CBB Weekend Preview: 2/24-2/25

There’s less than a week left in February, which means March is right around the corner! Can you believe it? Me either.

This college basketball season has been, well, I’m not sure if there’s a word to describe it, but if I had to pick one, I’d probably choose “crazy.” There’s been tons of parity, the top teams have lost to teams with losing records, and a report was released just this morning tying some of the top programs in the nation with illegal recruiting tactics, including Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State.

That situation could put a little damper on the March Madness that we know and love, but despite that, we could be in for one of the more exciting postseasons in recent memory!

A number of mid-major conferences will finish up their regular seasons this weekend, including the West Coast Conference with likely Tournament teams Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. The Big Ten will also finish up this weekend, with their tournament taking place a week earlier this year so that they could hold it at Madison Square Garden in NYC. I do not understand why the Big Ten Tournament would be in New York, but it will take place there next week, with the Championship Game next Sunday, March 4th, in essence kicking off this year’s Championship Week.

But before that, we have another action-packed weekend of regular season play, and today, I have a little preview of the action to come this Saturday and Sunday.

Also, a special Friday night pick for all of you gamblers out there. My brother Dan (an avid sports bettor), says that Indiana will cover the spread against Ohio State tonight. They are the home team, and they are 2-point underdogs. The Buckeyes won by 15 when the two teams played in Columbus earlier this season, so Dan believes that makes this a sucker bet with the close line. So, you might want to put some money on the Hoosiers tonight (I’ll stick to just watching the games myself).

Saturday

Baylor (17-11, 7-8 B12) @ TCU (19-9, 7-8 B12)
12:00 noon, ESPN2
First Meeting: Tuesday Jan. 2, TCU 81 Baylor 78 (OT) at Baylor
This is a big game in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, with these two teams currently tied for 5th. Baylor has been one of the hotter teams in the country, having just had a five-game win streak snapped on Tuesday night at home against West Virginia. This late season run has gotten the Bears back onto the Bubble and into the Tournament conversation. TCU has traded wins and losses in conference play after starting the season 12-0 in non-conference play with wins over SMU and Nevada.
Tournament Implications: A road win against a likely Tourney team would be big for Baylor’s chances of reaching the Big Dance. I don’t think a loss hurts TCU’s chances all that much, while a win would make them feel at least a little bit better heading into the home stretch of the regular season.

Louisville (18-10, 8-7 ACC) @ Virginia Tech (20-8, 9-6 ACC)
1:00 pm, CBS
First Meeting: Saturday Jan. 13, Louisville 94 Virginia Tech 86 at Louisville
Like the middle of the Big 12, the ACC is all sorts of bunched up, and both of these teams still have a chance at a double-bye in the ACC Tournament, being held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY this year. Deng Adel scored 27 points to lead Louisville to a victory the first time these teams met, but the situation is much different this time around. Back then in mid-January, Louisville was looking like a Tournament team, and the Hokies were likely on the outside, looking in. The script has now been flipped, with Virginia Tech having won at Virginia, and Louisville having lost six of their last nine games.
Tournament Implications: Louisville is squarely on the Bubble, and while a win at Virginia Tech wouldn’t clinch a berth for them, it would move definitely move them in the right direction. A loss here for Virginia Tech would not be awful, but a win would have them feeling pretty good.

#3 Villanova (25-3, 12-3 BE) @ Creighton (19-9, 8-7 BE)
2:30 pm, FOX
First Meeting: Thursday Feb. 1, Villanova 98 Creighton 78 at Villanova
If I had to put money on one team right now to win the National Championship, I’d choose Villanova. Despite a few losses, including a bad one at home to St. John’s, when healthy and playing their best, nobody can touch this team. Phil Booth just returned from injury, so they are at full strength at the best time. Creighton was humbled by the Wildcats in their first meeting, and that loss was the first of four the Bluejays have suffered in their last six games, with the only wins in that stretch coming over DePaul and Bemidji State (yes, they played a D-II team this late in the season).
Tournament Implications: Nova looks well on their way to a 1-seed, and could be the overall #1 seed if Virginia slips up. Meanwhile, Creighton is in no danger of missing the Tournament, but they are sliding down the seeds, and a win over Villanova could halt that slide immediately.

