2017 Conference Tournament Preview: Part Two

Championship Week is just heating up, and the list of teams who have clinched their spots in the Big Dance looks like this:

Jacksonville State (OVC)
Winthrop (Big South)
Wichita State (MVC)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)
UNC Wilmington (CAA)
East Tennessee State (SoCon)
Iona (MAAC)

Four more automatic bids will be handed out tonight, and we also now have a look at what the American and Big Ten Tournaments will look like, with those tourneys kicking off on Thursday and Wednesday respectively.

American Tournament (Hartford, CT)

First Round: March 9
Game 1: #9 East Carolina vs #8 Temple, 3:30 pm (ESPNU)
Game 2: #10 Tulane vs #7 Tulsa, 6:00 pm (ESPN NEWS)
Game 3: #11 USF vs #6 UConn, 8:30 pm (ESPN NEWS)
Quarterfinals: March 10
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs #1 SMU, 12:00 pm (ESPN2)
Game 5: #5 Memphis vs #4 UCF, 2:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs #2 Cincinnati, 7:00 pm (ESPNU)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs #3 Houston, 9:30 pm (ESPNU)
Semifinals: March 11 (ESPN2)
Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs Winner Game 9, 7:00 pm
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs Winner Game 11, 9:30 pm
Championship: March 12 (ESPN)
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs Winner Game 13, 9:00 pm

Favorite: SMU
You could flip a coin between SMU and Cincinnati to decide who the favorite is in this tournament, because in the American this year, it’s those two teams, and then everybody else. They split the season series, but SMU lost by just two points at Cincy, and that was their last loss, entering the postseason on a 13-game winning streak. For that reason, SMU has to be considered the favorite here.
Dark Horse: UConn
Boy oh boy, what a disappointing season it’s been in Storrs. The preseason pick to win the American enters the conference tourney as the 6-seed with a losing record and a 4-game losing streak. Despite all of that, they are basically hosting this tournament, and the Huskies usually tend to play well in the postseason. Stranger things have happened…
Most to Gain: Houston
SMU and Cincinnati are locks to make the NCAA Tournament. After that, there isn’t a team here that deserves to get in without the league’s auto-bid. I guess you could argue Houston’s case, so I’ll highlight them as the team with the most to gain. A win over Cincinnati in the semifinals will improve their resume, but I doubt that would be enough to get them in.
Prediction: Cincinnati
SMU is easily one of the most underrated teams in the country, and I think they have a legit shot to advance to the second weekend (or further) of the Tournament. I think they’ll enter the Tourney coming off a loss to Cincy in the American title game though. The Bearcats are underrated as well, and they’ll play with a chip on their shoulder this postseason.

Big Ten Tournament (Washington, D.C.)

First Round: March 8
Game 1: #13 Penn State vs #12 Nebraska, 4:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 2: #14 Rutgers vs #11 Ohio State, 7:00 pm (BTN)
Second Round: March 9 
Game 3: #9 Illinois vs #8 Michigan, 12:00 pm (BTN)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs #5 Michigan State, 2:30 pm (BTN)
Game 5: #10 Indiana vs #7 Iowa, 6:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs #6 Northwestern, 9:00 pm (ESPN2)
Quarterfinals: March 10 
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs #1 Purdue, 12:00 pm (ESPN)
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs #4 Minnesota, 2:30 pm (ESPN)
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs #2 Wisconsin, 6:30 pm (BTN)
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs #3 Maryland, 9:00 pm (BTN)
Semifinals: March 11 (CBS)
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8, 1:00 pm
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs Winner Game 10, 3:30 pm
Championship: March 12 (CBS)
Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs Winner Game 12, 3:00 pm

Favorite: Purdue
The Boilermakers absolutely earned the outright Big Ten regular season title down the stretch, closing the season having won eight of their last nine games. They look like the Big Ten team with the best chance to make a deep run in the Tournament, and as such, they have to be considered the favorites to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Dark Horse: Michigan
That one loss Purdue suffered? That was in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. Michigan closed strong, winning six of their last eight, with the two losses coming in overtime at Minnesota and on a last second prayer at Northwestern. This team has a ton of momentum heading into the postseason, and I would not be surprised to see them make a deep run in this tournament.
Most to Gain: Iowa
No team has vaulted themselves up the Bubble faster than Iowa here at the end of the season. They lost three in a row in early February, seemingly ending their Tournament hopes, but they have responded with a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, including wins at Wisconsin and Maryland. I still think they need to get to the Big Ten title game to have a chance at an at-large bid, but they are set up to improve their resume with potential games against Wisconsin in the quarters and Maryland or Northwestern in the semis.
Prediction: Michigan State
Are you going to bet against Izzo in March? I’m still not, even though they burned me in the Tournament last season. They have a decent draw here, and their last two games were close road losses, so I’m discounting them. It’s hard to rationalize this pick, just feels right to me. Don’t be shocked when Sparty makes a run to a Big Ten Tournament title.

Five more automatic bids will be given out over the next two nights as well, in these conference championships:

Horizon League Championship
#10 Milwaukee vs #4 Northern Kentucky
Tuesday 3/7, 7:00 pm, ESPN
I promise you, that is not a typo. 10-seed Milwaukee, the last place team in the Horizon League during the regular season, has won three straight games against 7-seed Detroit, 2-seed Valparaiso and 6-seed Illinois-Chicago to reach the conference championship game with an NCAA Tournament berth on the line. If they win, they will enter the Tournament with a 12-23 record, becoming one of the worst teams in history to reach the NCAA Tournament. It’s still an incredible story, considering that this team won just four conference games in the regular season, and might win four straight in the conference tournament. And if they don’t already have the confidence/momentum, their opponent here, Northern Kentucky, is one of the four teams that Milwaukee defeated in the regular season. They played them tough in the second meeting as well. I’ll honestly be rooting for Milwaukee, but you know what they say, the cream rises to the top, and Northern Kentucky, the better team, should win this game and advance to the Big Dance.

Northeast Conference Championship
#4 St. Francis (PA) vs #1 Mount St. Mary’s
Tuesday 3/7, 7:00 pm, ESPN2
KenPom has the Northeast as the third worst conference in college basketball this season, so this will be a battle for a 16-seed in the Tournament, likely in one of the First Four games. Mount St. Mary’s was the regular season champion of the league, led by guards sophomore Elijah Long and 5-5 junior Junior Robinson. They will take on 4-seed St. Francis (PA), who made it here thanks to an acrobatic, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from freshman Keith Braxton, knocking off 3-seed Wagner 71-70. Sophomore Isaiah Blackmon scored 20 to lead the way in that game for the Red Flash. I admittedly do not know much about either of these teams, so I’ll go with the favorites and pick Mount St. Mary’s to come out on top, probably getting themselves a trip to Dayton where they’ll play for the chance to lose to a 1-seed next Thursday or Friday.

West Coast Conference Championship
#2 Saint Mary’s vs #1 Gonzaga
Tuesday 3/7, 9:00 pm, ESPN
There isn’t much I should have to say to convince you to watch this game, but I’ll give you a little something anyway. Gonzaga is on it’s way to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th straight season, which is incredible. Even more amazing, though, is that this might be the best team in Gonzaga’s history. This team has a legitimate chance to reach the Final Four. Saint Mary’s was expected to be the biggest challenge to the Zags in the WCC this season, but the Gaels were beaten rather easily in both meetings with Gonzaga this season. Both of these teams are going to the Tournament, but a 1-seed is likely for Gonzaga with a win here. A loss, and that could be less certain. That will be all the motivation they need to win this game.

Summit League Championship
#4 South Dakota State vs #3 Omaha
Tuesday 3/7, 9:00 pm, ESPN2
The Summit was a very tight league this season, with six teams finishing at least .500 in conference play, so it’s no real surprise that the 1 and 2-seeds were knocked out prior to the championship game. 4-seed South Dakota State knocked off 1-seed South Dakota 74-71 on a last-second 3-pointer from senior guard Michael Orris. 3-seed Omaha was able to avoid 2-seed North Dakota State, instead dominating 7-seed IUPUI in the semifinals. This game will pit what most consider to be the league’s two best players in SDSU sophomore Mike Daum and Omaha senior Tra-Deon Hollins. Daum is second in the nation in scoring at 25 points per game, while Hollins is one of the best two-way guards in the nation, being the team’s main scoring threat and best lockdown defender. This should be a great game, but I think experience will play a factor. SDSU won the Summit League last season, reaching the NCAA Tournament, and I expect Daum to lead them there once again.

Patriot League Championship
#3 Lehigh vs #1 Bucknell
Wednesday 3/8, 7:30 pm, CBS Sports Network
Despite Lehigh being the 3-seed, this is a matchup between the top two teams in the Patriot League this season, and they’ll battle Wednesday night for a berth in the Big Dance. Lehigh needed double overtime to get a win at Boston U in the semifinals, and they’ll look to carry that momentum into another road game in the conference championship. Bucknell might be the best team, but Lehigh has the best player in the league in senior forward Tim Kempton. Kempton had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the semifinals, and he is being fueled by the fact that he has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament, after the Mountain Hawks lost to Holy Cross in the title game last season. Bucknell has been the best team in the conference this year, and they even have wins over Richmond and Vanderbilt to their name, but they lost to Lehigh twice during the regular season. Can they get over the hump and finally knock off Lehigh? I don’t believe so. Kempton is on a mission to get to the Big Dance, and this is his last chance. His supporting cast will help him out enough to send the Mountain Hawks back to the Tournament for the first time since 2012, when they defeated 2-seed Duke in the First Round.

