The Bears sat at 17-0 after a 14-point victory at Texas on Feb. 2. But then came a virus pause, a three-week gap between games and an understandably shaky showing at home against Big 12 basement-dweller Iowa State on Feb. 23. Baylor won, 77-72, but clearly would have had trouble against a better opponent.
It encountered one Saturday against Kansas, which deftly made tweaks from its first meeting with the Bears (a Jan. 18 loss) and dealt Scott Drew’s team a 71-58 defeat.
And now Baylor owns a profile strikingly similar to Michigan, which is also 18-1, also had an extended break (23 days between games at one point) and has largely had its way in a power conference.
Both teams are 6-1 on the road. (Baylor is also 3-0 on neutral courts.) Michigan is 8-1 in what the NCAA’s NET formula designates as Quadrant 1 games; Baylor is 6-1. Michigan is 4-0 in Quadrant 2 games; Baylor is 2-0.
There’s a case to be made for either team, and both are firm No. 1 seeds. For now, a slight nod goes to the Wolverines with a little less than two weeks until Selection Sunday. Yet between now and then, both teams have three regular season games plus their respective conference tournaments. There’s still plenty of time for either to solidify a spot as the second-best profile in the bracket.
Last four included: Saint Louis, Colorado State, Drake, Georgia Tech
First four on the outside: Seton Hall, Michigan State, Mississippi, Indiana
Next four on the outside: Utah State, Duke, Stanford, Syracuse
Conference call: Big Ten (8), Atlantic Coast (7), Big 12 (7), Southeastern (6), Big East (4), Pac-12 (4), Atlantic 10 (3), Mountain West (3), American Athletic (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2)
Moving in: Cleveland State, Georgia Tech, Navy, UMBC, Western Kentucky
Moving out: Colgate, Michigan State, North Texas, Vermont, Wright State
(1) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (16) NORTHEAST/Bryant-MID-EASTERN/North Carolina A&T
(8) Oregon vs. (9) Maryland
(5) Purdue vs. (12) Drake/Georgia Tech
(4) Oklahoma State vs. (13) OHIO VALLEY/Belmont
(3) Kansas vs. (14) SUMMIT/South Dakota State
(6) Clemson vs. (11) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Wichita State
(7) MOUNTAIN WEST/San Diego State vs. (10) Xavier
(2) Iowa vs. (15) BIG SKY/Eastern Washington
With Baylor’s loss to Kansas over the weekend, the top overall seed is Gonzaga’s to lose. The Bulldogs need to win only two games at the West Coast Conference tournament to take an unblemished record into the postseason. … Bryant was forced to cancel its final two regular season games this week because of virus protocols, and the Northeast tournament begins Saturday. … After winning 21 in a row, Belmont is on a two-game slide entering the Ohio Valley tournament. The Bruins open Wednesday against SIU Edwardsville, a team playing its 17th game in 36 days. …
Kansas has something no one else does: a victory over Baylor. That helped vault the Jayhawks to the No. 3 line. … Xavier got exactly the victory it needed Saturday against Creighton. The Musketeers finish with trips to Georgetown and Marquette, and handling both sub-.500 league foes would cement their at-large hopes before the Big East tournament.
(1) Ohio State vs. (16) COLONIAL/James Madison
(8) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola Chicago vs. (9) PAC-12/UCLA
(5) Texas vs. (12) SUN BELT/Western Kentucky
(4) Arkansas vs. (13) SOUTHERN/UNC Greensboro
(3) Florida State vs. (14) ATLANTIC SUN/Liberty
(6) Southern California vs. (11) ATLANTIC 10/St. Bonaventure
(7) Missouri vs. (10) Boise State
(2) West Virginia vs. (15) AMERICA EAST/UMBC
If not Ohio State for the last No. 1 seed, then whom? Illinois is the best alternative, and the Illini conveniently visit Columbus this weekend. … Western Kentucky is the only two-loss team remaining in Conference USA. The Hilltoppers, led by junior big man Charles Bassey, have a chance to be a chic 12-over-5 pick in a few weeks. …
Boise State is probably a safe at-large team — a victory at BYU, a sweep of Utah State and a road split with Colorado State are on its résumé — but it could have used a split at San Diego State last week as insurance. … UMBC enters the field as part of a bracket forecasting tradition of plugging in the top seed in a conference tournament, regardless of whether a tied team (Vermont in this case) has a better profile. The same thing happened in the Horizon (Cleveland State for Wright State) and the Patriot (Navy for Colgate).
(1) BIG TEN/Michigan vs. (16) SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Prairie View A&M-SUN BELT/Texas State
(8) Florida vs. (9) Louisville
(5) Colorado vs. (12) Colorado State/Saint Louis
(4) Oklahoma vs. (13) BIG WEST/UC Santa Barbara
(3) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (14) PATRIOT/Navy
(6) Texas Tech vs. (11) VCU
(7) Virginia Tech vs. (10) Rutgers
(2) SOUTHEASTERN/Alabama vs. (15) METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
Louisville should feel a lot better about its prospects after winning in overtime at Duke. … Colorado and Colorado State didn’t play this season, making that potential first-round pairing a kosher one since the committee tries to avoid rematches so early in the tournament. …
Fun with subplots, Part I: Texas Tech forward Marcus Santos-Silva transferred from VCU after last season. … Fun with subplots, Part II: For a mere four-season spell, Virginia Tech and Rutgers shared a home in the Big East. They haven’t met since the 2004 Big East tournament.
(1) BIG 12/Baylor vs. (16) WESTERN ATHLETIC/Grand Canyon
(8) Wisconsin vs. (9) LSU
(5) Virginia vs. (12) MID-AMERICAN/Toledo
(4) Creighton vs. (13) BIG SOUTH/Winthrop
(3) Houston vs. (14) SOUTHLAND/Abilene Christian
(6) Tennessee vs. (11) Connecticut
(7) BYU vs. (10) North Carolina
(2) Illinois vs. (15) HORIZON/Cleveland State
There aren’t enough games left for Wisconsin to tumble out of the tournament, but the Badgers’ downward slide continues despite nearly rallying to knock off Illinois. Here’s guessing Wisconsin’s floor is around a No. 10 seed. … One step backward, one step forward? That could be what awaits Creighton if it can finish the season sweep of Villanova on Wednesday after a loss at Xavier on Saturday. …
Connecticut and Tennessee have met seven times in the NCAA women’s tournament (all between 1995 and 2004) but just once in the men’s tournament. The Volunteers won a second-round game in 2000. … BYU is 19-3 against teams not named Gonzaga. The Cougars look like a solid choice to land somewhere between the No. 6 and No. 8 lines come Selection Sunday.