#8 Kansas (22-6, 11-4 B12) @ #6 Texas Tech (22-6, 10-5 B12)
4:15 pm, ESPN
First Meeting: Tuesday Jan. 2, Texas Tech 85 Kansas 73 at Kansas
Revenge will be a factor in this game between the top two teams in the Big 12. Kansas is looking to extend it’s historic conference championship streak, and they have been helped in that quest by Texas Tech losing two straight games, to Baylor and Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have yet to lose at home this year though, and they easily defeated the Jayhawks in Lawrence back in early January. The key to this game could be the health of Texas Tech star Keenan Evans. He was hurt in the loss to Baylor, and was ineffective at best against Oklahoma State.
Tournament Implications: A 1-seed is likely still in play for both of these teams, but Kansas looks to be in a better position for that. A road win over Texas Tech would make their chances all the better, while a season sweep of Kansas would look great on the Red Raiders’ resume.

Syracuse (18-10, 7-8 ACC) @ #5 Duke (23-5, 11-4 ACC)
6:00 pm, ESPN
First Meeting: None
It’s been a fascinating season for the Duke Blue Devils. They started 11-0 with wins over Michigan State, Texas and Florida, but then lost their conference opener to Boston College. They also have losses to NC State and St. John’s. They have won four in a row, all without star freshman Marvin Bagley, leading people to question if they might be better without him. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it certainly can be argued. Syracuse is squarely on the Bubble yet again, and they just missed a huge opportunity at home against North Carolina, falling 78-74. Even bigger would be a road victory over Duke, and I’m sure Coach Boeheim will have his guys motivated.
Tournament Implications: Duke is still in play for a 1-seed, but they cannot afford to lose at home to Syracuse. Meanwhile, the Orange could get themselves definitely onto the right side of the Bubble with a win in this game. If they fail, they may need to win their last two regular season games, at Boston College and at home against Clemson.

Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 SEC) @ Alabama (17-11, 8-7 SEC)
6:00 pm, SEC Network
First Meeting: None
And would you look at that, another super tight pack in the middle of a major conference. At 8-7, these two teams are among six that are tied for 3rd in the SEC behind Auburn and Tennessee. That means the winner of this game could earn a double-bye in the conference tournament. Arkansas just had a four-game winning streak snapped at home by Kentucky, and they’ll need to get back on track with a home game against Auburn coming up next week. Alabama has had an up and down season, and they’ll be looking to avoid a three-game losing streak in this one.
Tournament Implications: Both of these teams would likely be in if the season ended today, but I think Alabama could use this win more. A road loss in this one wouldn’t hurt the Razorbacks all that much.

Kansas State (20-8, 9-6 B12) @ Oklahoma (16-11, 6-9 B12)
6:00 pm, ESPN2
First Meeting: Tuesday Jan. 16, Kansas State 87 Oklahoma 69 at Kansas State
Has there been a more confusing team in college basketball this season than Oklahoma? Freshman Trae Young is probably the most talented player in the country, but his team has relied on him way too much down the stretch. The Sooners were ranked in the Top-10 not too long ago, but they are currently on a six-game losing streak and have lost nine of their last 11, putting them in danger of missing the Tournament altogether if the slide continues. On the other side, Kansas State is right smack dab in the middle of the Bubble, and while a road win over Oklahoma doesn’t look as good now as it would have weeks ago, it would still be a nice addition to the Wildcats’ resume.
Tournament Implications: Just two weeks ago, the Selection Committee had Oklahoma as a 4-seed, but I cannot imagine they have them even close to that right now. The Sooners really could be in danger of missing the Big Dance, so they need a win. Kansas State would move further onto the right side of the Bubble with a win in this one.

Missouri (18-10, 8-7 SEC) @ Kentucky (19-9, 8-7 SEC)
8:15 pm, ESPN
First Meeting: Saturday Feb. 3, Missouri 69 Kentucky 60 at Missouri
Look at this, two more of the teams tied for 3rd in the SEC standings. Kentucky may be finally reaching it’s potential, scoring back-to-back wins over Alabama and Arkansas following a four-game losing streak, the longest in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky. They will be a scary team in March if they continue playing like this. Missouri has done nearly the exact opposite, losing their last two games to LSU and Mississippi after a five-game winning streak. They may have just gotten a boost though, as their superstar freshman Michael Porter Jr. was just cleared for all basketball activities. They’re still not sure if he’ll play this season, but if he does, this will be a team nobody wants to see in the Tournament.
Tournament Implications: Both these teams should be safe, but a road win and season sweep of Kentucky would look really good on Missouri’s resume. Kentucky meanwhile can continue to improve their seed with a win in this one.