That concludes Part Two of my Conference Championship Preview! I’ll be back later this week with a new edition of Bracketology. In the meantime, enjoy all of the basketball over the next week, leading into the best four days of the calendar year starting next Thursday!

2017 Conference Tournament Preview: Part One

The season began back in mid-November, and after four months of action, we have finally reached Championship Week in the 2016-17 college basketball season.

The first four automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament were given out this weekend, and they went to the following teams:

Jacksonville State (OVC)
Winthrop (Big South)
Wichita State (MVC)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)

Over the next week, 28 more teams will punch their tickets to the Big Dance. Selection Sunday is less than a week away, but there is still so much yet to be determined!

For Part One of my Conference Tournament Preview, you’ll see the brackets for six major conference tournaments, and I’ll give you who I believe is the favorite, a dark horse, which teams have the most to gain in the tournaments, and also who I believe will come out on top. At the end, I also have short previews for three conference title games taking place on Monday night, which will get us to seven official teams in the NCAA Tournament.

We’ll kick it off with the tournament that has had no shortage of excitement over the last few seasons.

ACC Tournament (Brooklyn, NY)

First Round: March 7
Game 1: #13 NC State vs #12 Clemson, 12:00 pm (ESPN2)
Game 2: #15 Boston College vs #10 Wake Forest, 2:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 3: #14 Pittsburgh vs #11 Georgia Tech, 7:00 pm (ESPNU)
Second Round: March 8
Game 4: #9 Miami FL vs #8 Syracuse, 12:00 pm (ESPN)
Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs #5 Duke, 2:30 pm (ESPN)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs #7 Virginia Tech, 7:00 pm (ESPN2)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs #6 Virginia, 9:30 pm (ESPN2)
Quarterfinals: March 9 (ESPN)
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs #1 North Carolina, 12:00 pm
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs #4 Louisville, 2:30 pm
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs #2 Florida State, 7:00 pm
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs #3 Notre Dame, 9:30 pm
Semifinals: March 10 (ESPN)
Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs Winner Game 9, 7:00 pm
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs Winner Game 11, 9:30 pm
Championship: March 11 (ESPN)
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs Winner Game 13, 9:00 pm

Favorite: North Carolina
The ACC is stacked once again, and figures to send at least nine or so teams to the Big Dance, but one of the hottest teams in the conference the second half of the season, and one of the hottest teams in the country, is North Carolina. They have wins over Virginia, Louisville and Duke all within the last two weeks. Their side of the bracket is going to be tough to get through, but if they get to the title game, it will be hard to pick against them.
Dark Horse: Notre Dame
Hard to call a 3-seed in a league as tough as this one a dark horse, but when people talk about the top teams in the ACC, you hear UNC, Duke, Louisville, Florida State and Virginia most often. A lot of people, yet again, are sleeping on Notre Dame. They have been to the Elite 8 two year in a row, and I believe they are talented enough to get there yet again this season. They have the postseason experience that can make all the difference in a conference tournament.
Most to Gain: Georgia Tech
Wake Forest could have gone in this spot as well, but I look at Georgia Tech as the team best positioned to improve their Tournament resume. If they get past Pitt in the opening round, they’ll face 6-seed Virginia, who is a good team, but is very beatable. Get past Virginia, and a quarterfinal match-up with Notre Dame awaits. Wins over Virginia and ND probably would be enough to put the Yellow Jackets onto the right side of the Bubble.
Prediction: Louisville
A new venue for the ACC Tournament could play a much bigger factor than you may think. When the tourney was in Greensboro or Washington D.C., it gave teams like Duke and North Carolina an advantage. With it moving to Brooklyn this season, that advantage might be no more. Whichever team gets out of the top half of this bracket will have earned it. After wins over Duke and North Carolina, the Louisville Cardinals will win the ACC Tournament, and have their fans campaigning for a 1-seed in the Big Dance (but they’ll settle for a 2-seed).

Atlantic 10 Tournament (Pittsburgh, PA)

First Round: March 8 (American Sports Network)
Game 1: #13 St. Joseph’s vs #12 Massachusetts, 6:00 pm
Game 2: #14 Duquesne vs #11 Saint Louis, 8:30 pm
Second Round: March 9 (NBC Sports Network)
Game 3: #9 Davidson vs #8 La Salle, 12:00 pm
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs #5 St. Bonaventure, 2:30 pm
Game 5: #10 Fordham vs #7 George Mason, 6:30 pm
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs #6 George Washington, 9:00 pm
Quarterfinals: March 10 (NBC Sports Network)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs #1 Dayton, 12:00 pm
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs #4 Rhode Island, 2:30 pm
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs #2 VCU, 6:30 pm
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs #3 Richmond, 9:00 pm
Semifinals: March 11 (CBS Sports Network)
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8, 1:00 pm
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs Winner Game 10, approx. 3:30 pm
Championship: March 12 (CBS)
Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs Winner Game 12, 12:30 pm

Favorite: Dayton
Death, taxes, Dayton at the top of the Atlantic 10. It’s certainly been that way for the last four years. Seniors Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith lead this team, which has been to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years. They enter the postseason coming off a loss to George Washington, which could be the fuel that they need to go out and win the A-10 Tournament.
Dark Horse: George Washington
This was tough, as I don’t think there are many teams that have a legit chance to win this tournament this season, but I’ll go with a GW team who has won six of seven to finish the regular season, including a big win over 1-seed Dayton to cap it off. I also believe that they have the easiest road to the semifinals of any team that did not receive a double-bye. Don’t be surprised if the Colonials make a run.
Most to Gain: Rhode Island
The Rams are squarely on the Bubble right now, with some experts having them in and some having them out. Right now they are ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s first team out of the field. They’ll need to win their first game here, likely against St. Bonaventure, but then they will probably get another crack at Dayton in the semifinals. A win there and I think they can get into the Tournament without the auto-bid.
Prediction: Dayton
The Flyers are the best team in the conference, and I expect them to prove that by beating Rhode Island for the third time this season in the semis, then taking the rubber match against VCU in the finals.

Big 12 Tournament (Kansas City, MO)

First Round: March 8 (ESPNU)
Game 1: #9 Oklahoma vs #8 TCU, 7:00 pm
Game 2: #10 Texas vs #7 Texas Tech, 9:30 pm
Quarterfinals: March 9
Game 3: #5 Oklahoma State vs #4 Iowa State, 12:30 pm (ESPN2)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs #1 Kansas, 3:00 pm (ESPN2)
Game 5: Winner Game 2 vs #2 West Virginia, 7:00 pm (ESPNU)
Game 6: #6 Kansas State vs #3 Baylor, 9:30 pm (ESPNU)
Semifinals: March 10 (ESPN2)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs Winner Game 4, 7:00 pm
Game 8: Winner Game 5 vs Winner Game 6, 9:30 pm
Championship: March 11 (ESPN)
Game 9: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8, 6:00 pm

Favorite: Kansas
“Not only is Kansas the favorite to win the Big 12 Tournament, but right now, they’re the favorite to win the National Championship. The Jayhawks have looked borderline unbeatable the last few weeks. If any team can beat Kansas, that will be mighty impressive.” -Me, in this same post from last season. New year, same Kansas. They might seem a little more beatable this year, but I’ll still be impressed if anybody beats them.
Dark Horse: Oklahoma State
They lost their last two regular season games (at Iowa State and vs Kansas), but before that, the Cowboys had won 10 of 11 games with the only loss coming by three against Baylor. This is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, and if they can get hot, they can go on a run. They face Iowa State in the quarterfinals, and it’s very hard to beat a team three times in one season, which is what the Cyclones will look to do. A win, and they’d get another shot at Kansas, who would also be looking to beat OK State for the third time this season. Look out for the Pokes.
Most to Gain: Kansas State
Another Bubble team with a massive opportunity thanks to their conference tourney draw. The Wildcats will take on Baylor in the quarterfinal, and a win over the Bears could be enough to get Kansas State into the field of 68. But just in case, a semifinal win over West Virginia would definitely get them in. Bruce Weber’s team controls their own destiny in my opinion at this stage.
Prediction: West Virginia
I’m not even sure why exactly I didn’t go with Kansas here, but the potential for a Kansas-West Virginia grudge match in the championship game is intriguing to me, and if it comes down to that, I like the Mountaineers to avenge their absolutely deflating overtime loss to the Jayhawks back on February 13th by stealing the Big 12 Championship.

Big East Tournament (New York City)

First Round: March 8 (FS1)
Game 1: #9 Georgetown vs #8 St. John’s, 7:00 pm
Game 2: #10 DePaul vs #7 Xavier, 9:30 pm
Quarterfinals: March 9 (FS1)
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs #1 Villanova, 12:00 pm
Game 4: #5 Seton Hall vs #4 Marquette, 2:30 pm
Game 5: Winner Game 2 vs #2 Butler, 7:00 pm
Game 6: #6 Creighton vs #3 Providence, 9:30 pm
Semifinals: March 10 (FS1)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs Winner Game 4, 6:30 pm
Game 8: Winner Game 5 vs Winner Game 6, 9:00 pm
Championship: March 11 (FOX)
Game 9: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8, 5:30 pm

Favorite: Villanova
The defending National Champions have won the Big East regular season title for the fourth straight season, establishing themselves a one of the favorites to win the National Title yet again this year. The Wildcats won the Big East Tournament two years ago, but the other two years, they were knocked out by Seton Hall (quarters in 2014, finals in 2016). Avoid them and Butler, who swept Nova this season, and they have a great shot to win this tournament.
Dark Horse: Seton Hall
Speaking of Seton Hall, they have quietly put together a nice stretch to close the regular season, winning five of their last six, with the lone loss there coming against Villanova. The Pirates are the defending Big East Tournament champs, and they’ll meet Marquette in the quarterfinals in a rubber match, and with a win, they will get a chance to eliminate Villanova from the Big East Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons.
Most to Gain: Providence
Despite six wins in a row to finish the regular season, the Friars are still on the Bubble (in fact, they weren’t even on the Bubble prior to the beginning of this winning streak), and they received a draw that appears designed to improve their Tournament resume. They get likely Tournament team Creighton in the quarterfinals, and if they get past them, they’ll probably face Butler in the semis. If Providence can get to the Big East Final, they’ll get into the Tourney no problem. A loss prior to that, and they might sweat it out on Selection Sunday.
Prediction: Villanova
It won’t be easy, but it just feels like Villanova is on a mission this year despite coming off a National Championship, and I like them to enter this year’s Tournament with the momentum of a Big East Championship. They’ll get over the Seton Hall-Big East Tournament hurdle in the semis, and then they’ll finally get the best of Butler this season in the Title game.

