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Monday Morning Bracketology | January 22

Vols’ great week rewarded with one seed

We are into the meat of conference play, and I think I have a take:

Purdue has been the best team in the country...then Donovan Clingan came back. Let’s get into The Board.

We’re going to move away from the table format to break down The Board (I will put the entire thing in a table at the end) for this because the table on a phone or tablet just does not look good and takes up so much space, and we can take a more in-depth look at specific teams and their seeding.

The Top 12

Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
1 1 Purdue B1G 2 2 1st 0.71
1 2 Houston Big XII 1 1 5th 3.41
1 3 Arizona PAC-12 3 3 8th 3.64
1 4 Tennessee SEC ↑2 4 4 4th 3.70
2 5 UConn Big East ↓1 9 6 2nd 3.97
2 6 North Carolina ACC 7 7 3rd 4.59
2 7 Wisconsin B1G 13 11 7th 8.77
2 8 Kansas Big XII 14 18 9th 9.82
3 9 Marquette Big East ↑1 17 17 14th 11.61
3 10 Creighton Big East 12 14 16th 12.71
3 11 Dayton A-10 15 25 6th 13.43
3 12 Baylor Big XII ↓1 16 15 19th 13.71

One Seeds

Nothing too much of note on the one line. Purdue continues to separate themselves as the top overall seed, but do not sleep on UConn. With Donovan Clingan back, UConn blitzed Creighton at home, 62-48, and went on the road to win a thriller over Villanova, 66-65. Also, cut the junk talk about Houston, please. “Are they built for the Big 12?” Yes. Easily. Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking those questions about the team who lost at Hilton and TCU, but we should be asking them about the team who lost at UCF and West Virginia? Who’s to say.

— The Dalton Knecht Show is rolling for the Vols, and after a massive 20-point win at home against metrics darling Alabama, Tennessee has re-emerged now as the final one seed due to Knecht and Tennessee’s dominant pair of wins at home. A lot continues to work in Tennessee’s favor as their loss at North Carolina continues to diminish in negative impact as the Heels continue to cruise up the ranks, and their double-digit win in Madison against Wisconsin continues to look better and better.

Two Seeds

— North Carolina, similar to its unfriendly rival who we will get to later, seems to be a good bit underrated, not in the seed line, but in national attention, as odd as it sounds. The ACC is bad...very bad. Last season, they were awful as well, finishing the season with four teams in the KenPom top 50. They currently stand at four this season. However, Carolina looks like its best team right now, and for the first time under Hubert Davis, UNC’s defense has risen not just to the level of its offense, but above it. The additions of transfers Cormac Ryan and Harrison Ingram have made the difference, and similar to Brady Manek two seasons ago, that mix of great play and experience is helping this team break out of its defensive stagnation.

— Kansas is in its midseason lull that they’ve had in January pretty much every season over the past four years. Nothing to see here.

Three Seeds

— Marquette is back in as the top three seed after rebounding from back to back losses with back to back wins over tournament teams Villanova and St. John’s. Despite injury concerns as Sean Jones is out for the season and Chase Ross continues to miss time with a shoulder issue, this team is pushing through it. This is a team that could use this lighter weight part of their schedule coming up to pad their résumé before going to UConn on February 17.

— Baylor has dropped from the last 2-seed to the last 3-seed after dropping back to back road games at the Octagon in Manhattan and at Texas. They’ve equal parts padded résumés for mid to low-level Big 12 teams as they have raised red flags with me about how far they can go in March. I understand the Big 12 is deep — it’s the best conference in the country after all — but Baylor has yet to play a game that didn’t end in a single digit win or loss. I love their guard play, but they just don’t defend. They allowed 1.27 points per possession against Texas and 0.93 against Kansas State. I get it’s on the road, but it’s just not good enough if they have any plans on making a run.