Sunday

Penn State (19-11, 9-8 B10) @ Nebraska (21-9, 12-5 B10)
5:15 pm, Big Ten Network
First Meeting: Friday Jan. 12, Penn State 76 Nebraska 74 (OT) at Penn State
A battle between two true Bubble teams this late in the season always carries a ton of significance. This game could have an impact on the seeding in the Big Ten Tournament as well. The Cornhuskers are currently tied for 4th with Michigan, so with a win here and a Michigan loss, Nebraska would clinch a double-bye in NYC. Penn State is currently tied for 6th in the conference with Indiana, but this game is much bigger for their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Nittany Lions are ranked as the 27th best team in the nation by KenPom, but their resume as a whole isn’t as strong.
Tournament Implications: I believe that neither of these teams are currently in the field, but depending on other results, the winner of this one could sneak into the field. I think a win would mean more for Penn State given that they are the road team, but a loss will hurt both.

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Bracketology: 2/19/18

It’s almost March, and if you paid attention to the college basketball landscape this past weekend, you would not be shocked by that. Here is a list of things that occurred Saturday and Sunday:

  • Oklahoma lost it’s fifth straight game and eighth in their last 10 in a home defeat to Texas 77-66. The Sooners are scuffling at the wrong time.
  • Providence backed up a big home win over Villanova by being outscored 36-19 in the second half en route to a 69-54 loss to Butler.
  • Miami had one of its worst shooting performances of the season (7-31 from 3PT range) in a 57-50 home loss to Syracuse, moving the Orange potentially to the right side of the Bubble.
  • #2 Michigan State trailed unranked Northwestern (who was 15-12 entering the game) by 27 points in the first half. The Spartans proceeded to outscore the Wildcats 38-11 in the second half, avoiding disaster with a 65-60 victory.
  • Some likely tournament teams out of the SEC suffered setbacks. Missouri fell to LSU 64-63, Arkansas dominated Texas A&M 94-75, 11-16 Vanderbilt shocked Florida 71-68, Tennessee was upset by Georgia 73-62 and Auburn lost just their third conference game 84-75 at South Carolina. They also lost key contributor Anfernee McLemore to a gruesome ankle injury.
  • The one SEC team that was able to get back on track was Kentucky, snapping a four-game losing streak with an 81-71 triumph over Alabama.
  • Villanova rebounded from the loss to Providence with a massive road victory over #4 Xavier 95-79. Donte DiVincenzo continued his smoldering hot play with a near triple-double, tallying 21 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.
  • Baylor continued their late-season run at a tournament bid, holding off several late chances and securing a huge 59-57 win over #7 Texas Tech.
  • For the second time this season, West Virginia squandered a late lead to Kansas, losing this one at the Phog 77-69. Bob Huggins was tossed at the end, and I can’t really blame him. The free throw differential in this game was 35-2, and there’s just no way that should ever happen.
  • #8 Ohio State lost their second straight, falling 74-62 at #22 Michigan, a huge win for the Wolverines. The Buckeyes have lost their lead in the Big Ten standings as a result of this loss.
  • Duke got a big victory with a 66-57 road win over Clemson. The confidence Duke should get from a win like this could be massive as they enter the home stretch of the regular season.
  • #5 Cincinnati has now suffered back-to-back losses, falling 76-72 at home to Wichita State. The Shockers get a major win for their resume, while the loss could hurt Cincinnati when it comes to their seed in the Tournament.
  • Purdue halted a three-game skid (barely) with a 76-73 win over Penn State. They were missing their second-leading scorer Vince Edwards (14.9 PPG) in this one. Word is he is questionable for the remainder of the regular season. The Boilermakers might be best served letting him fully heal, because they’ll need him in the postseason.

So yeah, a lot happened this weekend. That has led to some changes in my bracket preview for this week, which you can see by clicking the link below (teams in color are current conference leaders):

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-19-18

Last Four Byes: Virginia Tech, Baylor, NC State, Kansas State

Last Four In: Louisville, Texas, Syracuse, St. Bonaventure

First Four Out: USC, UCLA, Washington, Penn State

Next Four Out: Nebraska, Utah, Temple, Boise State

There are a couple big games tonight, the first of which being Notre Dame versus Miami in South Bend (7:00 pm, ESPN). The Irish have struggled in ACC play without Bonzie Colson, and also missing Matt Farrell for a number of games. They sit at 16-11, and need every win they can get if they hope to make the Tournament. Farrell is back, so they need to beat a struggling Miami team at home. The selection committee will take into account the fact that Colson has not played, meaning that if this team can make a run down the stretch and in the ACC Tournament, I could see them sneaking into the field.

Following that game, Oklahoma will look to snap their five-game skid when they head to the Phog to take on Kansas (9:00 pm, ESPN). Trae Young is a fantastic player, and he’ll be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft, but the Sooners have been way too reliant on him as of late, and he has been struggling. That has led to them losing eight of their last ten games. I don’t think they are in any danger of missing the Tournament given the amount of big wins they’ve collected, but I think they should be sweating. We’ll see if they have any sense of urgency, because a win at Kansas would be massive.