Pac-12 Tournament (Las Vegas, NV)

First Round: March 8 (Pac-12 Network)
Game 1: #9 Stanford vs #8 Arizona State, 3 p.m.
Game 2: #12 Oregon State vs #5 California, 5:30 p.m.
Game 3: #10 Washington State vs #7 Colorado, 9 p.m.
Game 4: #11 Washington vs #6 USC, 11:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals: March 9
Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs #1 Oregon, 3:00 pm (Pac-12 Network)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs #4 Utah, 5:30 pm (Pac-12 Network)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs #2 Arizona, 9:00 pm (Pac-12 Network)
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs #3 UCLA, 11:30 pm (ESPN)
Semifinals: March 10
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs Winner Game 6, 9:00 pm (Pac-12 Network)
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8, 11:30 pm (ESPN)
Championship: March 11 (ESPN)
Game 11: Winner Game 9 vs Winner Game 10, 11:00 pm

Favorite: UCLA
The Bruins are ranked #3 in the AP Poll for a reason. Despite not having a Tournament resume normally befitting of a highly ranked team at this point in the season, UCLA is playing it’s best basketball of the season right now, and that makes them the Pac-12 Tournament favorites in my eyes.
Dark Horse: Arizona
I know, it’s a major stretch to call a 2-seed a dark horse, but I think most people believe UCLA and Oregon are the top two teams in this conference, and Arizona is a pretty large step below those two teams. I tend to agree, but that doesn’t mean this team can’t go and win the Pac-12 Tournament. I’d love to see a UCLA-Arizona rubber match in the semis. That would be a fun game.
Most to Gain: California
Even though their opener is against lowly Oregon State, the win will still help a little bit. They have to beat Utah in the quarterfinals, and then they might even need to beat Oregon in the semifinals to earn a trip to the Tournament. That all seems unlikely, but Cal is the team in the Pac-12 with the most to gain.
Prediction: Oregon
The Ducks are the most complete team in the Pac-12, and they have the easiest path to the Championship game. A final against UCLA or Arizona will be a great game late next Saturday night, but on a neutral floor, I like Oregon to defeat either of those teams.

SEC Tournament (Nashville, TN)

First Round: March 8 (SEC Network)
Game 1: #13 LSU vs #12 Mississippi State, 7:00 pm
Game 2: #14 Missouri vs #11 Auburn, 9:30 pm
Second Round: March 9 (SEC Network)
Game 3: #9 Tennessee vs #8 Georgia, 1:00 pm
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs #5 Alabama, 3:30 pm
Game 5: #10 Texas A&M vs #7 Vanderbilt, 7:00 pm
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs #6 Ole Miss, 9:30 pm
Quarterfinals: March 10 (SEC Network)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs #1 Kentucky, 1:00 pm
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs #4 South Carolina, 3:30 pm
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs #2 Florida, 7:00 pm
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs #3 Arkansas, 9:30 pm
Semifinals: March 11 (ESPN)
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8, 1:00 pm
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs Winner Game 10, 3:30 pm
Championship: March 12 (ESPN)
Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs Winner Game 12, 1:00 pm

Favorite: Kentucky
The young Wildcats have had their ups and downs this season, but they enter the postseason having won eight games in a row, and they definitely look like a National Championship contender. I personally can’t say that for any other team in the SEC (sorry Florida), so Kentucky is my favorite here.
Dark Horse: Vanderbilt
The Commodores were my dark horse in the SEC Tournament last year, but they were upset by Tennessee in a nail-biter. They have a little more momentum this year, having won five of their last six in the regular season, including a victory over South Carolina and a second win this season over Florida. A chance to beat Florida a third time will come in the quarterfinals if they get past Texas A&M. Vandy needs a run to get into the Tournament. I think they can do it.
Most to Gain: Georgia
Easily could have put Vandy here as well, but I’ll go with the Bulldogs. They’ll face fellow Bubble team Tennessee in the second round, and if they get the win there, they’ll take on Kentucky in the quarterfinals. They gave Kentucky all they could handle this season, losing in overtime in Rupp Arena and then by just five points at home back on February 18. Georgia needs to make a deep run if they want to go to the Big Dance, and quality wins are there on that path.
Prediction: Vanderbilt
There’s usually at least a little bit of craziness among the major conferences this time of year. I’ve watched a lot of Vanderbilt over the last few weeks, and I really like what I see. I’ll make a bold prediction, saying they knock off Florida for a third time in the quarters en route to a title game victory over Kentucky to win the SEC and take things out of the Selection Committee’s hands.

On Monday night, three more auto-bids to the NCAA Tournament will be handed out in the following conference championship games:

Colonial Athletic Association Championship
#2 College of Charleston vs #1 UNC Wilmington
7:00 pm, CBS Sports Network
This game should be extremely fun, as the teams split their two regular season meetings, each winning on the other’s home floor. UNC Wilmington won the CAA last season and went to the NCAA’s as a 13-seed, giving 4-seed Duke everything they could handle in the opening game of the First Round, eventually falling 93-85. Three of the Seahawks’ four leading scorers from that game are back this season, and looking for a return trip to the Big Dance. Standing in their way are the Cougars of Charleston, who have been knocked out of the CAA Tournament by UNC Wilmington the last two seasons. The Cougars haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999, and are seeking their 5th trip all time. On a neutral floor, this will be a true rubber match, but I think UNC Wilmington is the more talented team, and should win this game. They’ll be a dangerous 12 or 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Southern Conference Championship
#3 East Tennessee State vs #1 UNC Greensboro
7:00 pm, ESPN
UNC Greensboro is the higher seed, but East Tennessee State is the team you’ll want to pay attention to here, as they are the team more likely to bust your bracket if they make it to the Big Dance. The Buccaneers are ranked 66th on KenPom, and are a very experienced group led by seniors TJ Cromer, Wichita State-transfer Tevin Glass and Indiana-transfer Hanner Mosquera-Perea. The Bucs are looking for their first trip to the Tournament since 2010. The Spartans of UNC Greensboro have been a thorn in their side this season though. They beat ETSU in both meetings in the regular season en route to a three-way tie at the top of the league’s standings along with ETSU and Furman. UNC Greensboro is looking to return to the NCAA’s for the first time since 2001, when they were coached by current Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. I’ve discussed already how difficult it is to defeat a team three times in one season, and I think that will rear it’s head in this game. East Tennessee is the better team, and I expect them to get over the hump and defeat UNC Greensboro, stamping their ticket in the process.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Association Championship
#4 Siena vs #3 Iona
9:00 pm, ESPN2
Monmouth was the overwhelming favorite to win the MAAC and head to the Tournament. Siena was having none of that, or maybe more specifically, Siena senior Nico Clareth, who came off the bench to score 27 points on 7-9 shooting from 3-point range in the massive upset of Monmouth in the semifinals. Oh yeah, and all of that scoring came in the second half of the game. Clareth didn’t score in the first half. He only took one shot before halftime. It was an incredible performance, something that really shouldn’t be that surprising because, well, March. Clareth and the Saints will look to ride that momentum to their first trip to the NCAA’s since 2010, when Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was at the helm. Hey, wait, I feel like I recently mentioned McCaffery… Anyway, Iona is the team that will try to keep them from making that trip, and a fair amount of the Gaels’ players knows what it takes to get there, having won the MAAC Title last season, and going on to the NCAA Tournament, falling to Iowa State 94-81. Iona is led by senior Jordan Washington, who played second-fiddle to AJ English last season, but has emerged as the go-to guy for Coach Tim Cluess this season. A win would result in the 12th trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history. The teams split the season series, each winning on the road, so this could go either way. I truly believe in momentum as a major factor this time of year, and for that reason, I expect Siena to pull off another *upset* and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

That’s it for Part One of my Conference Tournament preview, stay tuned very soon for Part Two! I hope you all enjoy a week chock full of college basketball, a nice appetizer for the real “Madness” next week!

Bubble Watch: 3/1/17

I’ve decided that my Top-25 rankings are pretty much useless now that we have entered March, and nobody cares about anything but March Madness and the NCAA Tournament Bracket. So instead of a new Top-25 this week, I’m giving you, my loyal readers, another edition of Bubble Watch!

This week, I’ll be giving you a look at the teams on the Bubble in the same way I look at them when putting together a Bracket projection. First will be my “Last Four Byes,” which are the last four teams that I have getting into the Tournament that would not have to play a play-in game in Dayton.

Following that will be my “Last Four In,” which is the four teams I would have playing in the Tuesday-Wednesday play-in games in Dayton.