The Next 12

Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
4 13 Oklahoma Big XII ↑3 23 21 15th 15.79
4 14 San Diego State MWC ↑1 20 22 10th 15.85
4 14 BYU Big XII ↑2 5 10 30th 16.43
4 16 Iowa State Big XII ↑4 10 12 33rd 17.80
5 17 Alabama SEC ↓1 8 8 32nd 19.37
5 18 Utah PAC-12 ↓1 25 23 23rd 19.53
5 19 Duke ACC ↓2 19 13 39th 20.57
5 20 Auburn SEC 6 5 12th 21.16
6 21 Kentucky SEC 18 16 20th 21.49
6 22 Illinois B1G ↑1 11 9 25th 22.03
6 23 Colorado State MWC ↓1 26 32 13th 24.99
6 24 FAU AAC 29 26 28th 25.65

Movement and Notes

The five seeds and six seeds are very interchangeable right now. Put them in any order and you wouldn’t get an argument from me.

— San Diego State continues to hover around the three to five seed range despite dropping two road games against New Mexico and Boise State who are both tournament teams right now.

— Kentucky finally saw the debut of Zvonimir Ivisic against Georgia, and he looked really good. Kentucky is a very good team on the cusp of being great if they can figure it out defensively. The offense is great, and I would argue the best in the SEC. I understand Alabama ranks as the top offense in the nation right now, but Kentucky’s is way more consistent. February will be a big month for this team. They’ll welcome Tennessee to Lexington before they play Gonzaga in a weirdly scheduled non-con game to wrap up that quasi home-and-home before playing at Auburn and finishing up the month at home against Alabama.

— I don’t really know what to make of BYU. They move back up with a 15-point win at home against Iowa State, but it’s sandwiched between them losing three of their first five Big 12 games, albeit all to tournament caliber teams. I think their metrics continue to be a bit overblown as their non-conference wins are scattered with zero quality wins and multiple 30-40 point wins over low-major teams. This is a team that’s more in the 15-25 range overall than they are top 10.

— Jon Scheyer, our eyes are upon you. Duke is 13-4. They have a loss at home to Arizona. Their other three losses are against two teams outside the KenPom top 100 and a home loss to Pittsburgh, a team you might see in the NIT in March, and a team Duke just manhandled by 22 at Pitt last week.

What’s going on here?

Three of their next four are on the road, including at fringe bubble team in Virginia Tech and then North Carolina on February 3rd. Is this a group just not being fully engaged like we saw earlier in the season against Georgia Tech? Since Scheyer took over, this has been a really poor pick and roll defense that got away with it because they had Dereck Lively inside to protect the rim. This team doesn’t have a rim protector, and their guards aren’t defending anywhere near the level they need to be. If this continues, Carolina is going to roll over them in two weeks.

PAPER TIGER OF THE WEEK

— Alabama was welcomed back to reality at Tennessee on Saturday. Their lone Quad 1 wins are Indiana State at home and at Mississippi State. They’ve played Purdue and Creighton close but have a home loss to Clemson 1.21 points per possession where they allowed were run off the floor by Ohio State (1.28 PPP), Arizona (1.09 PPP), and Tennessee (1.18 PPP).

This isn’t like Baylor where they’re lacking defensively, they’re openly bad at playing defense. The losses of Noah Clowney and Charles Bediako are felt the most. There’s no rim protector, and Alabama last season used elite rim defense to spark their fast breaks. They may be a better offense by the numbers this season, but they are nowhere close to as good as they were last season. This is a prime upset candidate in March, possibly my biggest candidate thus far.


You Are Not On The Bubble (for now)!

Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
7 25 Clemson ACC ↓3 34 37 29th 26.35
7 26 Texas Tech Big XII ↑4 35 31 49th 26.55
7 27 Utah State MWC ↓2 28 43 11th 27.29
7 28 Texas A&M SEC ↑1 39 38 50th 28.82
8 29 Michigan State B1G 21 19 59th 30.68
8 30 Saint Mary's WCC ↑4 22 29 69th 32.11
8 31 New Mexico MWC ↑F4O 24 28 27th 32.22
8 32 St. John's Big East ↓3 41 41 47th 32.58
9 33 Villanova Big East ↓2 38 30 66th 34.19
9 34 Boise State MWC 50 54 42nd 34.38
9 35 Memphis AAC ↓2 54 51 24th 34.50
9 36 TCU Big XII ↓1 37 24 48th 35.71

— Boise State has moved themselves off the bubble after a tremendous January thus far. They’ve beaten Nevada on the road and Colorado State and San Diego State at home in what’s set up to be another tremendous season in the Mountain West. They’ll have a chance to add on more padding to their résumé this month as they’ll host Utah State and head to The Pit to take on New Mexico before January ends.

— Clemson has gone from three seed to seven seed in just a few weeks as they’ve lost four of their last six games and five of their last nine overall. They gave up 1.24 points per possession to Georgia Tech in a double OT loss at home, hemorrhaged 1.30 PPP to Virginia Tech the week prior, and now they get a Duke team this coming Saturday at Cameron Indoor. There aren’t really many must win types of games in January, but when you play in the ACC, it might as well be.

— Don’t look now, but Sparty is figuring out how to win close games...they go to Madison on Friday night to avenge a home loss back in early December to Wisconsin, and if they win that game, their spot in March in some capacity, barring an unbelievable collapse, feels pretty airtight.


The Bubble

Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
10 37 Mississippi State SEC ↓2 40 34 45th 37.25
10 38 Indiana State MVC 26 43 22nd 38.58
10 39 Seton Hall Big East ↑1 60 54 44th 38.95
10 40 Nebraska B1G 56 50 38th 38.98
11 41 Cincinnati Big XII 36 33 54th 42.21
11 41 Northwestern B1G ↓1 78 59 36th 42.94
11 42 Xavier Big East ↑N4O 43 35 77th 43.12
11 43 Wake Forest ACC 42 36 58th 45.06
11 44 Colorado PAC-12 BACK 33 27 52nd 45.47
11 45 Virginia ACC BACK 47 60 53rd 45.66
F4O 47 Kansas State Big XII BACK 71 56 35th 45.93
F4O 52 Providence Big East 58 47 71st 45.94
F4O 53 South Carolina SEC ↓1 61 64 26th 46.11
F4O 54 Virginia Tech ACC ↓2 51 57 72nd 46.91
F4O 55 Washington State PAC-12 ↓1 52 61st 47.04
N4O 56 Texas Big XII 59 46 67th 47.75
N4O 57 Florida SEC BACK 45 39 56th 49.00
N4O 58 Gonzaga WCC BACK 30 20 64th 50.08

FIRST FOUR BYES: Seton Hall, Nebraska, Cincinnati, Northwestern

— Nebraska continues to cling onto that Purdue win for dear life as they’ve dropped two of their last three, albeit both on the road, since their big victory. They got back on track at home with a win over Northwestern, another team narrowly in the field, and with Ohio State and Wisconsin due to visit Lincoln over the next couple weeks, there’s still some juice for Nebraska to soak in for their résumé.

— Cincinnati is relishing in their move to the Big 12. Their win at BYU continues to bolster their otherwise weak résumé as they’ve dropped three of their last four, two of which came at home to Texas at the buzzer and by four to OU. With Kansas at The Phog, UCF at home, and then at West Virginia and Texas Tech, if Cincy can snag two wins at the minimum here as long as one is at WVU, they’ll continue to sit on the right side of the bubble.

— Northwestern’s loss at home to Chicago State is the anchor that just will not let go. It’s by far the worst loss in the field, and their other four losses are all to teams inside KenPom’s top 50 and have all come on the road. Much like Nebraska, their win against Purdue is salvaging them, but with home games against Illinois and Ohio State this week, they can possibly move up a seed if they win both.