 

Bracketology: 2/16/18

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee revealed their Top-16 teams on Sunday, the second year doing a reveal like this a month before Selection Sunday. It provides everybody an idea how the committee views some of these teams with just three weeks to go until conference tournaments begin.

Here is how the committee placed their top-16 teams (committee ranking in parentheses):

South Region – 1 Virginia (1), 2 Cincinnati (8), 3 Michigan State (11), 4 Tennessee (13)

East Region – 1 Villanova (2), 2 Duke (7), 3 Texas Tech (10), 4 Ohio State (14)

Midwest Region – 1 Xavier (3), 2 Auburn (5), 3 Clemson (9), 4 Oklahoma (16)

West Region – 1 Purdue (4), 2 Kansas (6), 3 North Carolina (12), 4 Arizona (15)

Some thoughts I have on this bracket preview…

  • I was prepared to get really angry at where some teams were seeded, but overall, I think they did a pretty good job considering how rushed the process was (the committee did a conference call the night prior to build this. That is not nearly enough time to properly seed the teams)
  • My biggest gripe was Oklahoma being among the top 16 teams. They have some great wins this season (at Wichita State, Texas Tech, Kansas), but they also had lost six of eight games heading into this bracket preview. I do not believe they are one of the 16 best teams, nor do they have a resume that belongs among the top 16 teams.
  • I also think North Carolina is a little high at #12 overall. They are playing well as of late, and I definitely think recency bias played a role in them being a 3-seed. They have some bad losses (Wofford and NC State, both at home), and I think a 4-seed makes more sense.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see Michigan State on the 3-line. They pass the eye test, and are likely one of the four best teams in the country, but their resume just doesn’t stack up. They played a mediocre non-conference schedule, and were punished for it on the seed-list. If they play well down the stretch, they can still earn a 1-seed, but a 3 is exactly where they should be right now.

Since the reveal on Sunday, we’ve had nearly a week’s worth of games, and some results certainly would have an impact on the seeding. For my bracketology this week, I used the committee’s Top-16 as a starting point, and made adjustments as I felt necessary given this past week’s results.

Click the link below to view my bracket for this week (teams with color backgrounds are current conference leaders, which would give them automatic bids to the Tournament).

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-16-18

Some notes…

  • Last Four Byes – Arkansas, TCU, Louisville, USC
  • Last Four In – Kansas State, Washington, Baylor, Temple
  • First Four Out – Texas, Boise State, St. Bonaventure, UCLA
  • Next Four Out – Penn State, Nebraska, Syracuse, Western Kentucky
  • Purdue’s loss to Wisconsin last night drops them to the 2-line, moving Auburn up to the final 1-seed following their win over Kentucky on Wednesday.
  • Arizona’s win at Arizona State last night did not move them up a seed-line, but they are my top 4-seed. A loss by a 3-seed or another big win for them could move them up.
  • Oklahoma has now lost seven of their last nine games after losing to Texas Tech on Tuesday, dropping them to a 5-seed. I think they should be lower than that, but that’s where I believe the committee would have them. It’s not going to get any easier for them either, as their next four games include hosting bubble teams Texas and Kansas State and hitting the road to face Kansas and Baylor.
  • I built my bracket prior to the conclusion of Saint Mary’s loss to San Francisco last night. That loss would drop them to a 6-seed for me, moving Creighton up to the 5-line.

I am off to the Jersey Shore this weekend, but enjoy the great action, highlighted by Villanova/Xavier on Saturday afternoon!

Bracketology: 2/7/18

I’m going to be pretty busy at work after today with high school basketball playoffs kicking off on Friday, so I have an early Bracketology this week.

A few notes from last night’s games:

  • Tennessee outlasted Kentucky at Rupp Arena in a 61-59 victory, sweeping the season series against the Wildcats for the first time since the late 1990s. The Volunteers are, in my opinion, one of the 10 best teams in the nation, and that is reflected in today’s bracket, as I have them up to a 3-seed. Kentucky stays on the 5-line despite the loss.
  • Butler threw everything they had at Xavier, overcoming a big deficit late with a barrage of three-pointers to send the game to overtime, but they came up just short, the Musketeers winning 98-93, their second consecutive OT victory. Xavier, as a result of the win, is my final 1-seed this week, thanks to losses by Kansas and Duke over the weekend. They enter their toughest stretch of the season now though, traveling to Creighton Saturday, then hosting Seton Hall and Villanova next week.
  • TCU gave Kansas a battle, but the Jayhawks were able to avoid losing consecutive home games, securing a 71-64 victory. Kansas is in the conversation for a 1-seed, but I have them on the 2-line after suffering that awful home loss to Oklahoma State over the weekend. TCU meanwhile is now just 4-7 in Big 12 play, and they could use a big win to enhance their resume. They have road games against West Virginia and Texas Tech remaining, and a win in one of those with no more bad losses should be enough to get them in.

