When the smoke clears from yet another wild week in college basketball that saw plenty of carnage among the top 10, Michigan State will likely be ranked #1 in the polls. The Spartans had a huge rally at Northwestern and now stand at 26-3. They should secure the top seed in the Big Ten tournament after Purdue and Ohio State losses. They have been a top 5 team all year, yet just one week ago, the committee made them a 3-seed in the early release.
Will common sense start to prevail by the time we sit down for Selection Sunday? I think it must. The Spartans have been a top 5 team all year. Nothing about their performance suggests they shouldn’t be in consideration for a top seed. Yes, the Big Ten is down and in a deeper conference they would have a few more losses. But would they really have had the number that, say, Kansas has had losing at homes that are no better than several teams in the Big Ten? At some point, you have to apply an ounce of common sense. The pollsters aren’t wrong on Michigan State. Vegas also has them as the favorite to win the title.
I’m going with Michigan State, as Big Ten champs and most likely tourney champs, as a 1-seed. If they get to 29 wins I don’t see how the committee overlooks that, regardless of “Tier 1” games.
The 5-seed line is soft at this time and there is plenty of chance for movement between the 5 and 9 seed lines. Rhode Island stays at the 5-line (since the potential of a loss at St. Bonaventure was already part of the projection). Meanwhile, Wichita State makes a big leap getting the road win at Cincinnati (and still having the return match to come in Wichita). Gonzaga is a better option than major conference schools, and Texas A&M is a placeholder right now but not much separates them from the 10 below them.
A team to watch is Houston, who also beat Cincinnati this week. I think brackets are too low on them right now. They are very close to a 5/6 seed profile and are going to be top 25 in the RPI heading into the committee meetings.
What to do with Oklahoma? The committee just had them as a 4 somehow, but they do not look good. They are in danger of finishing below .500 in the Big 12 and could drop all the way to 7-11 in conference. I’m adjusting my projection downward because of that risk, despite the Tier 1 wins (which is why the committee favored them).
The bubble is crowded and loaded. I’ve got UCLA out by a nose, but honestly, it’s a close call between them, cross-town rival USC, Texas, NC State, Kansas State, and St. Bonaventure (who moved in with the win over Rhode Island, which was must-win for at-large hopes). Syracuse is also just on the outside after losing at home against NC State, while St. Mary’s could have a nervy Sunday after a loss at San Francisco.
If you want a Big Ten team that could get across the bubble, it’s Penn State, who swept Ohio State, and not Nebraska. Penn State could get a big win to improve the profile. I think Nebraska is cooked as far as at-large hopes after a loss to Illinois.