This Week's Bracket
Big 12 (7)
Big Ten (6)
Big East (6)
Mountain West (2)
Missouri Valley (2)
Conference USA (2)
Although there was no change to the one seed line this week, the top of the bracket is becoming more cluttered every night. Kentucky and Virginia are the clear frontrunners, but two teams on the two line are rapidly closing the gap on Gonzaga and Duke.
Wisconsin is 18-2 and leading the Big Ten at 6-1. The Badgers lost to Duke in early December (which did not knock them off the one line at the time) but suffered a head scratching loss at Rutgers in January, one of the worst losses from a team near the top of the field so far this year. However, Wisconsin was without All-American Frank Kaminsky for the Rutgers loss and have earned some benefit of the doubt since then.
When a team is being analyzed for seeding in the tournament, any games they may have played without a key player are taken into account. If the team in question looks as good as (or better than) they were before the player’s injury upon their return, the games without said player will carry far less weight. That is definitely the case with Wisconsin.
Since Kaminsky’s return, Wisconsin beat a quality Nebraska team by 15, absolutely dismantled Iowa and pulled out a hard-fought overtime victory at Michigan. These Badgers have looked like the power we thought they would be in the preseason, and they are currently operating without senior (and three-year starter) point guard Traevon Jackson (ankle/foot injury). Wisconsin is ready to reclaim a top seed if someone ahead of them falls, but if they keep up this level of play with Jackson out, they just might end up knocking someone off the one line on its own.
Kansas is another team quietly putting together a highly impressive season. Their résumé is scarred by a blowout loss to Kentucky and a perplexing 25-point loss at Temple, but consider this list of win: Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida, Georgetown, Utah, UNLV, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas. Every single team in that list has been in the projected field at some point this season. One could make a case against pretty much any team in America based on who they’ve lost to, but at the end of the day the question remains: Who did you beat? Kansas can answer that question in a resounding manner. If they keep it up, those losses look less and less important.
On the other side of the résumé spectrum lies a team with a gaudy record but rather uninspiring profile: Notre Dame. While the Irish are 19-2, their bracket stock is not as strong as their national ranking may suggest. Their best wins are Michigan State at home (which looked better at the time than it does now), and at North Carolina, which is impossible to discredit.
Outside of that, Purdue? Florida State? North Carolina State? There is no denying the Irish are a quality team that will, in all likelihood, end up in the top 25 percent of the field, but a thorough analysis of their complete body of work is not as impressive as the public perception makes it out to be. To be fair, they still have two cracks at Duke remaining, so there is no reason they can’t move up. But when compared to who currently sits ahead of them, there is a gap with regard to overall schedule strength.
This weekend offers another great slate of games. Among the highlights: Duke at Virginia, North Carolina at Louisville, Wichita State at Northern Iowa and Texas at Baylor. Check back next week to see how these games affect the tournament field.
First Four Out: Davidson, Syrcause, Tennessee, BYU
New to the Field
Left the Field