After that is my “First Four Out,” which is the four teams I have closest to getting in, but would currently be out.

Finally, we’ll have my “Next Four Out,” which are the next four teams out of the field, but that I think still have an outside shot at securing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Enough explanation, here we go starting with the “Last Four Byes.”

 

Last Four Byes:

Michigan State (18-11, 10-6 B10)
The Spartans picked up a huge win Sunday on Senior Day over Wisconsin, which for now puts them in fairly safe territory. They finish with two road games against Illinois and Maryland. A loss to Illinois would be cause for a little concern, but a win at Maryland could make them a lock for the Tourney. I say one more win, regardless of when or against who, gets them into the field.

 

Syracuse (17-13, 9-8 ACC)
I don’t feel good about how high I have Syracuse in my bracket projection, but I think all factors considered, they’d be in right now. They have a bad RPI ranking, but on a soft Bubble, a team with a winning record in ACC play is worthy of a Tourney berth. That being said, I could easily see them being left out. A win in their regular season finale at home against Georgia Tech on Saturday could be a must-win.

 

Arkansas (22-7, 11-5 SEC)
The Razorbacks have won five games in a row to get themselves into the conversation, and it includes their best win of the season at South Carolina. The issue is other than that win, their only other wins against teams I have in my bracket projection are against UT Arlington (12-seed) and Mount St. Mary’s (16-seed, play-in game). A loss at Florida on Wednesday will not hurt, but a win would probably be enough to get them in. A loss at home to Georgia in their finale could be harmful to their Tourney hopes though.

 

California (19-9, 10-6 P12)
A win over Oregon State on Friday snapped a three-game losing streak for the Golden Bears, but that win won’t do much for their resume. They close out the regular season with road games against Utah and Colorado, and I believe a win in one of those two games, in addition to at least one win in the Pac-12 Tournament should be enough for Cal to make the field.

 

Last Four In:

Marquette (17-11, 8-8 BE)
In most other seasons, a team with Marquette’s resume would probably be further down on the list. But the Golden Eagles have the ultimate resume-defining win over the defending National Champs, Villanova. Marquette faces Xavier on the road and hosts Creighton to end their season. 1-1 in those games and a win in the Big East Tournament, and I think they’re in good shape.

 

Wake Forest (16-12, 7-9 ACC)
The Demon Deacons have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation this year, so they’ve had no shortage of opportunities to pick up big wins that can get them into the Tourney. Problem is that they haven’t been able to take advantage. Their best win is over Miami, and I’m not sure if that’s enough to get them in. They have a HUGE home game against Louisville on Wednesday. A win in that game is exactly what Wake’s resume needs.

 

Providence (19-11, 9-8 BE)
The Friars are getting hot at the perfect time. They’ve now won five straight, including wins over Butler, Xavier, Marquette and Creighton, four likely Tournament teams. Losses to DePaul and Boston College aren’t great, but I think they have done enough to overcome that. Avoid a letdown in their regular season finale at St. John’s, and Providence should feel pretty good about their chances.

 

Illinois State (25-5, 17-1 MVC)
The mid-majors aren’t likely to receive a whole lot of love from the Committee this year, but if Illinois State can’t win the Missouri Valley Tournament, I think they still deserve to get in, as long as they make it to the Championship game, and as long as the loss in that game is to Wichita State. The best case scenario for the Redbirds is to just win the conference tournament and get the league’s auto-bid. But if they can’t get it done, I think they still have a good chance to get in as an at-large.

 

First Four Out:

Rhode Island (19-9, 11-5 A10)
The Rams were expected to be a favorite to win the Atlantic-10 this year, but they have underachieved for the better part of the season. Despite that, they still are right on the cusp of the Tournament cut-line, thanks to a win over VCU on Saturday. They can’t afford any more slip-ups though. They must beat St. Joe’s and Davidson to close out the regular season, then a nice run in the A-10 Tournament, and Rhode Island has a decent chance to make the field of 68.

 

Georgia Tech (17-13, 8-9 ACC)
I really do think that Georgia Tech is a good enough team to make the NCAA Tournament. The issues lies in their RPI, which is in the 90s, and teams that have RPI’s that high do not make the Tournament as at-large teams. It just doesn’t happen. That is why Georgia Tech is among the First Four Out, and not the Last Four In. They might need to win at Syracuse on Saturday to have a shot at getting in. Lose that game, and they’ll need to pull off multiple upsets in the ACC Tournament to have a shot at getting in.

 

Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8 SEC)
They were up 19 points on Kentucky in Rupp Arena, and it was looking like they were going to win that game and it was going to be exactly what they needed to solidify their spot in the Big Dance. Then the biggest comeback in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky happened, and Vanderbilt lost a huge chance to enhance their resume. But not to worry! They close the regular season Saturday at home against Florida, who they beat in Gainesville earlier this season. A win in that game might be enough to push the Commodores into the Tournament.

 

TCU (17-12, 6-10 B12)
While other teams are getting red-hot down the stretch, Jamie Dixon’s TCU team is doing the exact opposite. The Horned Frogs have lost five straight games, but those games were all to the top five teams in the conference. The unfortunate thing is that a win in just one of those games would have definitely had TCU higher on the list right now. They might need to win three games in the Big 12 Tournament just to have a shot at an at-large bid, and I just don’t see that happening.

 

Next Four Out:

Tennessee (15-14, 7-9 SEC)
Pretty crazy that a team with those records still has an outside shot at making the NCAA Tournament, but that’s the case this season. They have a win over Kentucky, and that might be the only thing keeping them in the conversation. I don’t see them being considered without a run to at least the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. They probably need to get the auto-bid, but I’ll leave open the slim possibility of an at-large berth.

 

Georgia (17-12, 8-8 SEC)
I kinda feel bad for the Bulldogs. They have been so close this year, and just haven’t been able to secure that big win that their resume sorely lacks. They took Florida and Kentucky to overtime, and they nearly beat Kentucky again the second time they played them. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so the SEC auto-bid might also be the only shot for Georgia to go dancing.

 

Houston (20-8, 11-5 AAC)
The American is a pretty weak conference this year after Cincinnati and SMU. Houston has had a decent season, but I’m not sure that they’ve done enough to get into the Tournament. They play at Cincinnati on Thursday, and a win in that game is absolutely crucial to Houston’s at-large hopes. Otherwise, they’ll need to win the American Championship.
Clemson (14-14, 4-12 ACC)
I don’t think Clemson has a shot at the Tournament unless they win the ACC, but I’m putting them here because they have been extremely unlucky this year, and I truly believe they could be capable of making an unlikely run to the ACC Championship game. The craziest thing is that 8 of their 12 losses in ACC play are by five points or less. Win half of those games and they are 8-8 in conference play and would probably be in a great position right now.

CBB Top-25: 2/21/17

I apologize for this coming a day later than usual, but with some unseasonably warm weather here in Southeast PA, I was pretty busy at work this weekend. So I’m a day late, but I’m definitely not a dollar short!

Anyway, being unable to afford the same amount of time to this as I normally do, I’ve switched it up a little bit this week. With just under three weeks until Selection Sunday, the Bubble is as exciting as ever. With most teams having just three or four games left in their regular season, some Bubble teams are better positioned to improve their resume than others. So before I get to my Top-25, here’s a look at five Bubble teams that can really increase their Tournament chances over the next couple weeks, and three teams that have quite the uphill battle ahead of them.

 

Bubble Teams with Best Chance to Improve Resume:

Iowa State (18-9, 10-5 B12)

The Cyclones may have played their way off of the Bubble recently, having won four in a row after last night’s 82-80 overtime win at Texas Tech. That being said, they could play their way right back onto the bubble if they struggle down the stretch. They finish with home games against Baylor and Oklahoma State, then travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia to close out the regular season. Win one of those three games against likely Tournament teams, and I’d say they’re in for sure. But if they go 0-3 in those games (which is not likely, but possible), a win in the Big 12 Tournament could be essential to their Tourney hopes.

Miami FL (19-8, 9-6 ACC)

Speaking of teams that have probably worked their way off the Bubble, the Hurricanes outlasted Virginia in overtime last night, picking up a huge road win, one that could stamp their ticket to the Dance. If they are still on the Bubble, though, they have a few marquee games remaining to enhance their resume. They’ll host Duke this weekend, which will be followed by trips to likely Tournament teams Virginia Tech and Florida State. Similarly to Iowa State, I think one more win gets Miami into the Tournament. If they can find a way to win two of their last three, or even possibly all three, I could see them rising to as high as a 6 or 7-seed believe it or not.

TCU (17-10, 6-8 B12)

The Horned Frogs have been on the Bubble for most of this season, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon. Jamie Dixon has done a remarkable job in his first season in Fort Worth, but his work is not done if he wants to get his team into the Tournament. Their next two games are at Kansas and versus West Virginia. A win in one of those games is exactly the kind of win TCU’s resume is lacking. I don’t expect them to win either of those, which will make their last two games, versus Kansas State and at Oklahoma, absolute must-wins. Otherwise, it’s NIT for TCU.

California (18-8, 9-5 P12)

In most seasons, a team with Cal’s resume would probably be fighting for their Tournament lives. But it’s a pretty soft Bubble this season, so right now, most experts have the Golden Bears in the field. That being said, they could use a few more big wins, and they’ll get chances. They host Oregon this week, and a win could punch their ticket to the Big Dance. If they aren’t able to knock off the Ducks, they close their season with the Utah-Colorado trip that has proven very tough for teams this year. Two wins there could impress the Committee enough to get them in.

