BracketEliminators: Yet another weekend of carnage for mid-majors
The Big 12 is the most confounding high-major league left in the nation
The top nine teams in the Big East are all clearly going to make it
After being left for dead, Butler and Gonzaga are suddenly right back in the mix
In the classic 1983 film WarGames, the WOPR computer learns after numerous iterations of Global Thermonuclear War that "the best move is not to play." So when are mid-majors going to learn that lesson?
Another year of BracketEliminators has come and gone and the carnage left behind looks familiar. The Missouri Valley's dreams of an at-large? Wiped out in 24 hours when Wichita State, Missouri State and Northern Iowa all lost, two at home. Saint Mary's at-large safety net? Torn by desperate Utah State, which still isn't assured of its own safety despite an impressive road rally. Horizon leader Cleveland State? Well, the Vikings did need to try to get a quality win, but couldn't do it at Old Dominion.
Besides the Colonial Athletic Association, which is rolling toward a landmark three-bid season after all of its top teams notched important wins, you know who else is laughing? Butler, Gonzaga and a host of other middling high-major teams that watched as a handful of bubble competitors ate a crippling loss. You know, the teams that didn't play in the event.
Scheduling is difficult at this level and the enticement of national TV time and a next-season rematch is significant, but year after year, seemingly more harm than good is done to the marquee teams that participate. A full weekend of good, quality mid-major basketball may be good for us viewers, but it sure doesn't seem like smart business for those involved.
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
BL = bad losses
(N) = neutral-site game
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Duke was a primary beneficiary of the nationwide upset parade, slipping into a No. 1 seed in this week's bracket. Carolina continues to improve and is working its way into protected-seed classification. Florida State remains the third team in, but will have to continue to prove itself sans Chris Singleton. After that? Yikes.
SHOULD BE IN
Florida State (19-7, 9-3; RPI: 50, SOS: 99)
If the media mock selection event is any indicator of committee sentiment, FSU will be a heavily debated team without a healthy Chris Singleton. The 'Noles took a nice first step by pouring 84 points on helpless Wake Forest and need to continue to show a level of competence without their best player. The 'Noles' schedule is soft, though, so they'll need to keep impressing. The debate likely will be more about seeding than selection, but you can never be too careful making a good new impression.
GW: Duke, Baylor (N)?
BL: at Auburn
IN THE MIX
Boston College (16-10, 6-6; RPI: 45, SOS: 18)
The Eagles had a late three at UNC rim out and cost them what would have been a huge road win. BC's profile remains very marginal, so the Eagles may need a 3-1 mark to feel decent about their chances heading into what should be a feisty ACC tournament. That starts this week vs. Miami and at UVa.
GW: Texas A&M (N), plus a so-so collection of Cal (N) and at Maryland and South Carolina
BL: Yale, Harvard
Virginia Tech (17-8, 7-5; RPI: 64, SOS: 93)
Seth Greenberg's crew is trying its best to keep the coach's Selection Sunday rant streak alive. After handling Maryland to notch a sweep of the Terps, Tech lost for a second time this season to Virginia -- a very costly blunder. If the Hokies can't beat Duke on Saturday, they need to take the other three to get to 10 wins and maybe some standings separation. This is going to be very close again, it seems.
GW: OK State (N)?, Penn State?
BL: Virginia (2x), at Georgia Tech
Clemson (18-9, 7-6; RPI: 73, SOS: 91)
The Tigers got out of Miami with a win, but losing at N.C. State earlier in the week was a blow. The quality wins just aren't there to think 9-7 (with a loss at Duke on March 2) will be enough without major ACC tournament work.
GW: at College of Charleston?, plus BC and FSU at home
BL: at Virginia, at N.C. State
Maryland (17-10, 6-6; RPI: 86, SOS: 81)
After losing at Virginia Tech last week, the Terps are basically in run-the-table mode to have a shot. If they get to 10-6 with wins over Florida State and at UNC, they'd be in the conversation. Decent team, no quality wins at all at this point.