LAST FOUR IN: Xavier, Wake Forest, Colorado, Virginia

This is the tightest the bubble has been this season. Wake Forest, the second to last 11-seed, and Washington State, the last of the First Four Out, are separated by 2.01 points with seven teams in between them. For reference, Kentucky and FAU are the first and last six seeds, and they’re separated by a little over four points.

— Xavier has the most losses of anyone in the field. At 10-8, it’s bound to stir the pot as to whether they should be in at all considering their two losses at home to Oakland and Delaware. That being said, their win on a neutral over Saint Mary’s by 17 continues to look better as the Gaels have won 12 of their next 15 after that and are currently an 8-seed, and dominant 15+ point wins over other bubble teams in Providence, Butler, Seton Hall, and a narrow win over rival Cincinnati have elevated them to just barely cracking the field. That being said, it may be a short stay. The Musketeers hit the road for games at Creighton and UConn this week. One win there, and their résumé becomes a positive bargaining chip.

— Wake Forest has a huge opportunity to make a leap as they head to Chapel Hill tonight. A win here, as improbable as it may seem, would jump them into the 10-seed range.

— Colorado is the second highest team on KenPom that’s on the bubble. They’re a top 50 offense and defense per KenPom, but their losses to Arizona State and Cal on the road this month has dampened an otherwise inoffensive résumé. With double digit wins over USC and Oregon over the past 10 days, they’re firmly entrenched in the bubble once again, and they need some big wins at Wazzu and Utah because there’s no league more disparate for quality wins than the PAC-12.

— Virginia is back after picking up a couple solid wins this past week over VA Tech at home and Georgia Tech on the road. Of the teams on the bubble, this is the team I expect to fall off the most. The ACC is not friendly to teams in need of big wins, and especially a young team like the Cavaliers needing multiple big wins just to stay afloat.

FIRST FOUR OUT: Kansas State, Providence, South Carolina, Virginia Tech

— No Bryce Hopkins = Providence is dead. Missing your best player in a league as deep as the Big East puts the Friars at an insurmountable disadvantage.

— South Carolina’s wins over Grand Canyon and Virginia Tech on its incredibly weak non-con schedule have saved their season. That being said, you can’t be losing at home to Georgia.

— The Hokies have lost four of their last six, but a 15-point win over Clemson at home and a win over NC State on the road mixed in has kept them afloat on the bubble, just the wrong side of it.

NEXT FOUR OUT: Washington State, Texas, Florida, Gonzaga

— Despite wins over Cincinnati and Baylor at the horn, sandwiched between those results have been two bad losses to West Virginia on the road and UCF at home, thus why the Longhorns haven’t moved.

— Florida has had five games against teams currently in the tournament field. They’ve lost all of them. That’s a great way to get that NIT invite.

— PSA to all PAC-12 teams: Stop losing to Cal.

— Gonzaga is the highest ranked KenPom team on the bubble, but their résumé is terrible. They scheduled a good non-con like always, but they lost them all by double digits (Purdue, UConn, SDSU). They have one last ditch effort at Kentucky to pull off a win and get the WCC two bids potentially. They could also just win the WCC Tournament which is also very in play.


Seeding

Two things:

1) It will be interesting to see if the MVC can continue to be a 2-bid league. As of right now, I believe they are. If they become a one-bid league, the winner would be a 12-seed.

2) Princeton is much better than their 12 seed, however, the Ivy League is a one-bid league, and moving them up completely jostles around the play-in games.


Conference Breakdown

Big XII: 9 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 7, 9, 11)
Big East: 7 (2, 3, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11)
SEC: 6 (1, 5, 5, 6, 7, 10)
Big Ten: 6 (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11)
ACC: 5 (2, 5, 7, 11, 11)
Mountain West: 5 (4, 6, 7, 8, 9)
PAC-12: 3 (1, 5, 11)
American: 2 (6, 9)
Missouri Valley: 2 (10, 12)


Here is The Board. Have a great week, everyone.

