NCAA Tournament Projections: 'Bracket Now' Commentary for December 28th, 2008
Although the past week of college basketball action was light due to the holidays, there were still some major winners and losers this week in terms of seeding positioning. There was no real movement near the top as North Carolina and Pittsburgh haven’t played in a week and U. Conn. and Oklahoma remained unbeaten.
The real winners of the week were West Virginia, Butler, and Arizona. The Mountaineers jumped from a ten seed to a seven seed by virtue of the pounding they handed Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday. Butler is truly an amazing program. They lost four senior starters to graduation from a team who nearly reached the sweet sixteen. They defeated Xavier on the road just before Christmas and improved their positioning by two seeds. Arizona crushed a fading Kansas team and as luck would have it, the two have been paired up for a classic seven-ten first round matchup.
The biggest loser this week has to be Gonzaga. Just a week ago, Gonzaga was moments away from beating U. Conn. and moving into the number one seed position. They have since lost to Portland State (my Big Sky selection) and are now facing a four seed and could be in more trouble if they slip up in conference play. Wake Forest has remained perfect and now benefits from the opening as the last two seed that the Bulldogs have vacated.
First, Ohio State finds out that David Lighty will miss the season, and then they lost to surging West Virginia at home by 28 points. The Buckeyes were undefeated until that point with some nice wins against Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Butler. However, you cannot lose at home by 28 and not expect to drop some notches in the eyes of the committee.
The Big East seems to be getting stronger as the year goes on. I had to give serious consideration to the Cincinnati Bearcats which would have been the tenth bid for the Big East. Notice that Syracuse and Marquette have the chance to meet in the sweet sixteen. As strong as the Big East has been, the SEC has been just the opposite. Three teams were given a bid, Tennessee being the strongest with Florida and Kentucky sliding in for some bubble borderline seeding.
With the light schedule of action, there were only a few differences in the actual field. Lehigh has taken the place of Navy as a sixteen seed. East Tennessee State has replaced Stetson as a fifteen seed. Vermont has displaced Albany as fifteen seed as well. However, the most important difference was made by the 12-0 Illinois State Redbirds. They have moved into the field of 65, and Stanford has been shut out for the time being.
In the South Regional, take a look at the great names in College Basketball that you would be getting: North Carolina, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Syracuse, Kentucky, Maryland, Arizona, Ohio State, and Kansas. That is a lot basketball history rolled into the South Region.
The East Region feels like the strongest region with the likes of Connecticut, Texas, and UCLA. Also, my favorite dark horse, the Arizona State Sun Devils lurk as does undefeated Clemson. Michigan continues to surprise and they could be a potential third dark horse in that region. Louisville is totally under the radar after losing to Western Kentucky and Minnesota. They are currently a seven seed at 8-2, but they have the potential to be a two/three seed by years end.
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