GW: at Penn State (by 23)?
BL: Swept by Virginia Tech and BC.
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M
Both Big 12 heavyweights took unexpected road body blows and the race for No. 1 seeds in the NCAAs has gotten very muddled. Equally confusing is the middle of this league for at-large purposes. It's the most variable high-major league left in the nation. Texas A&M joins the lock fun after squeaking past Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Even somehow losing out now probably wouldn't knock them out of the Dance.
SHOULD BE IN
Missouri (20-6, 7-5; RPI: 28, SOS: 64)
The Tigers got a league road win at Iowa State and are closing in on lockdom. Remaining schedule is very tough, though, so we'll wait at least another week to close the book. Home to Baylor and then at Kansas State this week should be two more solid tests.
GW: Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, vs. Illinois?, K-State?
BL: None, really
IN THE MIX
Kansas State (17-9, 6-6; RPI: 31, SOS: 11)
Now that's how you do it. Everyone else is losing and you're routing No. 1 and then backing it up with another easy win. Now the Wildcats need to back it up at Nebraska and vs. Missouri this week and we can see where things stand.
GW: Kansas, Gonzaga (N)?, at Washington State?
BL: None, really. Swept by Colorado for bubble comparison purposes.
Nebraska (18-8, 6-6; RPI: 63, SOS: 80)
I'll ignore the last two sketchy minutes of the Texas upset and focus on the first 38, when the Huskers were excellent. Now armed with two high-quality home wins (to offset two sub-100 losses), the Huskers are in better shape than expected as teams continue to lose around them. The schedule is very manageable, with K-State and Mizzou still to come to Lincoln. Interesting situation developing.
GW: Texas, Texas A&M
BL: at Texas Tech, Davidson (N)
Baylor (16-9, 6-6; RPI: 78, SOS: 70)
The Bears had some momentum, but then some strange scheduling had them play a non-DI and they lost at home to Texas Tech -- a very bad week. With their complete lack of nonleague chops, wins in at least three of the last four (at Mizzou, A&M, at OK State, Texas) now look necessary. Good luck.
GW: at Texas A&M
BL: at Iowa State (by 15), at Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Colorado (15-11, 5-7; RPI: 93, SOS: 74)
The Buffaloes had a week to prep for a trip to Kansas. Didn't matter. Now they likely need to win their last four league games to have a legit chance. It's not impossible if they can get the home upset of Texas.
GW: Missouri, Colorado State (for bubble)?, sweep of Kansas State
BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State (16-10, 4-8; RPI: 59, SOS: 47)
I'll leave the Pokes here for one more week. If they somehow win at Kansas tonight, the final three are very winnable and they would have enough good wins to be considered at 8-8.
GW: Missouri, Shorthanded K-State?, Missouri State?
BL: at Texas Tech
Locks: Pitt, Villanova, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, St. John's, Syracuse, West Virginia
Time to conserve paper. The top nine teams in the Big East are all clearly going dancing. Now can Cincinnati and/or Marquette make it 10 or 11? Pitt is the best candidate for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but is the going too tough for anyone to hold on as teams in other conferences may run the table?
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Cincinnati (21-6, 8-6; RPI: 40, SOS: 94)
Big bounceback week for the Bearcats, who beat Louisville at home and then won at Providence. Now things get very sticky, with a home-and-home against Georgetown, a visit from UConn and a trip to Marquette left. Due to a mostly weak nonleague slate, there's more work to be done. A split may be enough, though.
GW: Louisville, Xavier, at St. John's, Dayton (by 34)?
Marquette (16-11, 7-7; RPI: 68, SOS: 34)
TBW fans, the moment has come. After two years of a long-distance online relationship, we're going to meet. Thursday night in Hartford. Wear something nice. Love, me. P.S. You really could use this win.
GW: A trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse)
BL: None, but 11 of them.
SI Now Live Friday December 20, 2013
SI Now: Olympians on Liberty Mutual, gearing up for Sochi