The Board | 1/22

Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
Seed Ovr Team Conf. Trend NET KenPom WAB Score
1 1 Purdue B1G 2 2 1st 0.71
1 2 Houston Big XII 1 1 5th 3.41
1 3 Arizona PAC-12 3 3 8th 3.64
1 4 Tennessee SEC ↑2 4 4 4th 3.70
2 5 UConn Big East ↓1 9 6 2nd 3.97
2 6 North Carolina ACC 7 7 3rd 4.59
2 7 Wisconsin B1G 13 11 7th 8.77
2 8 Kansas Big XII 14 18 9th 9.82
3 9 Marquette Big East ↑1 17 17 14th 11.61
3 10 Creighton Big East 12 14 16th 12.71
3 11 Dayton A-10 15 26 6th 13.43
3 12 Baylor Big XII ↓1 16 15 19th 13.71
4 13 Oklahoma Big XII ↑3 23 21 15th 15.79
4 14 BYU Big XII ↑2 5 9 30th 16.43
4 14 San Diego State MWC ↑1 20 22 10th 15.85
4 16 Iowa State Big XII ↑4 10 12 33rd 17.80
5 17 Alabama SEC ↓1 8 8 32nd 19.37
5 18 Utah PAC-12 ↓1 25 23 23rd 19.53
5 19 Duke ACC ↓2 19 13 39th 20.57
5 20 Auburn SEC 6 5 12th 21.16
6 21 Kentucky SEC 18 16 20th 21.49
6 22 Illinois B1G ↑1 11 10 25th 22.03
6 23 Colorado State MWC ↓1 26 32 13th 24.99
6 24 FAU AAC 29 24 28th 25.65
7 25 Clemson ACC ↓3 34 37 29th 26.35
7 26 Texas Tech Big XII ↑4 35 31 49th 26.55
7 27 Utah State MWC ↓2 28 42 11th 27.29
7 28 Texas A&M SEC ↑1 39 38 50th 28.82
8 29 Michigan State B1G 21 19 59th 30.68
8 30 Saint Mary's WCC ↑4 22 29 69th 32.11
8 31 New Mexico MWC ↑F4O 24 28 27th 32.22
8 32 St. John's Big East ↓3 41 41 47th 32.58
9 33 Villanova Big East ↓2 38 30 66th 34.19
9 34 Boise State MWC 50 53 42nd 34.38
9 35 Memphis AAC ↓2 54 48 24th 34.50
9 36 TCU Big XII ↓1 37 25 48th 35.71
10 37 Mississippi State SEC ↓2 40 34 45th 37.25
10 38 Indiana State MVC 26 43 22nd 38.58
10 39 Seton Hall Big East ↑1 60 54 44th 38.95
10 40 Nebraska B1G 56 50 38th 38.98
11 41 Cincinnati Big XII 36 33 54th 42.21
11 41 Northwestern B1G ↓1 78 59 36th 42.94
11 42 Xavier Big East ↑N4O 43 35 77th 43.12
11 43 Wake Forest ACC 42 36 58th 45.06
11 44 Colorado PAC-12 BACK 33 27 52nd 45.47
11 45 Virginia ACC BACK 47 60 53rd 45.66
F4O 47 Kansas State Big XII BACK 71 56 35th 45.93
F4O 52 Providence Big East 58 47 71st 45.94
F4O 53 South Carolina SEC ↓1 61 64 26th 46.11
F4O 54 Virginia Tech ACC ↓2 51 57 72nd 46.91
F4O 55 Washington State PAC-12 ↓1 52 61st 47.04
N4O 56 Texas Big XII 59 46 67th 47.75
N4O 57 Florida SEC BACK 45 39 56th 49.00
N4O 58 Gonzaga WCC BACK 30 20 64th 50.08
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