With that, please follow the link below to view my bracket projection for this week:

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-7-18

Some things that didn’t make it into the document with my bracket…

Last Four Byes: Washington, Houston, NC State, Kansas State

Last Four In: Missouri, USC, Boise State, Nebraska

First Four Out: Marquette, Virginia Tech, SMU, Syracuse

Next Four Out: Western Kentucky, UCLA, Temple, Maryland

Here is a list of my top four seeds in each region, with how I have them ranked on the S-Curve I use to build my bracket…

East: 1 – Villanova (1); 2 – Michigan State (8); 3 – Cincinnati (9); 4 – North Carolina (16)
South: 1 – Virginia (2); 2 – Auburn (6); 3 – Ohio State (11); 4 – Texas Tech (14)
Midwest: 1 – Purdue (3); 2 – Kansas (5); 3 – Tennessee (12); 4 – Clemson (13)
West: 1 – Xavier (4); 2 – Duke (7); 3 – Arizona (10); 4 – Oklahoma (15)

Enjoy the games this weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more great content. Thanks for reading!

CBB Game Preview: 2/5-2/8

Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles (anybody who knows me knows how difficult that was for me to type)! The best part about the Super Bowl being over is that the next major sporting event is the NCAA Basketball Tournament! Bring on March!

Now that all of you Eagles fans need something else to focus your energy on, and with the Flyers and Sixers struggling, why not check out some college ball this week? With that in mind, I have a little preview of the week to come in college basketball. If you have some time, or can’t find anything else on TV, you should definitely tune into some of these games.

Monday 2/5

Syracuse @ Louisville, 7:00 pm ESPN

Neither of these teams have played up to the standards that their respective fan bases expect from them, but they each still have a shot at reaching the Big Dance. The Cardinals are 16-7 in their first year under David Padgett, but they lack big wins, which could keep them from making the Tournament. They have lost their last two games, at Virginia and vs Florida State, so they need to get back on the right track.

If the season ended today, Syracuse would probably be on the outside looking in. They are 15-8 with some bad losses on their resume (St. Bonaventure, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest). Jim Boeheim is operating with just six scholarship players, and that has had a huge impact. They are also riding a two-game losing streak, but snapping that with their biggest win of the season would be a major coup.

#19 West Virginia @ #17 Oklahoma, 9:00 pm ESPN

This is a rematch from January 6, when the Mountaineers secured an 89-76 victory at home in Morgantown. This time they will travel to Norman, and likely National Player of the Year Trae Young and the Sooners will be out for revenge. Not only that, but Oklahoma lost a rivalry game this past weekend to Texas, so they’ll be looking to right the ship.

Each of these teams are having their troubles in Big 12 play, with West Virginia losing four of their last six in conference play and five of their last seven overall, and Oklahoma going down in three of their last five Big 12 games and four of their last six overall. Both West Virginia and Oklahoma will be 5-seeds or better in this year’s Tournament, but a win tonight would be big for either of them.

Tuesday 2/6

Pennsylvania @ Princeton, 6:00 pm ESPNU

This probably isn’t a game you’d think about watching, but this will be a well-played basketball game. These were the two favorites to win the Ivy League entering conference play, and I don’t think that’s changed. The Quakers are a perfect 5-0 in conference play, but this will probably be their toughest game remaining.

The Tigers have two conference losses already, but barely. They fell to Penn in the teams’ first meeting this year, 76-70 at the Palestra, and they were upset at home Saturday by Brown 102-100 in overtime. This is a Princeton team that holds a win over USC this season. I think the winner of this game has a great chance to go on to win the conference title.

#5 Xavier @ Butler, 6:30 pm FOX Sports 1

I don’t think a whole lot of fans realize just how good this Xavier team is. They returned most of a team that made a surprise run to the Elite Eight last season, and they are 21-3 so far this season. Joe Lunardi has them as a 1-seed in his most recent Bracketology, and I have a hard time disagreeing with him. That being said, they’ve had some close calls in conference play, narrowly winning both of their games against last place St. John’s, and surviving in overtime at home against Georgetown over the weekend.

