Welcome back! Work is a pain the ass, so I apologize for the delay between editions. But let's focus on the hoops...
First, the bracket update for 2-19-16:
And the full S-Curve:
Xavier is the only team off the one line that’s close to moving up, in my opinion – Miami and Kentucky are a bit below. The Musketeers just lack an elite Kenpom rating (and top-end wins aren’t quite as strong). Beating Villanova next Wednesday would change that very quickly.
The Big Ten is really taking a hit, as the elites Iowa and Maryland both lost at cellar dwellers this week. The Terrapins and the Tar Heels of North Carolina are both really riding record and reputation as elite teams/high seeds, because honestly, their wins just aren’t as impressive as other top squads. Outright conference titles would help, despite the unbalanced schedules.
Duke actually has an argument to be higher – after raising some concerns with 4 losses in 5 games in mid-January with a challenging slate ahead, the Devils have instead leapt up the S-Curve with wins over Louisville, Virginia (controversially), and at UNC.
Despite being a 4 seed, Notre Dame sits in a region with another top ACC team (3 seed UNC) – that’s because ND is actually the 5th-ranked ACC team on the seed list, and it’s unavoidable.
The 5-6 lines are littered with Pac 12 teams, as Arizona, USC, Utah, and Cal all sit in that range. Cal’s lack of wins outside of Berkeley hold them back comparatively – as noted by @BracketMarch, they’ve only won games in 3 places this year – Berkeley, Laramie, and now Seattle, as of last night.
After spending a lot of time in the top-16 area earlier this year, Texas A&M and Providence have tumbled to the 7 line. If they can right the ship as the season ends, though, they have the potential to slingshot back up a bit.
Indiana currently holds the Big Ten auto-bid due to its home win over Iowa, and that brings up an interesting point – the amount of auto-bids currently held by teams that wouldn’t make the tournament without it. This limits the number of “bid stealers” that are possible, since I don’t think – at this point, at least – that Gonzaga, Temple, Wichita St, or San Diego St could survive a bad loss in their respective conference tournaments. Monmouth would be awfully close to the cut line if you added in another sub-200 loss, though I admittedly will lean towards teams who scheduled well and played well against that schedule.
Shout out to my Mizzou Tigers for their appearance on a team’s “bad loss” ledger after knocking off South Carolina! And a shout to friend of the site Ryan Rosburg for turning into Baby Shaq over the past 2 weeks.
Wisconsin’s win at Maryland has them up in the safer part of the bubble, despite the early season bad losses. Oregon St has kind of a “Cal Lite” resume, with not a ton done outside of Corvallis, but strong numbers and home wins keep them in the field. Pittsburgh just continues to not beat good teams, but road wins at Syracuse and Notre Dame are strong enough with no bad losses really in the mix (after BARELY surviving Wake Forest).
The next 8 or so teams could really be put in any order. Seton Hall has some good road wins and a nice Wichita St nonconference win, but their NC SOS is garbage (a committee favorite). Michigan has fantastic top-end wins, but only 4 total wins of the top-100 variety. Butler did great work away from home in the nonconference (won at Cincy, Purdue on a neutral) and lacks bad losses, but their NC SOS is also not good.
I wish I could consider Clemson more, but their computer numbers (RPI 89, SOS 104, NCSOS a hideous 337) just aren’t in the realistic range of getting an at-large bid. LSU inches closer and closer (despite a home loss to Alabama), and I completely buy the conspiracy that BEN SIMMONS FEVER! will likely get them nudged into the field (like UCLA last year).
After writing about Saint Mary’s (find it here), I would be bummed if they didn’t make the field. I’ll be rooting for the Gaels in the WCC tournament.
Speaking of UCLA, go away Alford family, and take your 14-12 record with you.