I feel like I’ve said this a million times already, but the parity in college basketball this season is crazy. This has to be one of the most difficult years for Bracketology. This is around the time of year when we normally start to see these teams for who they truly are, and are able to fairly accurately place them in the bracket where they belong. That’s not the case this year, as the seeds and the teams are still extremely fluid. There are over a dozen teams that you could make a championship-worthy case for, and the Bubble might be bigger than ever. Just remember that we are still extremely early in the process, and hopefully (for my sake), things start to get clearer in the coming weeks. February should be a fun, and here is my first bracket prediction of the month!
*Regions in order by 1-seed rankings, Auto-Bids in bold*
North Carolina stays at the top of my rankings on the back of a 12-game win streak, which includes a neutral-site win over UCLA and road wins over Florida State and Syracuse. Their biggest test so far this season comes this week, with a road game tonight against Louisville and another road game Saturday in South Bend against Notre Dame. Maryland is back up to a 3-seed this week after they defeated red-hot Iowa at home. Iowa has looked like one of the best teams in the land, so that’s a huge win for the Terrapins. Florida picked up a very impressive win over West Virginia on Saturday, and that has them up to an 8-seed. They will continue to climb if they can play like they did against WVU the rest of the season. This prediction would have them facing VCU in the first round, which would be an extremely exciting match-up. The Rams are plowing through the A-10, but they still have to play Dayton on the road and George Washington twice. Syracuse and Colorado are both new to the bracket this week, and I have them matched up in a First Four game. Many people are higher on Colorado than I am. They have a solid resume, but they have not impressed me when I’ve seen them in action. They still have plenty of chances to prove themselves in the difficult Pac 12.
Rising Teams: Xavier, Maryland, Florida
Falling Teams: Providence, UConn
Buddy Hield led his Oklahoma Sooners to a big road win over Ben Simmons and the LSU Tigers on Saturday, and that keeps the Sooners as my #2 team. Texas A&M bounced back from their first SEC loss of the year with a non-conference win over Iowa State, keeping them on the 2-seed line. Wichita State is a team that I am higher on than most, but that’s because three of their five losses came with star PG Fred Van Vleet on the shelf with an injury. When healthy, this team is extremely good, and they’re proving that in MVC play. They’ve already swept the season series against Evansville, which is their toughest competition in the conference. It’s entirely possible that they could win out. George Washington fell at home to Richmond in double overtime, and for a Bubble team, that’s a bad loss. I have dropped them to a First Four game, and they are just barely hanging on as of now. That could all change in the next month, as I’ve stressed already with most of these teams. I have them facing Seton Hall here, who is back in the field thanks to a road win over fellow Bubble team Creighton.
Rising Teams: Oklahoma, Wichita State, Seton Hall
Falling Teams: USC, Notre Dame, George Washington
Villanova has struggled as of late, but their resume still suggests that they deserve a 1-seed. They are still at the top of the Big East, and if they can end the season there, they’ll almost definitely stay a 1-seed. Virginia, who has been questionable away from home this season, destroyed Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, reminding people just how good they are. West Virginia and Iowa State could easily be switched, and I went back and forth, but I think West Virginia’s defense allows them to beat any team in the country, which put them ahead for me. Cincinnati is currently tied with Tulsa and Temple atop the American, but they just got one of their biggest wins of the year in Storrs over UConn. That has moved them just off the Bubble for the time being. Meanwhile, Cal suffered losses this week to Utah and Colorado, two wins that would have helped their resume a lot. I’m still slightly higher on them than other people are, but if they make the tourney, they’ll be a dangerous team.
Rising Teams: Virginia, Cincinnati, Washington
Falling Teams: West Virginia, California, Butler
Despite the loss to Maryland, which snapped a 9-game winning streak, Iowa remains a 1-seed in this week’s projection. The fastest rising team in the nation is the Oregon Ducks, who have won seven of their last eight games, including wins this past week on the road over Arizona and Arizona State. The Ducks are one of the best offensive teams in the country, led by Elgin Cook and Chris Boucher, who had 26 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks against the Sun Devils. They have scored at least 70 points in all but four games this season, and that is why they are capable of beating any team in the nation. Miami, Arizona, Indiana and Pitt all suffered losses this week, dropping them each down a few spots. Another team on the downswing is Georgetown, who has dropped to one of the last at-large teams in this week’s projection. They’ve lost three of their last five games, and many people have dropped them from their bracket projections. I believe the Big East deserves at least five or six teams in the tourney, so Georgetown stays in for now.
Rising Teams: Oregon, Utah, Texas
Falling Teams: Miami, Arizona, Georgetown
We have another action-packed week of basketball coming up. One more month until the postseason, strap-in for the ride!