And with so many close calls, you know a trip to Butler isn’t going to be easy for the Musketeers. First year head coach LaVall Jordan has Butler playing really good basketball, as they look on their way to another Tournament berth. They have wins over Ohio State and #1 Villanova this season, and they are looking for revenge following an 86-79 loss to Xavier back on January 2.

#15 Tennessee @ #24 Kentucky, 7:00 pm ESPN

The SEC is having it’s best season in men’s basketball in a very long time, and these teams are two big reasons why. You know about Kentucky, they’re always among the best teams in the land, but Tennessee is having a fantastic season under Rick Barnes. The Volunteers are 17-5 and ranked in the top-10 on KenPom. They boast a non-conference win over #3 Purdue, but they have lost most of their big games in SEC play (at Arkansas in OT, vs Auburn, at Missouri). They have a relatively easy schedule down the stretch, so this game may be their last chance to truly enhance their tourney resume prior to the SEC Tournament.

John Calipari has one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams he’s had while at Kentucky, and it has shown at times this season in losses to UCLA and South Carolina. They also failed to defeat the Volunteers in Knoxville back on January 6, losing 76-65. Revenge will be a factor in this one, and it would be a big time victory for the Wildcats.

Wednesday 2/7

#14 Ohio State @ #3 Purdue, 8:30 pm Big Ten Network

I think we all expected Purdue to be really good this season, but not so much Ohio State, making this a surprisingly massive game in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers slipped up in the Bahamas early in the season, losing back-to-back games to Tennessee and Western Kentucky, but they haven’t lost since, winning 19 games in a row. You could easily argue that they are the best team in the nation, but they’ll be tested on Wednesday.

The Buckeyes are 11-1 in conference play this year, which includes a win over Michigan State. Keita Bates-Diop has been a revelation in leading this team as a dynamic wing scorer, boosting his NBA Draft stock in the process. This will be the last chance for Ohio State to boost their resume in the regular season, and if they can snap Purdue’s winning streak in West Lafayette, they could be on their way to a very high seed in the Big Dance.

Texas A&M @ #8 Auburn, 9:00 pm ESPN2

Speaking of the SEC, the Auburn Tigers are probably the biggest surprise in all of college basketball this season. They had two key players suspended prior to the season, but they have proved that they don’t need them. Auburn is 21-2 this season, with their only losses coming to Temple in the Charleston Classic and by 5 at Alabama back on January 17. They have won five in a row, but they have a tough close to the regular season.

That starts Wednesday with this game against a Texas A&M team that is surprisingly fighting for their Tournament life right now. After an 11-1 start, the Aggies lost five games in a row. They have won four of their last six since, and look to continue on the right track with a big win at Auburn. I don’t like their chances, but we’ll see.

Thursday 2/8

#9 Duke @ #21 North Carolina, 8:00 pm ESPN

The biggest rivalry in college basketball. I couldn’t be bothered by it, but there are tons of Duke fans and tons of UNC fans. I don’t really need to sell this game to you, but here’s how the teams shape up. Duke has the most talented team in the nation, but they are very young, and their one experienced player, Grayson Allen, has been a shell of his former self this season. The Blue Devils are coming off a brutal loss to St. John’s on Saturday, so they’ll be out for blood.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is just 6-5 in ACC play this season, including a three-game losing streak that they just snapped against Pitt on Saturday. This will be their first of two meetings with Duke in the regular season, and you can throw everything out the window when these two teams meet. This will probably be a great game.

 

Bracketology: 2/2/2018

We have reached February, which means we are just a little over a month away from Selection Sunday. My oh my, how time flies. Most teams are around halfway through their conference schedules, so we have separated a lot of the contenders from the pretenders.

Starting today, and hopefully at least once a week from here on out, I will be posting a new bracket prediction. Each week I will build a new seed list, taking the 32 teams currently leading their conferences and 36 at-large teams, and ranking them from 1-68. Then I’ll build my bracket.

When we get to conference tournament season, we’ll see a lot of upsets, so a fair amount of the teams in today’s projection won’t actually be here come Selection Sunday, but for now, it makes the most sense to use the teams leading their conferences.

