Kentucky made the most notable jump in this week’s bracket projection, seizing a spot on the top line as a result of its 86-69 defeat of Tennessee.
And that came after the Wildcats lost at home to LSU, which had a jump of its own to the No. 4 line thanks to the victory in Lexington.
Kentucky owns four Quadrant 1 road triumphs (Auburn, Florida, Louisville and Mississippi State), as well as the Tennessee rout and a neutral-site defeat of North Carolina. That’s a pretty strong résumé at the top for a team that just keeps getting better.
Does it surpass Gonzaga’s? Probably, although that would be a fun matchup to see. The Bulldogs just aren’t going to get much help from their West Coast Conference schedule, even with three league foes (Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and BYU) in the top 100 of the NET rankings and another (San Diego) knocking on the door.
Is it better than Virginia’s? Not yet, especially since the Cavaliers have handled everyone not named Duke that has been thrown at them so far.
But the Wildcats are coming, as Saturday demonstrated. Now that they’re on the projected top line, it’s easy to imagine them staying there through Selection Sunday.
Last four included: Florida, Arizona State, Nebraska, Central Florida
First four on the outside: Alabama, Temple, Indiana, Utah State
Next four on the outside: Furman, UNC Greensboro, Saint Mary’s, Liberty
Moving in: Florida, Nebraska, Saint Francis (Pa.)
Moving out: Alabama, Indiana, Robert Morris
Conference call: Big Ten (9), ACC (9), Big 12 (8), SEC (7), Big East (5), American (3), Pac-12 (2)
East Region vs. West, South vs. Midwest
Note: The projection has been updated to reflect TCU’s loss to Oklahoma State on Monday night, with TCU and Oklahoma swapping places.
(1) ACC/Duke vs. winner of (16) METRO ATLANTIC/Quinnipiac vs. NORTHEAST/Saint Francis (Pa.)
(8) Auburn vs. (9) Oklahoma
(5) BIG 12/Kansas State vs. (12) ATLANTIC SUN/Lipscomb
(4) MOUNTAIN WEST/Nevada vs. (13) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(3) Kansas vs. (14) SUN BELT/Texas State
(6) Villanova vs. (11) Florida-Nebraska winner
(7) Mississippi vs. (10) Syracuse
(2) Michigan vs. (15) HORIZON/Northern Kentucky
Whoever wins the Northeast Conference tournament — Saint Francis (Pa.) has the lead at the moment — is likely to continue an unfortunate trend. The NEC champ was shipped to Dayton for a play-in game in each of the last six seasons, and it seems almost certain to continue this season. Farleigh Dickinson entered Monday with the league’s best NET ranking at No. 230. ...
The projected San Jose subregional has some veteran teams: Nevada (second), Kansas State (46th), Lipscomb (70th) and New Mexico State (73rd) all are in the top 75 in the KenPom.com experience metric. …
Florida (14-11) vs. Nebraska (15-11) features teams that largely fare well in various formulas and also had good weeks to move back into the field. … It doesn’t matter how it got it, Syracuse is going to ride that victory at Duke right into the field, barring a collapse.
(1) Virginia vs. (16) SOUTHLAND/Sam Houston State
(8) St. John’s vs. (9) Texas
(5) Wisconsin vs. (12) SOUTHERN/Wofford
(4) LSU vs. (13) IVY/Yale
(3) AMERICAN/Houston vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Irvine
(6) Florida State vs. (11) Butler
(7) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo vs. (10) TCU
(2) BIG TEN/Michigan State vs. (15) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola Chicago
Good luck figuring out St. John’s. There are not many teams you could envision either reaching the Final Four or losing a first-round game by 15. The Red Storm is one of them. … If Wofford wins out — it has already clinched the top seed in the SoCon tournament — it stands a decent chance of landing a No. 10 or No. 11 seed. …
A Houston-Florida State matchup in the round of 32 would feature elite defense. … Buffalo’s big problem: None of its remaining games before the MAC tournament can do it much good. And that’s with some decent teams (Akron, Bowling Green and Kent State) still to visit the Bulls’ gym.
(1) Kentucky vs. (16) PATRIOT/Bucknell
(8) Baylor vs. (9) N.C. State
(5) Virginia Tech vs. (12) Arizona State-Central Florida winner
(4) Purdue vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont
(3) BIG EAST/Marquette vs. (14) SUMMIT/South Dakota State
(6) Mississippi State vs. (11) Minnesota
(7) Iowa vs. (10) ATLANTIC 10/Virginia Commonwealth
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) BIG SOUTH/Radford
Arizona State is going to try to live off some high-end victories (notably Kansas and Mississippi State), but it can’t go squandering games in the Pac-12 — even against decent teams like Colorado. … Yes, that’s Purdue getting sent to Hartford. With Villanova having an off year by its recent standards, Hartford could end up getting some leftover No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in this tournament.
Mississippi State is 7-5 in Quadrant 1 games and doesn’t have a terribly bad loss. With a favorable closing stretch, the Bulldogs are going to be treated well by the committee as long as they handle some struggling teams at home. … Iowa is in a similar boat. Figure the Hawkeyes would probably gain a seed line with a victory over Maryland on Tuesday.
Salt Lake City
(1) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. winner of (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Norfolk State vs. SWAC/Prairie View
(8) PAC-12/Washington vs. (9) Ohio State
(5) Texas Tech vs. (12) OHIO VALLEY/Belmont
(4) Louisville vs. (13) COLONIAL/Hofstra
Salt Lake City
(3) Iowa State vs. (14) CONFERENCE USA/Old Dominion
(6) Maryland vs. (11) Clemson
(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Seton Hall
(2) SEC/Tennessee vs. (15) BIG SKY/Montana
Washington’s problem is and will remain the absence of true high-end victories. The Huskies are 2-4 in Quadrant 1 games, with the victories at Colorado and Oregon. There’s no help coming on that front over the next few weeks. … I originally had Yale opposite Louisville, but I suspect the committee will avoid making the Cardinals play a de facto road game. Hofstra, which took a rough loss at UNC Wilmington on Saturday, swaps spots in the bracket with the Bulldogs.
The bottom half of the West bracket provides a pair of old conference pairings: Maryland vs. Clemson and Cincinnati vs. Seton Hall. … There’s a fair case to be made for Tennessee as a No. 1 seed over Gonzaga — the Volunteers did beat the Bulldogs on a neutral court, after all — but the net effect is fairly negligible. They’re the Nos. 4 and 5 teams on the board at this point, which means the Vols’ playing sites are the same either way.