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Bracketology: Kansas Jayhawks’ road to a No. 1 seed is, well, on the road

Perry Ellis and the Jayhawks may be lifting off, even if head coach Bill Self wasn’t happy with their recent efforts. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bill Self wasn’t particularly happy last night.

He thought his Kansas basketball team was soft in a 77-59 defeat of Kansas State and was particularly irked at a last-second uncontested dunk.

Those complaints aside, he can’t be too upset with the big picture. His Jayhawks are 18-4, a game out of first place in the Big 12 at the midpoint of league play and very much in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in another five weeks.

But if there’s a hole in the resume of a team that’s beaten Baylor, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas, it is road success — or, more to the point, quality road success.

Big East could be a beast. Or wildly overrated.

Little could Self and the Jayhawks have known in November that their Maui Invitational victories over UCLA and Vanderbilt wouldn’t retain as much value as anticipated. Yet in four Big 12 road games, Kansas owns three losses by double-digit margins (Iowa State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia).

For now, the Jayhawks’ gaudy victories provide a solid case for a top seed. Nonetheless, five of their last nine Big 12 games are on the road, and trips to Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas loom before the end of the month. Those games will go a long way in settling the seeding question for Kansas.


Note: Projected automatic bids preceded by conference in all-caps.


Oklahoma City

(1) BIG 12/Oklahoma vs. (16) BIG SOUTH/UNC Asheville-SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Texas Southern
(8) Michigan vs. (9) South Carolina

Providence, R.I.

(5) Dayton vs. (12) Butler/Cincinnati
(4) Miami vs. (13) SUN BELT/Arkansas-Little Rock

Spokane, Wash.

(3) PAC-12/Oregon vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Irvine
(6) Duke vs. (11) Saint Joseph’s

Des Moines, Iowa

(7) Providence vs. (10) MOUNTAIN WEST/San Diego State
(2) Michigan State vs. (15) SOUTHLAND/Stephen F. Austin

Regional breakdown: Oklahoma remains the top overall seed, and it’s tough to argue with the Sooners’ placement there. … It’s Feb. 4 and South Carolina has yet to play a top-50 RPI team.  It is 2-0 against the KenPom top 50 (Clemson and Vanderbilt). … Dayton against a former Atlantic 10 school (Butler) or nearby Cincinnati sounds like a fantastic 5/12 game. … Miami’s now 6-1 against the RPI top 50, with five of the victories coming in Coral Gables. …

A quality under-the-radar home-and-home coming up this month: UC Irvine and Hawaii in the Big West. They’ll meet Feb. 11 in Honolulu and Feb. 20 on the mainland. … Before Saint Joseph’s lost last night, Monmouth was slotted as the 11 in this bracket. Just imagine the run-up to a Duke-Monmouth game. … Providence-San Diego State would be a diabolically good 7/10 game, but the Aztecs are going to move up as they continue to plow through the Mountain West. … Stephen F. Austin is the last unbeaten standing in the Southland.


St. Louis

(1) Kansas vs. (16) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(8) MISSOURI VALLEY/Wichita State vs. (9) California

Spokane, Wash.

(5) Purdue vs. (12) SOUTHERN/Chattanooga
(4) Louisville vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Stony Brook


(3) Utah vs. (14) MID-AMERICAN/Akron
(6) Florida vs. (11) Syracuse

St. Louis

(7) Indiana vs. (10) Florida State
(2) Xavier vs. (15) BIG SKY/Montana

Regional breakdown: Kansas has one victory away from Allen Fieldhouse against a probable NCAA tournament team at the moment (San Diego State), just another shred of evidence the top of the field isn’t as good as usual. … Speaking of shaky road teams, California is 1-8 away from Berkeley and is tough to slot worse than a No. 9 seed. The drop-off in that area of the bracket is severe. …

There’s a case to be made both Louisville and Purdue are better than their projected seeding. It’s just a matter of earning it, which both of them very easily could. … If Utah lands a No. 4 seed or better, it’s hard to see it getting sent anywhere but Denver. … Three wins in six days did wonders for Syracuse, which is now 4-4 against the top 50, 5-5 away from the Carrier Dome and has only one unexplainable loss (St. John’s).  …

Indiana/Florida State would’ve been a “first-to-100-wins” sort of game in November. Now, with the Hoosiers actually defending, it’d be a different story. … There’s a solid case for Xavier as the fourth No. 1 seed over Kansas, though it’s far too early to have serious arguments over something like that.


