With each week, we move closer and closer to Christmas, I mean, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (Same thing, right? Only for me? Okay, fine). This is such a wonderful time of year. A lot of teams are starting to round into form, and the others are falling back to where they truly belong. We are seeing exactly what these teams are made of as they deal with the brunt of their conference schedules. If we’ve learned anything so far this season, it’s that it is anybody’s year. While that sounds a little cliche, it is the truth. There are more teams than ever that could argue their ability to win a championship, and that should result in a legendary tournament in March. Here is my bracket prediction for January 26!
*Regions in order of #1 seed ranking. Auto-Bids are in bold*
The Tar Heels are on a nice roll right now, having won 11 consecutive games. They have a difficult three-game road trip coming up that includes games against Louisville and Notre Dame, so it will be interesting to see how they perform there. West Virginia has dropped back to the 3-seed line after a difficult week, which saw them fall at home to Texas, and then narrowly escape Lubbock with a win over Texas Tech. Michigan picked up a couple more wins this week, and they will only get better when leading scorer Caris LeVert returns from injury. I have them facing a tough task though, with 11-seed Monmouth, who has beaten UCLA, Georgetown, Notre Dame and USC this season. Clemson hangs on to a spot in the First Four, having not played a game since my last Bracketology. They still have something to prove, and not many opportunities.
Rising Teams: Virginia, Michigan, Washington
Falling Teams: West Virginia, Maryland, Butler
Oklahoma continues to look like one of the top-4 teams in the country, and this past weekend, they went into Waco and wiped Baylor off of their own court. Michigan State got a much needed win this weekend, as they snapped a 3-game losing streak with a win over Maryland at home. Louisville and Providence are two teams that are making big impressions, and if they continue to win, they will find themselves moving up ranks. A Round of 32 match-up between those teams would be fun to watch. Notre Dame finds themselves in the Top-25 this week, but they remain on the 8-seed line. Another big win, and they could jump up to the 7-seed line, and potentially even further. Valparaiso suffered a brutal loss to Wright State, pretty much ruining their chance at an at-large bid. They’ll need to win the Horizon League to make the tournament.
Rising Teams: Oklahoma, Xavier, Kent State
Falling Teams: Baylor, Pittsburgh, Valparaiso
Iowa continues to play really well, as they took care of business on Sunday against Purdue, their ninth win in a row. They move up a spot in my 1-seed rankings with Villanova’s loss. Iowa State has worked their way back to the 3-seed line with wins over Oklahoma and Kansas on consecutive Mondays. If they play their best, they can beat any team in the country on any given night. Indiana and USC have swapped seeds this week, after a Hoosier win over Northwestern and back-to-back losses for USC to Oregon and Oregon State. The mighty continue to fall in Durham, as Duke lost another game yesterday, against Miami, and they have dropped to a 7-seed in my bracket prediction.
Rising Teams: Iowa, Iowa State, Texas
Falling Teams: USC, Duke, South Carolina
Villanova played a thriller on Sunday, falling in overtime to Providence. It was a great basketball game between two great teams. With that being said, Nova must fall, but they remain a 1-seed this week. Miami picked up a big home win over Duke yesterday, and with three wins this past week, they have moved up to a 3-seed. One of the fastest rising teams in my eyes is the Oregon Ducks, who are now up to a 6-seed in my projection. They are tied with Washington atop the Pac 12, and they have a huge road game against Arizona coming up on Thursday. Another team rising up the ranks is the current West Coast Conference leaders, the Saint Mary’s Gaels. They got a huge win last week over rival Gonzaga, and I have them up to a 7-seed.
Rising Teams: Miami FL, Oregon, Saint Mary’s
Falling Teams: Villanova, Kansas, Georgetown
And there is this week’s Bracketology. Let me know what you agree or disagree with! And I’ll leave you with one more little thing. Today is the 28th anniversary of one of the greatest dunks in college basketball history, and subsequently, the greatest call in college basketball history, courtesy of the great Bill Raftery. “SEND IT IN JEROME!”