Syracuse (16-12. 8-7 ACC)

The Orange started the year 11-9, 3-4 in the ACC with a loss to Boston College, and nobody had them even sniffing the Bubble. Then they won five in a row, including wins over Florida State and Virginia, and that got them back into the conversation. Now, they are currently on a three-game losing streak, they have 12 losses, and they need to finish at least 2-1 in their last three games to have a shot, and it won’t be easy. They host Duke on Wednesday, then travel to Louisville Sunday. The following weekend, they close with a home game against Georgia Tech. They are not easy games, but lose two of them, and I think Syracuse is out.

 

Bubble Teams with Worst Chance to Improve Resume:

Kansas State (17-10, 6-8 B12)

Wins versus West Virginia and at Baylor are driving the Wildcats’ hopes for making the Tournament. Outside of those two wins, it’s a very lackluster resume, and unfortunately for K-State fans, there aren’t any potential marquee wins left in the regular season. They still have to face fellow Bubble teams Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech, but two of those games are at home, and in my opinion, they cannot afford to lose either of those games. Win all three and I think they have a good shot to get in, but getting to face, and defeat, one of the top teams in the league in the Big 12 Tournament could end up as the only chance they have to get into the Tournament.

Texas Tech (17-11, 5-10 B12)

It’s amazing to me that a team five games under .500 in their own league is being discussed as a possible Tournament team, but that is what this year’s Bubble has given us. The Red Raiders have lost two consecutive games in overtime, missing out on two wins that could have greatly improved their chances to get into the Big Dance. Just like Kansas State, Texas Tech has wins over West Virginia and Baylor that they hope can be enough to get them in. They have road games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State left on their schedule, and I’m saying they need to win both of those games, or they have no chance to get in.

Clemson (14-12, 4-10 ACC)

Clemson sees Texas Tech’s 5-10 Big 12 record and raises them a 4-10 record in the ACC. Now, in my opinion, the ACC is tougher than the Big 12 this year, and with that, I believe that Clemson is a better team than Texas Tech, but equally as deserving (or undeserving) of a berth in the Tournament. Clemson has one huge resume-booster left when they host Florida State this weekend. The Seminoles have struggled on the road in conference play, so Clemson needs to win that game. Especially considering that their final two games are at home against basement-dwellers NC State and Boston College. Wins in those games won’t help Clemson’s chances at all.

 

And now, here’s this week’s Top-25!

 

  1. VCU (Prev: NR)

This Week: Wed 2/22 vs Saint Louis (7:00 pm); Sat 2/25 @ Rhode Island (2:00 pm, ESPN2)

  1. Virginia (Prev: 16)

This Week: Sat 2/25 @ NC State (12:00 pm, ESPN)

  1. Oklahoma State (Prev: NR)

This Week: Wed 2/22 @ Kansas State (9:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/25 vs Texas Tech (2:00 pm, ESPNU)

  1. Saint Mary’s (Prev: 25)

This Week: Thu 2/23 @ Pepperdine (10:00 pm); Sat 2/25 vs Santa Clara (10:00 pm)

  1. Notre Dame (Prev: 24)

This Week: Sun 2/26 vs Georgia Tech (6:30 pm, ESPNU)

  1. Wisconsin (Prev: 21)

This Week: Thu 2/23 @ Ohio State (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sun 2/26 @ Michigan State (4:00 pm, CBS)

  1. Creighton (Prev: 19)

This Week: Wed 2/22 vs Providence (9:00 pm); Sat 2/25 @ Villanova (3:00 pm, FOX)

  1. Florida State (Prev: 11)

This Week: Sat 2/25 @ Clemson (12:00 pm, ESPN3)

  1. Butler (Prev: 20)

This Week: Wed 2/22 @ Villanova (9:00 pm, FS1); Sun 2/26 @ Xavier (3:30 pm, FS1)

  1. Florida (Prev: 17)

This Week: Tue 2/21 vs South Carolina (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/25 @ Kentucky (2:00 pm, CBS)

  1. Cincinnati (Prev: 14)

This Week: Thu 2/23 vs Memphis (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sun 2/26 @ UCF (3:00 pm, CBSSN)

  1. West Virginia (Prev: 12)

This Week: Sat 2/25 @ TCU (2:00 pm, ESPN)

  1. SMU (Prev: 15)

This Week: Sat 2/25 @ Connecticut (12:00 pm, CBS)

  1. Purdue (Prev: 13)

This Week: Tue 2/21 @ Penn State (6:00 pm, BTN); Sat 2/25 @ Michigan (4:00 pm, ESPN2)

  1. Baylor (Prev: 4)

This Week: Tue 2/21 vs Oklahoma (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/25 @ Iowa State (4:00 pm, ESPN)

  1. Kentucky (Prev: 10)

This Week: Tue 2/21 @ Missouri (9:00 pm, SECN); Sat 2/25 vs Florida (2:00 pm, CBS)

  1. Duke (Prev: 18)

This Week: Wed 2/22 @ Syracuse (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/25 @ Miami FL (4:00 pm, CBS)

  1. Arizona (Prev: 9)

This Week: Thu 2/23 vs USC (10:00 pm, P12N); Sat 2/25 vs UCLA (8:15 pm, ESPN)

  1. UCLA (Prev: 6)

This Week: Thu 2/23 @ Arizona State (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/25 @ Arizona (8:15 pm, ESPN)

  1. Oregon (Prev: 7)

This Week: Wed 2/22 @ California (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/25 @ Stanford (4:00 pm, P12N)

  1. North Carolina (Prev: 8)

This Week: Wed 2/22 vs Louisville (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/25 @ Pittsburgh (12:00 pm, ESPN3)

  1. Louisville (Prev: 5)

This Week: Wed 2/22 @ North Carolina (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sun 2/26 vs Syracuse (2:00 pm, CBS)

  1. Kansas (Prev: 3)

This Week: Wed 2/22 vs TCU (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/25 @ Texas (6:00 pm, ESPN)

  1. Gonzaga (Prev: 1)

This Week: Thu 2/23 @ San Diego (10:00 pm); Sat 2/25 vs BYU (10:00 pm, ESPN2)

  1. Villanova (Prev: 2)

This Week: Wed 2/22 vs Butler (9:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/25 vs Creighton (3:00 pm, FOX)

CBB Top-25: 2/13/17

Yesterday was February 12, and Selection Sunday is March 12. So as of yesterday, we are just one month away from Selection Sunday, and it feels like there is still SO MUCH more basketball yet to play!

A lot of teams will be playing desperation basketball over the next month to try and stake their claim to a spot in the Big Dance, while other teams, those that seem to have their spots locked up, will try their hardest not to screw it up (we’re looking at you Northwestern!!!).

I don’t claim to be right all the time, but for this week’s Top-25, I’m going to try to see how right I can actually be. In order to do that, I have attempted to predict the winners AND final scores for each game to be played by my Top-25 this week. The results will probably show how wrong I can actually be, but I’m giving it a shot anyway, so here we go!

 

  1. Saint Mary’s (Prev: 18)

This Week: Thu 2/16 vs Loyola Marymount (11:00 pm); Sat 2/18 @ BYU (10:00 pm, ESPN2)

The Gaels had a huge opportunity to get a signature win on Saturday when they hosted Gonzaga, but they could not get the job done. They should cruise past Loyola Marymount on Thursday, then they have a tricky trip when they travel to Utah to take on BYU. They should win, but it’s not a sure thing.

Predictions: SMC 79 LMU 55; SMC 69 BYU 65

 

  1. Notre Dame (Prev: NR)

This Week: Tue 2/14 @ Boston College (7:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/18 @ NC State (12:00 pm, ESPN)

The Irish got back on track this past week with home wins over Wake Forest and Florida State. This week they’ll hit the road with trips to Boston and Raleigh, and it won’t be easy, but I think they’ll win two close games.

Predictions: ND 86 BC 77; ND 71 NCST 68

 

  1. Northwestern (Prev: 25)

This Week: Wed 2/15 vs Maryland (7:00 pm, BTN); Sat 2/18 vs Rutgers (6:00 pm, ESPNU)

We can just about pencil Northwestern in for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history. A huge road upset of Wisconsin last night could be the stamp on the resume that they needed. They have another big game Wednesday when they host Maryland. A win over another top team in the conference could be huge. Rutgers at home Saturday should be no problem.

Predictions: NW 62 MARY 60; NW 84 RUTG 61

 

  1. South Carolina (Prev: 21)

This Week: Wed 2/15 vs Arkansas (6:30 pm, SECN); Sat 2/18 @ Vanderbilt (8:30 pm, SECN)

The Gamecocks were taken to four overtimes last week by Alabama, with the Crimson Tide eventually coming out on top. It’s never good to lose, but if the ball bounces their way one other time, they might have won that game. This week they’ll host Arkansas and then face Vanderbilt on the road. I’ll predict that they win one and lose one this week.

Predictions: SCAR 63 ARK 57; VAND 74 SCAR 66

 

  1. Wisconsin (Prev: 15)

This Week: Thu 2/16 @ Michigan (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sun 2/19 vs Maryland (1:00 pm, CBS)

Wisconsin has been surviving as of late, but their luck finally ran out yesterday when they were upset at home by Northwestern. A trip to Michigan on Thursday will be tough, as the Wolverines are red-hot. That is followed by a big home game against Maryland, who is hot on their tails in the race for the Big Ten.

