I've been posting lazy bi-weekly updates at brackonomics.blogspot.com (since I don't feel the need to make it fancy and dress it up there), but it's time to get SUPER SERIOUS about this gang. Most bubble candidates have one more regular season game left + tournaments, meaning the opportunities for differentiation are few - magnifying the impact of, say, winning @ Wisconsin. Here's where I'm at as of Friday afternoon, 3/3:
Bracketing Note: Had to shift Michigan down to a 10 seed (swapped with Arkansas) due to the glut of barf mediocrity in the Big 10 - 5 teams in the 8/9 range just doesn't work.
Thoughts heading into the weekend:
1. I enjoy picking Final Fours from my fake brackets, so how about this: Louisville, Arizona, Villanova, Gonzaga. (Cue my loyal readers saying "Hey Jim, that's the same Final Four you picked on Feb. 17th!" Yes it is! Zona is the one I feel the worst about...I'll take the IRISH as my second choice there).
2. As stated in the bracketing note, the Big Ten just continues to jumble itself. Iowa and Illinois are suddenly bubble-resurgent, while Wisconsin has somewhere between the third- and seventh-best resume in the conference. I'm pretty angry at the Badgers as a homer fan.
3. Marquette's stabilization has bumped them up the bracket. Their RPI is much healthier now (59th is palatable), and their outrageous efficiency on offense seems like it could be scary in the first round.
4. Butler sneaks onto the 2 line! They barely pass Louisville and Florida (who Lukas Harkins - @hardwiredsports on Twitter - noted are very even). This is hugely significant for the Bulldogs, as finishing ahead of either Kentucky or Louisville would likely earn them a spot in Indianapolis for the first two rounds (they aren't the host and haven't played home games in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, so they're eligible to play there).
5. I treated Illinois State as the auto-bid in the MVC due to them earning the 1-seed at Arch Madness over Wichita State. Hilariously, the tiebreaker there is the better RPI. This is going to get interesting with one of them guaranteed another loss though (preferably against each other).
6. Last thing, some notes on the bubble: Kansas State's resume is by no means a standout, but their two best wins both being on the road matters (@Baylor, @Oklahoma St). Vanderbilt continues to profit from their outrageously strong schedule numbers, though beating Florida this weekend is pretty massive. Xavier is barely clinging on for dear life, and I would advise strongly against dropping a game against DePaul, either to close the regular season or in the Big East Tournament. A lot of people have USC closer to the cutline than I do, and I don't have a huge issue with that - I think their undefeated non-conference performance will still carry weight though (mediocre NC SOS of 168). Seton Hall and Providence are floating very close together, and like Xavier, need to avoid bad losses (or yet another bad loss, in the Friars' case). California's big selling point was the eye test, but then Utah savagely beat them into the ground late Thursday night. Wake Forest finally got a big win, but they've still done nothing on the road, and I want to see them get the @VT win this weekend or a solid ACC Tournament win on a neutral before I move them in. Georgia Tech has the big home wins (plus at VCU), and that's basically it for their entire resume.
Okay, that's all I have for now. Let's watch some HOOPS this weekend!