Des Moines, Iowa

(1) BIG TEN/Iowa vs. (16) PATRIOT/Bucknell-NORTHEAST/Wagner
(8) Notre Dame vs. (9) ATLANTIC 10/Virginia Commonwealth


(5) Southern California vs. (12) Gonzaga
(4) Iowa State vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State

Oklahoma City

(6) Baylor vs. (11) AMERICAN/Connecticut

Raleigh, N.C.

(7) Arizona vs. (10) METRO ATLANTIC/Monmouth
(2) Virginia vs. (15) ATLANTIC SUN/North Florida

Regional breakdown: It’s going to take some upsets elsewhere to keep the Northeast and Patriot champions out of Dayton for the First Four games. … Virginia Commonwealth probably won’t have much heft on its resume, but it is filling up on quantity. The Rams have won 12 in a row, including nine in A-10 play. … Mark it down: Gonzaga is in real danger of missing the tournament for the first time this century. … South Dakota State is a capable offensive team, and it would have a chance to keep up with Iowa State in a hypothetical round of 64 matchup. …

Texas A&M stomped Baylor by 19 in December, though that was in College Station. If the committee now permits some conference rematches in the round of 32, it won’t try too hard to avoid a non-conference rematch like that. … Unless it just dominates the second half of Pac-12 play, Arizona could have anyone guessing. The analytics like the Wildcats much more than traditional RPI measures, making them tricky to slot in the bracket. … Virginia would love a return to Raleigh, where it won two NCAA tournament games in 2014.



(1) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Hampton
(8) Pittsburgh vs. (9) Saint Mary’s

Providence, R.I.

(5) Texas vs. (12) HORIZON/Valparaiso
(4) Maryland vs. (13) COLONIAL/Hofstra


(3) West Virginia vs. (14) IVY/Yale
(6) Kentucky vs. (11) George Washington/Washington

Raleigh, N.C.

(7) Colorado vs. (10) Seton Hall
(2) ATLANTIC COAST/North Carolina vs. (15) OHIO VALLEY/Belmont

Regional breakdown: There might not be a more coveted potential travel itinerary for any school than Villanova’s potential Final Four path through Brooklyn and Philadelphia. … Both Pittsburgh and Saint Mary’s rank in the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency, per That would be a fun 8/9 game. … As well as Texas has played, it would still be vulnerable to a 5/12 upset against Valparaiso. … Maryland checks in as the top No. 4 seed in this projection, but stands a good chance to improve its profile Saturday against Purdue. …

West Virginia would probably like a crack at Kentucky in March for the second consecutive year. … North Carolina started a stretch Monday of facing eight projected tournament teams in its final 10 regular season games. Much of the Tar Heels’ profile will be built in the next month. … It’s the time of truth for Seton Hall. Last year, it was 15-6 (5-4 Big East) and lost nine of its last 10. The Pirates (16-6, 6-4) appear far better equipped to avoid a freefall this time around.

Last four included: Washington, Cincinnati, George Washington, Butler
Four that just missed: Clemson, Texas Tech, Georgetown, Louisiana State
Next four that just missed: Wisconsin, Brigham Young, Stanford, UCLA
Four after that: Kansas State, Tulsa, Oregon State, Vanderbilt

Conference call: Atlantic Coast (9), Pac-12 (7), Big Ten (6), Big 12 (6), Big East (5), Atlantic 10 (4), Southeastern (4), American Athletic (2), West Coast (2)

Moving in: Montana, South Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin, Syracuse, Wagner, Yale
Moving out: Mount St. Mary’s, Nebraska-Omaha, Princeton, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas Tech, Weber State