Predictions: MICH 70 WISC 62; WISC 58 MARY 55

 

  1. Butler (Prev: 17)

This Week: Wed 2/15 vs St. John’s (8:30 pm, FS1); Sun 2/19 vs DePaul (1:30 pm, FS1)

It’s been a rough couple weeks for Butler, as they’ve lost three of their last four, including two at home. They were a 4-seed in the Selection Committee’s Top-16 reveal, so they are safe, but any loss they suffer this week would be a very bad loss. I don’t see it happening.

Predictions: BUT 89 SJU 65; BUT 76 DEP 56

 

  1. Creighton (Prev: 23)

This Week: Wed 2/15 @ Seton Hall (8:00 pm, CBSSN); Sun 2/19 vs Georgetown (3:30 pm, FS1)

The Bluejays have continued to play well without star point guard Maurice Watson, but the Big East is tough, and they face a couple teams this week fighting to prove that they deserve a bid to the Tournament. The game at Seton Hall on Wednesday is the toughest, as the Pirates are looking to avenge their 14-point loss to Creighton earlier in the year.

Predictions: SHU 80 CRE 70; CRE 77 GU 61

 

  1. Duke (Prev: 22)

This Week: Wed 2/15 @ Virginia (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/18 vs Wake Forest (1:00 pm, ESPN3)

I admit that I may have Duke ranked a little low still, but I need to see more from this team. The UNC win was great, but they were nearly upset by Clemson following that, so who knows if this team has figured it out or not. A road game against a Virginia team coming off a loss to VT will be extremely difficult.

Predictions: UVA 67 DUKE 62; DUKE 79 WAKE 74

 

  1. Florida (Prev: 19)

This Week: Tue 2/14 @ Auburn (7:00 pm, SECN); Sat 2/18 @ Mississippi State (2:00 pm, ESPN)

The Gators have won six in a row, and they should make it through this week easily, as they’ve played extremely well on the road in SEC play. The following week will be massive for them though, when they host South Carolina and travel to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky.

Predictions: UF 86 AUB 75; UF 101 MSU 81

 

  1. Virginia (Prev: 16)

This Week: Wed 2/15 vs Duke (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/18 @ North Carolina (8:15 pm, ESPN)

Virginia continues to be a little perplexing. They easily took care of Louisville on Monday, but followed that up with a double overtime loss to rival Virginia Tech yesterday. They’ll take on Duke and UNC this week, and I think they’ll go 1-1.

Predictions: *See Duke entry*; UNC 72 UVA 62

 

  1. SMU (Prev: 20)

This Week: Wed 2/15 vs Tulane (9:00 pm, ESPN3); Sat 2/18 @ Houston (6:00 pm, ESPN2)

The Mustangs have very quietly been on a crazy hot streak. They’ve won 18 of their last 19, and avenged the only loss in that stretch last night with a win over Cincinnati. The American is weak this year, but those two teams are legit. They are now tied with the Bearcats at the top, so each game from here on out is crucial.

Predictions: SMU 83 TUL 55; SMU 70 HOU 69

 

  1. Cincinnati (Prev: 12)

This Week: Wed 2/15 @ South Florida (7:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/18 vs Tulsa (12:00 pm, ESPNU)

Cincy had a 15-game winning streak snapped yesterday by conference foe SMU, but the Bearcats are still one of the top teams in the country. They’ll get a couple easier games to recover before a tough finish to their regular season over the final two weeks.

Predictions: CIN 90 USF 61; CIN 68 TUL 54

 

  1. Purdue (Prev: 13)

This Week: Tue 2/14 vs Rutgers (7:00 pm, BTN); Sat 2/18 vs Michigan State (4:00 pm, ESPN)

The Boilermakers are just a game back of Wisconsin in the Big Ten, and they are probably playing the best of any team in the conference right now (right up there with Michigan anyway). They need to take care of business at home before closing with three of their last four games on the road.

Predictions: PUR 87 RUTG 52; PUR 75 MSU 70

 

  1. West Virginia (Prev: 14)

This Week: Mon 2/13 @ Kansas (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/18 vs Texas Tech (2:00 pm, ESPN2)

West Virginia has won five of their last six, and that run started with a 16-point domination of #1 Kansas in Morgantown. Tonight, the Jayhawks look for revenge. I think West Virginia can keep it close, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to close the deal.

Predictions: KU 78 WVU 73; WVU 82 TTU 60

 

  1. Florida State (Prev: 5)

This Week: Sat 2/18 @ Pittsburgh (4:00 pm, ESPN2)

For as good as Florida State has been, they have a tendency to really struggle on the road. That was very evident in their loss at Notre Dame on Saturday night. It’s amazing that they have road wins over Virginia and Miami, but those are their only wins in true road games this season. That makes a Saturday trip to Pitt a little tricky.

Predictions: FSU 69 PITT 63

 

  1. Kentucky (Prev: 11)

This Week: Tue 2/14 vs Tennessee (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/18 @ Georgia (6:00 pm, ESPN)

I’m still trying to get a feel for Kentucky, and I think they’ll go 1-1 this week as they continue to try and figure themselves out. Revenge will be a factor in the game against Tennessee, but Georgia will have that on their minds as well following an OT loss at Rupp Arena a few weeks ago.

Predictions: UK 85 TENN 70; UGA 78 UK 76

 

  1. Arizona (Prev: 9)

This Week: Thu 2/16 @ Washington State (9:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/18 @ Washington (8:00 pm, ESPN2)

Arizona is playing very well right now, but I couldn’t bring myself to put them ahead of Oregon after how badly the Ducks beat them up a couple weeks ago. The Washington trip is not very difficult for teams this year, especially one as good as Arizona.

Predictions: ARZ 75 WSU 64; ARZ 81 UW 66

 

  1. North Carolina (Prev: 6)

This Week: Wed 2/15 @ NC State (8:00 pm, ESPN3); Sat 2/18 vs Virginia (8:15 pm, ESPN)

North Carolina is obviously going to be disappointed that they couldn’t beat Duke, but they’ll get them at their place to finish off the regular season. The Tar Heels are still one of the best teams in the ACC and the country, and they have a huge home game against Virginia on Saturday. I think they’ll win that game.

Predictions: UNC 90 NCST 82; *See Virginia entry*

 

  1. Oregon (Prev: 7)

This Week: Thu 2/16 vs Utah (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/18 vs Colorado (3:00 pm, FOX)

It was quite a collapse for Oregon on Thursday night in the loss to UCLA. They were dominating the game, and then in the snap of the fingers, Lonzo Ball happened and the Bruins won the game. They’ll host two teams that could steal a game from them this week, but I think they’ll handle their business.

Predictions: ORE 79 UTAH 73; ORE 80 COLO 65

 

  1. UCLA (Prev: 10)

This Week: Sat 2/18 vs USC (10:00 pm, P12N)

Collapse aside, it was a huge win for UCLA on Thursday. I don’t feel that comfortable having them this high in the rankings, but I couldn’t keep them below Oregon. I’d say they are neck-and-neck right now. They’ll get the week off before hosting crosstown rival USC on Saturday night. The Trojans upset UCLA a couple weeks ago, so the Bruins will be out for revenge.

Predictions: UCLA 103 USC 80

 

  1. Louisville (Prev: 4)

This Week: Mon 2/13 @ Syracuse (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/18 vs Virginia Tech (1:00 pm, ESPN3)

Rick Pitino suspended two of his key players for the Virginia game, and they were missed for sure. This team is still a favorite to get a least a share of the ACC title. Syracuse is extremely tough at home, so that game tonight will be a big one for the Cardinals.

Predictions: LOU 67 SYR 65; LOU 73 VT 61

 

  1. Baylor (Prev: 8)

This Week: Mon 2/13 @ Texas Tech (7:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/18 vs Kansas (1:00, CBS)

Two big wins for the Bears last week to get back to their winning ways, which sounds weird considering they are 22-3 on the season. I think a lot of people don’t want to admit it, but this is one of the best teams in the nation, and they are a legit title contender. They’ll get a chance for revenge on Kansas Saturday, and I think they get the job done this time.

Predictions: BAY 62 TTU 58; BAY 72 KU 67

 

  1. Kansas (Prev: 3)

This Week: Mon 2/13 vs West Virginia (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/18 @ Baylor (1:00, CBS)

The Jayhawks were tested twice on the road this past week, but they were able to squeak out wins anyway, proving their mettle. They should beat West Virginia at home tonight, but I see it being close, and then they’ll have their hands full in Waco on Saturday.

Predictions: *See West Virginia and Baylor entries*

 

  1. Villanova (Prev: 2)

This Week: Mon 2/13 @ DePaul (9:00 pm, CBSSN); Sat 2/18 @ Seton Hall (12:30 pm, FOX)

Coming into the season I felt that Villanova had the potential to be better than the team last year that won the National Championship. So far, they are proving me right. They’ll hit the road for two more games this week, one should be easy, they other could give them issues. Ultimately, I think they’ll add two more wins to the resume.

Predictions: NOVA 80 DEP 62; NOVA 71 SHU 67

 

  1. Gonzaga (Prev: 1)

This Week: Thu 2/16 vs San Francisco (9:00 pm); Sat 2/18 vs Pacific (4:00 pm)

Simply put, the Zags continue their winning ways. Some expected Saint Mary’s to give them problems this time around. Not the case. This team is going to enter the postseason undefeated, and they have a great shot to make a run to the Final Four.

Predictions: GONZ 89 SF 81; GONZ 88 PAC 73

Bubble Watch: 2/9/17

We are just a little over a month away from Selection Sunday (how wild is that?), and I think it’s a pretty good time to start looking at which teams are sitting squarely on that proverbial bubble that we’ll hear about constantly over the last month of the regular season.