Please follow the link below to view this week’s bracket projection:

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-2-18

 

A few notes about my bracket…

  • I put this bracket together prior to last night’s games, February 1st. Some of the results last night have changed some things. I was able to seamlessly replace three former conference leaders with the new leaders (for ties, I broke them using the higher ranked team on KenPom).
  • In addition to those changes, Washington’s win over Arizona State moved them into my 68-team field. They replaced Western Kentucky in the First Four games played in Dayton, Ohio. I did not want to go to the trouble of re-seeding every team, but I would drop Arizona State from a 7-seed to an 8-seed following the loss.
  • SMU was another team who dropped based on a loss last night. They fell at Tulsa, which moved them from an 11-seed to the First Four, against Marquette.
  • Last Four Byes (last four at-large teams not required to play in the First Four): Kansas State, USC, Houston, NC State
  • Last Four In (four at-large teams playing in the First Four): Marquette, SMU, Boise State, Washington
  • First Four Out (four teams closest to moving into the field of 68): Western Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Missouri
  • Next Four Out (should be self-explanatory): Utah, Nebraska, Syracuse, Maryland

 

I also want to link you to some of my favorite Bracketologists so you can see how their brackets differ from mine…

Joe Lunardi – ESPN

Jerry Palm – CBS Sports 

Stewart Mandel – The Athletic (subscription required)

Chris Dobbertean – SB Nation

 

And finally, before you enjoy the Super Bowl on Sunday night, here are some games with major bracket implications that you should check out this weekend!

Notre Dame at NC State, Saturday 2/3 12:00 noon ESPN

The Fighting Irish are struggling without Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, and they need a win here over fellow Bubble team NC State. Without a win, it might not matter what happens when those two stars return to the lineup.

#21 Kentucky at Missouri, Saturday 2/3 2:00 pm CBS

The Tigers are firmly on the Bubble, and a home win over a surging Kentucky team would be a huge feather in their cap.

South Carolina at Texas A&M, Saturday 2/3 2:00 pm ESPN2

The Gamecocks have some really good wins, but they are still probably on the outside looking in. A win in College Station would be a nice resume booster, and it would move the Aggies closer to falling out of the bracket.

Kansas State at #15 West Virginia, Saturday 2/3 4:00 pm ESPN2

K-State nearly knocked off Kansas on Monday night, but they get another chance to boost their tourney resume in Morgantown on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are in freefall mode, and they need a win to keep from dropping further down the seed-list.

#9 Arizona at Washington, Saturday 2/3 10:30 pm Pac-12 Network

The Huskies got a big win over Arizona State last night, but if they can turn around and knock off the Wildcats too, they will secure their spot on the right side of the Bubble (for now).

 

CBB Round-Up: 1/25/18

Okay, I’m doing a little better now. I only skipped one week this time, which means soon enough I’ll be posting every week, and I’m sure it’ll be multiple times a week as we inch closer and closer to the Big Dance.

This week, I wanted to tell you all about some teams that are flying under the radar right now that you will definitely want to pay attention to as the season rolls along. I hope that it will help you immensely when you are filling out your brackets in March.

These teams all belong to mid-major conferences, except for the first one (depending on your definition of “major”), but I’ve included them because I don’t think anyone really realizes just how good they are this year.

 

Cincinnati Bearcats (18-2, 7-0 American)

This may be the best team Mick Cronin has had during his tenure as Cincy’s head coach. They are the 6th best team in the nation according to KenPom, where they also rank 2nd in defensive efficiency. They have given up more than 70 points just twice this season (1-1 in those games) while giving up 50 points or less five times. They are led by a pair of seniors, forwards Gary Clark (12.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and Kyle Washington (11.0 PPG, 52.2 FG%) who have played in a combined six NCAA Tournaments (Washington’s first two were during his time at NC State). That experience could be a driving force to help this team make a deep run in 2018.

Nevada Wolfpack (18-4, 7-1 Mountain West)

It’s rare for the Mountain West to only have one team reach the NCAA Tournament, but it looks like that could be the case this season. Nevada is the heavy favorite to be that team. KenPom ranks them 18th, 11th in offensive efficiency. They play a style that is suited for a Tournament team. They like to play fast on offense while slowing down the game on the defensive end and limiting their opponents’ shot attempts. They are very experienced, with junior guard Jordan Caroline (16.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and the Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, playing their first season at Nevada after transferring from NC State. As freshmen, they were members of the NC State team that upset 1-seed Villanova in the Round of 32 in 2015. That kind of experience can go a long way in March.

Saint Mary’s Gaels (19-2, 8-0 West Coast)

Gonzaga has been the class of the West Coast Conference for the better part of the last few decades, and Saint Mary’s has always played second fiddle. That may be changing this season. The Gaels are 17th on KenPom, who also has them rated 3rd in offensive efficiency and in the top-5 in both effective FG% and TO% on offense. They protect the ball and they make over half of the shots they take. They are one of the oldest teams in the country, and they are led by senior center Jock Landale (22.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 65.7 FG%), who is probably the best player that you know nothing about. He is 2nd on KenPom’s Player of the Year ranking, only trailing Oklahoma’s super frosh Trae Young. Saint Mary’s knocked off Gonzaga last week 74-71 in Spokane. That win could be what drives the Gaels towards overtaking the Zags on top of the WCC pedestal.

