly needs to watch out. Texas A&M and Oklahoma State are two teams that need quality wins.
  • Oklahoma @ Texas A&M, 1/16– This one could be an upset special for the week, folks. Remember I said it.
  • Arkansas @ Florida, 1/16– Vital SEC game. The Razorbacks can live off their Texas and Oklahoma wins even if they lose to Florida. The Gators need this one at home.
  • BYU @ New Mexico, 1/16– Not an easy place for BYU to march in and come away with an easy victory. But they know that.
  • South Carolina @ Tennessee, 1/16– This would make wins @ Baylor and @ Tennessee for the Gamecocks, probably enough to push them into the field.
  • Ohio State @ Michigan, 1/16– The loser of this game probably starts to feel a bit nervous.
  • Arizona @ USC, 1/16– These two teams need to start winning games quickly.
  • California @ Stanford, 1/16– Toppling Pac-10 leader Cal would bring the Cardinal back into the hunt.
  • Marquette @ Providence, 1/16– The Friars are showing some life- starting 3-0 in the conference and nearly beating Georgetown- and would salivate over this quality Big East win over a hot Marquette team.
  • Kentucky @ Georgia, 1/17– The Wildcats need to stay focused and avoid a bad loss here.

4 Responses to Bracketology: Never Too Early Edition IV

  1. GBBound says:

    Good stuff. While I see you have MSU advancing to the Final Four, why is Syracuse a 2 seed over MSU? MSU has a higher RPI (4) than Syracuse (12), a much stronger SOS (12 v. 52), and 2 more RPI top 25 wins (3 v. 1) and 2 more RPI top 50 wins (5 v. 3). MSU lost both games without Suton in the lineup, while Syracuse lost a game at home.

  2. Brian says:

    I think Notre Dame has a case for a 4 seed over a team like Baylor or Minnesota. I think Kentucky and maybe Stanford should be in over FSU or the two Big 12 teams (A&M/OSU).

    Other than that this is a really good bracket. Hard to argue with anything.

  3. Zach says:

    GBBound- Believe me, I was thisclose to giving the Spartans that final 2 seed over the Orange. In the end, it’s probably likely that the Big 10 champs (underrated conference) will get the last 2 over the 3rd place team in the Big East. Bottom line, though: Cuse has 1 loss on a halfcourt buzzer beater, while Michigan State has 2 losses (neither were particularly competitive, either). I definitely see your point, though, and those numbers back it up.

    Brian- I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I do recall ND has a very poor RPI/SOS and that bad loss to St. John’s. Stanford, Kentucky, A&M and Oklahoma State are all lacking quality wins so we should find out more and more about them as conference season rolls on. Florida State’s wins over Cal and Florida are enough to push them in.

  4. wyatt says:

    Cal ahead of UCLA because it took them 3OT to beat a team UCLA would beat by 15? Everyone’s writing off the Bruins because they lost one fluke and one quality game in non-con play, but they’ll go 16-2 in conference and be a 2 seed. Their freshmen are making statements and another Final four is in the cards.

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