The majority of teams have 22-24 games under their belts at this point, and that is plenty of games for us to start evaluating these team’s Tournament resumes, and start determine which ones are sitting pretty, which have no shots, and then which teams will be those bubble teams, the teams that will need to be as impressive as possible over the last four weeks of the season to ensure a berth in the Big Dance.

I have not posted a bracket prediction yet for this season (stay tuned for that in the coming weeks), but I have done a few for my own personal amusement, and let me tell you, when it gets down to the last few at-large teams, it is MIGHTY difficult to decide who should get in and who shouldn’t.

For that reason, I have decided to do this Bubble Watch post, and for it, I have provided Tournament resumes for the eight teams that made up my “Last Four In” and “First Four Out” in the last bracket prediction exercise I did, but I have not provided which teams they are. It’s fun to decide which teams you would put in without knowing which teams they are, rather just seeing numbers that the Selection Committee like to use when evaluating potential Tournament teams.

I will go through which four teams I would put in and why based on just the numbers, and I can tell you that the four I chose here were different than the four I had chosen when I first put my bracket together. Just looking at the numbers can really change the way you think about certain teams.

Here are the Tournament resumes for these eight bubble teams (as of 5:00 pm on 2/9):

Team A

Team B Team C Team D Team E Team F Team G

Team H

RPI

35

29 51 75 77 50 36

76

Record

16-7

14-10 16-7 15-9 14-10 17-7 18-6

15-9

Conf. Record

8-3

5-7 6-5 5-6 5-6 6-5 9-3

5-6

vs RPI Top 50

1-2

0-8 2-6 2-6 4-6 2-5 1-5

3-6

vs RPI Top 100

3-6

5-10 6-7 7-9 6-9 6-5 4-5

6-8

Losses outside RPI Top 100

1

0 0 0 1 2 1

1

 

To start deciding which four teams I would select, I decided to look at the factors one at a time, and I would decide which teams are in good shape in that factor, which are neutral, and which are struggling.

For example, I started with RPI (which is a very flawed ranking system, but it is the one that is held in the highest regard by the Selection Committee, and the one that they use most in choosing teams for the Tournament), and I looked at Team B (29), Team A (35) and Team G (36) as those teams in good shape in that department. Then I put Team D (75), Team H (76) and Team E (77) and marked them as being weak in RPI.

I did that for each of the six factors, and that made it a little easier to decide. There is a method to my madness. One team stuck out after I did this, and that was Team C. They have a good record at 16-7, their 6-7 record against the RPI Top-100 is solid and they haven’t lost to a team outside the Top-100, so for all intents and purposes, they don’t have a bad loss. I wish they had more than two wins against the Top-50, but I don’t have them as weak in any factor, so I put Team C in.

Another team that stood out, but in the opposite direction, was Team E. I love that they have four wins against the Top-50, but their RPI and record are both not great, and they have a losing record in conference play. It’s rare for a team with a losing record in conference play to make the Tournament, so I have Team E out.

Switching back to the positive side of things, I had two other teams that were “good” in three categories, and they were Team A and Team G. They are 35 and 36 respectively in RPI and both have good records overall and in conference play. Team A has played just three games against the Top-50 and only have three wins against the Top-100, but only having one bad loss helps them, so I put them in. I also put Team G in, because while they only have one win against the Top 50, they’ve already played six games against top teams, so they are going to be battle-tested and have proven they can beat a good team.

The next team that I placed out was Team B. I love their RPI at 29, and the Selection Committee likely will as well. But they already have 10 losses, they have a losing record in conference play and in eight tries, they have yet to beat a Top-50 team. For me, that was too many bad factors to put them in the field.

That left me with three teams, Teams D, F and H, each of which have positives and negatives. Team D has seven wins against the Top-100, but they also have a poor RPI. Team H also has a poor RPI, but three wins against the Top-50 is second most among these eight teams. Team F has a winning record against the Top-100, the only team of the eight with that to boast, but they are also the only team here with more than one loss to teams outside the Top-100. Ultimately, I went with Team F because they have a winning record in conference play, while Teams D and H are both 5-6 in conference.

So to recap…

In: C, A, G, F
Out: D, H, B, E

If you’ve stuck with me so far, it’s time to find out who these teams actually are! My first team in, Team C, is Miami (FL). I had the Hurricanes in my field before this exercise, and I think most experts would have them in at this point as well. The biggest positive for Miami is that they have plenty of opportunities left to secure their spot, with road games against Louisville, Virginia and Florida State still on the docket, as well as a home matchup with Duke.

Team A was next, and that is Rhode Island. This is another team that I had in the field in my last prediction, but most experts do not have them in right now. They have a legit chance to win the A-10 Tournament, which would put it out of the hands of the Committee, but home games against Dayton and VCU have to be considered must-wins for the Rams.

My third team in was Team G, which is the California Golden Bears. I did not have Cal in my field, but now I can see where they definitely deserve the consideration. They battle Arizona in Tuscon this Saturday, and a win in that game would be massive. They also still have Oregon at home, which is another chance for a resume-defining win.

My last team in was Team F, which is Arkansas out of the SEC. The Razorbacks play in a weak conference, and they have flown almost completely under-the-radar this season. Mike Anderson’s team has a solid resume, and they can still add to it with road games against South Carolina and Florida still yet to go.

Team D was my first team out, and that is Michigan, who I had in previously. They made quite a statement Tuesday by thrashing Michigan State, but don’t worry UM fans, they have plenty of time to improve the resume. They still host Wisconsin and Purdue, and they play Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern on the road.

Speaking of Indiana, they were Team H, my next team out. As I type this, the Hoosiers are trying to extend the game against Purdue, but it looks like they’ll come up short. They are still hanging their hats on early season wins over Kansas and North Carolina, which are two extremely impressive wins, but they have work to do if they’re going to make the Tournament. They’ll get another crack at Purdue near the end of the season. That game might end up a must-win.

I liked a lot about Team B, but not enough to put them in. Team B was Wake Forest. I’ve watched the Demon Deacons play, and I think they are a Tournament-quality team, but they have some flaws in their resume. The ACC is really tough this year, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they get a team with a losing conference record into the Tournament, but wins against Duke and Louisville down the stretch could go a long way for Wake.

The final team, the one of these eight that I have furthest away, was Team E, otherwise known as Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets just recently got themselves onto the bubble with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame (all at home). They still have a ton of work to do though, and unfortunately, they don’t have any marquee games left to help them out. A trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame again at the end of February is the biggest resume-builder left for Josh Pastner’s team.

I had a lot of fun doing this, and I hope everybody that stuck with it did as well! And I more importantly hope I opened your eyes a little bit to the process of selecting at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament. It’ll be interesting to see come March 12 where these eight teams wind up. If enough of you enjoy this, I’ll be sure to do it a couple more times leading up to the Tourney!

 

CBB Top-25: 2/6/17

Yes, this is a college basketball post, but I want to start it off with some of my thoughts from last night’s Super Bowl 51:

  • What a football game. That was without question the best football game that I have ever watched live from start to finish, all circumstances considered. We’ll be talking about that game for a very long time.
  • For my money, that was the biggest choke job in the history of sports. Yes, that includes Bill Buckner. That includes the Warriors last season. That includes the myriad of blown 3-0 leads in basketball, hockey and baseball. All factors considered, blowing a 25-point 3rd Quarter lead in the Super Bowl, and the way it happened, the 2016-17 Atlanta Falcons will now be known, to me, as the biggest choke artists in sports history.
  • Finally, despite the incredible choke job, there is now no doubt in my mind that Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach in NFL history and Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the history of the league. I was one of the few remaining people that wasn’t ready to crown either of them with those respective honors, but last night sealed it. I always thought Brady’s success was mostly due to Belichick and Belichick’s success was mostly due to Brady, but even if that’s the case, you can’t deny that they are each the best of all time anymore. You just can’t do it.

Alright, football season is over now, time to turn your undivided attention to college basketball, and to start it off, here is this week’s Top-25!

 

  1. Northwestern (Prev: 20)

There aren’t many teams that go into Purdue and win. That’s why it’s not that surprising to find out that the Wildcats went in there and got smoked, 80-59. Northwestern will get a chance for revenge when they host the Boilermakers to close the regular season, but in the meantime, they’ll get another chance for a massive road win when they take on Wisconsin this Sunday.

This Week: Tue 2/7 vs Illinois (8:00 pm, BTN); Sun 2/12 @ Wisconsin (6:30 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Oklahoma State (Prev: NR)

What a strange season it’s been for the Cowboys. They have now won five straight games after losing six in a row to open Big 12 play. That includes a win at West Virginia on Saturday, a signature victory to add to a resume that was sorely lacking one. Oklahoma State is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, and I hope they’ll get a chance to light up the scoreboard in the Big Dance.

This Week: Wed 2/8 vs Baylor (7:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/11 vs Texas (4:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Creighton (Prev: 25)

The Bluejays are playing better than I thought they would without point guard Maurice Watson. They got a huge victory at Butler last week before suffering a somewhat disappointing home loss to Xavier on Saturday. The road win against Butler helps to prove why Creighton still has a very good chance to take the Big East title from Villanova.

This Week: Sat 2/11 @ DePaul (2:00 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Duke (Prev: 24)

A great road win over Notre Dame followed by a victory over Pitt in Coach K’s return to the sidelines. It was a good week for the Blue Devils. They haven’t had many of those this season. They’ll need all the momentum they can get though, as they host their bitter rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, this Thursday. A win in that game could vault Duke up most rankings.