Rhode Island Rams (16-3, 8-0 Atlantic 10)

It feels like we are finally getting the Rhode Island team that everyone expected to get when Dan Hurley became head coach. They are ranked 26th by KenPom, and they scored non-conference wins over likely Tournament teams Providence and Seton Hall (the Hall win coming on a neutral floor). Oft-injured guard EC Matthews missed six games early in the season, but the team is 10-0 since his return. The Rams entered last season’s NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed, defeating Creighton, then falling by just three points to eventual Final Four team Oregon. They will look to go much deeper this year.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (14-6, 6-1 C-USA)

Rick Stansbury thought he had a sure-fire tourney team when he secured the commitment of future NBA player Mitchell Robinson, a top-10 recruit in the 2017 class. Unfortunately, Robinson chose to sit out this season, but the Hilltoppers have been great despite losing Robinson. They had a fantastic run in the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas, holding Villanova to its second-lowest point total of the year in a losing effort, then defeating Purdue and SMU in consolation games. They don’t have the dominant interior presence they thought they had in Robinson, but they have gotten great guard play, led by Buffalo-transfer Lamonte Bearden (11.6 PPG) and freshman Taveion Hollingsworth (12.7 PPG, 43.8 3PT%). Great guard play can lead to a deep run in March.

New Mexico State Aggies (17-3, 5-0 WAC)

This is a team that just expects to make the NCAA Tournament every year now. They have been there five of the last six seasons, but they have yet to have a team with a legit chance to make a run. That is different this year. The Aggies are ranked 47th on KenPom, 15th in defensive efficiency and in the top-20 in both block % and steal %. They also picked up a resume-defining win over Miami in Hawaii during the Diamond Head Classic. Beating a team like Miami, who was undefeated at the time, could give this team the confidence they need to make a decent run in the Tournament.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (14-5, 6-1 C-USA)

If Western Kentucky doesn’t represent the C-USA in the Tournament, Middle Tennessee will be the reason why. The Blue Raiders are #51 on KenPom, and they are battle tested, having played the 18th toughest schedule in the country to this point. They had big games against Auburn, USC and Miami, and while they lost them all, they were all very close games. Their biggest win to date is a road win over the previously mentioned Western Kentucky. They have Tournament experience as well, having been there the last two seasons, upsetting 2-seed Michigan State in the Round of 64 in 2016. Senior guard Giddy Potts was the star of that game, and he will look to make another star-quality performance in the Big Dance this season.

 

Jayson’s Top-25

  1. Villanova
  2. Purdue
  3. Virginia
  4. Duke
  5. Michigan State
  6. Xavier
  7. West Virginia
  8. Arizona
  9. Kansas
  10. Cincinnati
  11. Oklahoma
  12. North Carolina
  13. Ohio State
  14. Saint Mary’s
  15. Gonzaga
  16. Texas Tech
  17. Rhode Island
  18. Tennessee
  19. Wichita State
  20. Clemson
  21. Florida
  22. TCU
  23. Miami FL
  24. Arizona State
  25. Nevada

 

Must Watch Games

#25 Michigan at #3 Purdue, Thursday 1/25 7:00 pm ESPN

The Boilermakers are one of the hottest teams in the country, but they’ll face a stiff test against the Wolverines, who lost by just one point in these teams’ last meeting in Ann Arbor a few weeks back.

UCF at #17 Wichita State, Thursday 1/25 9:00 pm ESPN2

The Shockers have been shocked two games in a row, losing at home to SMU and at Houston over the last week. They will look to get back on track against a strong defensive UCF team who is also looking to right the ship, having lost two of their last three games.

#2 Virginia at #4 Duke, Saturday 1/27 2:00 pm CBS

The biggest game of the weekend, and one of the biggest games of the season will take place in Durham Saturday when the red hot Blue Devils host the Cavaliers, who are riding an 11-game winning streak which includes wins over North Carolina and Clemson.

Kentucky at #7 West Virginia, Saturday 1/27 7:00 pm ESPN

The Big 12/SEC Challenge will take place this weekend, and the marquee matchup will be in Morgantown where the Mountaineers will look to bounce back from a loss to TCU by hosting John Calipari’s scuffling Wildcats, who have lost three of their last six games.

#1 Villanova at Marquette, Sunday 1/28 1:00 pm FOX

The best team in the land will travel to Chicago to take on a tough Marquette team who will be looking for the signature victory. It will be the first game for Villanova without guard Phil Booth, who fractured his hand earlier this week in a win over Providence.