This Week: Thu 2/9 vs North Carolina (8:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/11 vs Clemson (1:00 pm, ESPN3)

 

  1. South Carolina (Prev: 21)

The Gamecocks continued to roll with wins over LSU and Georgia this past week, and they will need to keep winning games. A road game against Florida a couple weeks is really the only big chance in the regular season for SC to improve their resume. So they’ll definitely need to keep beating the teams that they should beat. I think they will.

This Week: Tue 2/7 vs Alabama (6:30 pm, SECN); Sat 2/11 @ Mississippi State (8:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. SMU (Prev: NR)

I kind of overlooked the Mustangs the last couple of weeks, but a two point road loss to AAC-leading Cincinnati is the only loss in the last 17 games for SMU. Sometimes it doesn’t matter as much who you beat, but how many wins you accumulate. The American is not strong this season, but it’s strong enough that a 20-4 team playing in that conference is probably one of the 25 best teams in the nation. They get a chance for revenge when they host Cincy on Sunday.

This Week: Thu 2/9 @ Temple (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sun 2/12 vs Cincinnati (4:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Florida (Prev: 23)

The Gators punked Kentucky on Saturday, winning by 22 points, the biggest margin of defeat for the Wildcats under John Calipari. It was an extremely impressive victory, but Florida has to avoid a letdown when they travel to Athens on Tuesday night. The eye test has not been great for Florida so far (other than Saturday), but the advanced analysts love them. We’ll see if they can continue to backup that standing.

This Week: Tue 2/7 @ Georgia (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/11 vs Texas A&M (12:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Saint Mary’s (Prev: 18)

The Gaels are avoiding any slip-ups against the weak West Coast Conference, and they are just one game away from their massive home game with undefeated Gonzaga. They were extremely disappointed at their performance the first time they took on the Zags, so on Saturday night on national TV in primetime, I’ll bet they’ll be more than ready to go.

This Week: Thu 2/9 vs Portland (10:00 pm); Sat 2/11 vs Gonzaga (8:15 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Butler (Prev: 15)

The Bulldogs only had one chance to impress me last week, and they lost at home to Creighton. I wasn’t impressed, but Creighton is a great team, so I gave Butler a pass for the most part. But they have to regroup this week, as they face two tricky road tests against Marquette and Providence. This team is safely in the Tournament for now, but winning both those games will help for sure.

This Week: Tue 2/7 @ Marquette (9:00 pm, CBSSN); Sat 2/11 @ Providence (4:00 pm, CBSSN)

 

  1. Virginia (Prev: 13)

Syracuse just doesn’t lose at home in ACC play I guess. I would not have expected a team as good as Virginia to fall to them, but they did. Luckily for the Cavaliers, they get a quick turnaround as they host Top-5 Louisville tonight. I’ll call it right here right now, Virginia will win tonight. Now go prove me right!

This Week: Mon 2/6 vs Louisville (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sun 2/12 @ Virginia Tech (6:30 pm, ESPNU)

 

  1. Wisconsin (Prev: 17)

It has not been very pretty lately for the Badgers, but they just continue to win games. Indiana gave them a battle yesterday, but they were able to come out on top. Rutgers and Minnesota each took them to overtime recently as well, but in the end, Wisconsin has been on the winning end. Can Nebraska or Northwestern topple them this week? I guess we’ll find out.

This Week: Thu 2/9 @ Nebraska (9:00 pm, BTN); Sun 2/12 vs Northwestern (6:30 pm, BTN)

 

  1. West Virginia (Prev: 12)

Is West Virginia the most inconsistent team in college basketball this year? I say yes. They have wins over Virginia, Baylor and Kansas, and losses to Temple, Oklahoma (at home) and Oklahoma State (also at home). This week they get Oklahoma and Kansas State, two teams that knocked them off the first time around. They should be able to get revenge on both, but anything can happen!

This Week: Wed 2/8 @ Oklahoma (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/11 vs Kansas State (12:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Purdue (Prev: 16)

Purdue already has three losses in Big Ten play, but they had two extremely impressive wins this past week, as they dominated Northwestern and went into Maryland and stole one from the Terrapins. They’ll have a tricky one this week when they head to Assembly Hall to take on the reeling Indiana Hoosiers.

This Week: Thu 2/9 @ Indiana (7:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Cincinnati (Prev: 14)

Don’t look now, but Cincinnati is legit. They are 21-2 and one of those losses is at Butler, which is nothing to hang your head over. Mick Cronin has had a lot of great players over the years, but this might be his best complete team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a long run in the Tournament this season.

This Week: Wed 2/8 vs UCF (9:00 pm, ESPNU); Sun 2/12 @ SMU (4:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Kentucky (Prev: 5)

It’s been a rough couple weeks for Kentucky. The home loss to Kansas, surviving in overtime at home against Georgia and then getting embarrassed on Saturday by Florida. Luckily for them, they get a home meeting with LSU this week, and it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the struggling Wildcats. They’ll be fine, but they need to figure some stuff out, sooner rather than later.

This Week: Tue 2/7 vs LSU (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/11 @ Alabama (1:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. UCLA (Prev: 11)

The Washington trip was no problem for the Bruins, as they easily disposed of both the Cougars and the Huskies. It was a nice, easy lead-in for their massive home game with Oregon this week. It seems like forever ago that UCLA went to Rupp Arena and knocked off Kentucky. As the Wildcats struggle, that win doesn’t look as great, so they could use a win over a team like Oregon.

This Week: Thu 2/9 vs Oregon (10:00 pm, ESPN); Sun 2/12 vs Oregon State (5:00 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Arizona (Prev: 6)

Speaking of Oregon, Arizona can tell UCLA how difficult they are to beat. The Ducks wiped the floor with the Wildcats on Saturday, 85-58. It’s no need for fans to panic, as that snapped a 15-game winning streak for Arizona, so they are going to be just fine. They’ll host Cal and Stanford this week, and should beat both to get right back on track.

This Week: Wed 2/8 vs Stanford (11:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/11 vs California (10:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Baylor (Prev: 4)

It was a tough week for the Bears. They played great at Kansas, but just couldn’t finish off the victory. Unfortunately for them, they suffered a brutal hangover, losing at home to Kansas State on Saturday. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for them either, as they head to Stillwater on Wednesday to take on the red-hot Oklahoma State Cowboys. They could really use a win in that game.

This Week: Wed 2/8 @ Oklahoma State (7:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/11 vs TCU (2:00 pm, ESPNU)

 

  1. Oregon (Prev: 10)

After surviving the Arizona State upset attempt, the Ducks shot the lights out en route to a dominating victory over Arizona. They’ll look for back-to-back massive victories on Thursday night when they travel to LA to take on the Bruins. A win at UCLA could propel Oregon towards the top line of the bracket for a lot of experts.

This Week: Thu 2/9 @ UCLA (10:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/11 @ USC (10:30 pm, P12N)

 

  1. North Carolina (Prev: 9)

The Tar Heels are one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won nine of their last ten, including wins this past week over Pitt and Notre Dame. UNC has a claim for being the best team in the ACC, and they can improve that claim with a win over hated rivals Duke this Thursday night. Most of America will be tuning in, and the Tar Heels can make a huge impression if they play well.

This Week: Thu 2/9 @ Duke (8:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Florida State (Prev: 8)

I told you all last week that Florida State would be fine, and they proved me right with a road win against Miami and a dominating performance yesterday against Clemson, winning 109-61. They’ll have another big road game next weekend when they head to South Bend to take on the struggling Fighting Irish. ND will be desperate for a big win, so the Seminoles will have to be at their best.

This Week: Wed 2/8 vs NC State (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/11 @ Notre Dame (6:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Louisville (Prev: 7)

The Cardinals are the best team in the ACC right now in my opinion, but this week will put them to the test. They head to Virginia tonight, and key pieces Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel were suspended for the game for missing curfew. After that game, they’ll return home Saturday to take on a solid Miami team that could use a signature win. This team could be even higher in my rankings next week, or they could be a whole lot lower.

This Week: Mon 2/6 @ Virginia (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/11 vs Miami FL (2:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Kansas (Prev: 2)

Well, the Jayhawks survived the tough test from Baylor, but on Saturday, their 54-game home winning streak was snapped in overtime by the Iowa State Cyclones. It was a classic letdown game, but I thought Kansas would be good enough to avoid that. They have no time to feel bad about it though, with a road game against rival Kansas State on tap tonight. The Wildcats were screwed in their first meeting against Kansas, so they’ll be hungry for revenge.

This Week: Mon 2/6 @ Kansas State (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/11 @ Texas Tech (2:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Villanova (Prev: 3)

Nova took care of business this past week with wins at Providence and at home against St. John’s. A pretty ho-hum week for the defending National Champs. It’ll be a little tougher for them this week as they host Georgetown Tuesday, then head to Xavier on Saturday, the first of three straight road games for the Cats. They have a claim to the top spot for sure, and I can’t remember the last time a team had this good a chance to repeat as National Champions.

This Week: Tue 2/7 vs Georgetown (7:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/11 @ Xavier (2:30 pm, FOX)

 

  1. Gonzaga (Prev: 1)

The only undefeated team remaining also remains on the top of my rankings, but that could very easily change come next week. Some thought BYU could give the Zags some problems on Thursday night, but the Bulldogs easily handled their business. The biggest game left on their schedule comes up this Saturday when they travel to take on Saint Mary’s. If they get past the Gaels, there’s no reason they can’t finish the regular season undefeated.

This Week: Thu 2/9 @ Loyola Marymount (10:00 pm); Sat 2/11 @ Saint Mary’s (8:15 pm, ESPN)