I looked at last year’s 1-68 on the same date and compared it to last year’s bracket in order to see if my assumption of the absurdity of how early brackets are constructed was validated. Here are some of the interesting findings:
*The projected 1 seeds at this time last year were Oklahoma, Kansas, UNC and Michigan St. KU and UNC ended up as 1s, while OU and MSU were 2s. Not bad.
*Kris Dunn and Providence were 15-2, and #9 (the top 3 seed) in my rankings at this time last year. They ended up #9 all right…a 9 seed.
*Miami (3), Texas A&M (3), Duke (4), and Kentucky (4) all ended up the same seed as they were on January 15.
*Oregon and Virginia ended up as 1 seeds, but they were nowhere near there in mid-January. Oregon was ranked #17 and Virginia #14 by me.
*The highest team in the January 15 rankings that did not make the tournament: S. Carolina (7 seed, #25 overall). They were 15-1, so at least I still had them reasonably low, right?
To reassess, it is still way too early to start pouring through every metric and rely on Top 50 and Top 100 RPI wins to argue for a team to be in or out of a tournament that starts two months from tomorrow. So let’s do this. These rankings are how I would send in an AP ballot, also including all 32 projected conference champions and the 36 at-larges. We’ll have some fun with some explanations, and putting Duke West where they actually belong.
(Automatic bids in Bold)
1. Villanova (17-1) – The defending National Champs have a plethora of good wins, with only one loss at Butler. Josh Hart is the POY right now.
2. UCLA (18-1) – Steve Alford has put together a hell of a squad. While Lonzo Ball gets all the pub, T.J. Leaf makes this team a contender.
3. Kansas (16-1) – 16 straight after losing the opener to IU, but their only win over a ranked team is against Duke.
4. Kentucky (15-2) – Monk and Fox can really go.
5. West Virginia (15-2) – Survived a scare at Texas on Saturday, but this was predictable after the amount of couches burned after taking down #1 earlier in the week.
6. Baylor (16-1) – Nice rebound win at Kansas State on Saturday. The Bears probably have the best non-conference resume.
7. UNC (16-3) – Mike says they are the best team in the country. He may be right.
8. Florida State (16-2) – Loss to UNC was more competitive than the 13-point final score indicated. ND comes to town for FSU’s 5th straight game against a ranked opponent.
9. Creighton (17-1) – The Fighting McDermotts just ran Butler out of the gym. Only loss is to Nova.
10. Gonzaga (17-0) – Let’s see if Duke West can win at St. Mary’s and BYU. They played no true road games in the non-conference. Hate that this team has NWG, because he is really damn good.
11. Notre Dame (16-2) – Matt Farrell is a stud. The Irish are 5-0 in the ACC, including three road wins.
12. Oregon (16-2) – The Ducks are undefeated with Dillon Brooks in the lineup, and gave UCLA their only loss. Another #1 seed is possible.
13. Virginia (13-3) – London Perrantes is a killer. The Cavs have surprisingly scored 70+ in their last two wins.
14. Louisville (15-3) – The Cards have played a ridiculous schedule so far. Tripped up Duke on Saturday. Sorry, I can’t stop.
15. Butler (15-3) – Jekyll and Hyde year for the Bulldogs so far. Excellent wins over ‘Nova, ‘Zona and IU. Losses to Indiana State and St. John’s…not excellent.
16. Arizona (16-2) – 10 straight Ws since losing to Duke West. Also lost to Butler, hence why behind both.
17. Wisconsin (14-3) – Took a while to get to the Big 14, which is jumbled at the top. Hayes, Happ and Koenig are formidable.
18. Cincinnati (15-2) – King of the rock fights. Might not be pretty, but they consistently get Ws.
19. Florida (14-3) – All three losses are understandable. Survived an OT scare against Georgia at home, which would not have been understandable.
20. Duke (14-4) – The Blue Devils continue to get tripped up on the road in the ACC. See what I did there. Best win: Michigan State…
21. Purdue (14-4) – Confusing team. Swanigan is a beast, but at times they rely too much on the triple.
22. Xavier (13-4) – Couldn’t pick one up on a hellish road trip to ‘Nova and Butler. Let’s see how they progress with Davis back.
23. Maryland (16-2) – Melo just keeps winning. The Terps already have road wins at Michigan and Illinois.
24. S. Carolina (14-3) – Frank Martin sent Thornwell on a mob hit and lost three times. The Cocks are undefeated with him in the lineup.
25. SMU (15-4) – Larry Brown’s gone, but the talent is still there. Lost by 2 at Cincinnati, but have won 10 of 11.
26. St. Mary’s (15-2) – Everyone forgot that they lost at home to Texas-Arlington by 15. Saturday’s result is not shocking.
27. Michigan State (12-7) – Yeah, they just lost to Ohio State. Yeah, they have seven losses. But who are you going to put ahead of these guys?
28. Minnesota (15-4) – Lost two in a row (and scored 97 total points in those losses), but they have really solid SOS numbers. Winning at Purdue was impressive.
29. Virginia Tech (13-4) – If only Hill and Bibbs didn’t wear shirts. #ShirtRule
30. Indiana (12-6) – If Bryant and Anunoby can figure it out, this team is incredibly dangerous.
31. TCU (14-3) – Jamie Dixon is a good coach. That’s all I know about the Frogs.
32. Iowa State (12-5) – Losses to Gonzaga, Cincy and Baylor by a combined five points. Monte Morris is in his 15th year of college.
33. Miami (12-4) – Rebounded from the home loss to ND by walloping Pitt by 26 on the road.
34. Northwestern (15-4) – The ‘Cats are going to make the tournament, and may win a game once they get there.
35. Texas Tech (13-4) – Win over WVU is nice…loss to Oklahoma (7-9) is not.
36. Kansas State (13-4) – Thinking this is a solid team, but they don’t have any good wins yet. They’ll have plenty of chances.
37. VCU (14-4) – Middle Tennessee is their best win. The Rams and Flyers should battle for the A10 crown.
38. Middle Tennessee (15-3) – Potts, Williams and Upshaw are incredibly talented. They’ll get tested in Conference USA, but this may be an at-large team regardless.
39. Illinois State (14-4) – Very impressive win over Wichita on Saturday puts them atop the MVC.
40. Dayton (13-4) – The Flyers have work to do…which they’ll do as long as they get and stay healthy.
41. Utah (12-5) – Non-conference SOS is horrible, but they showed by blowing out USC and almost knocking off UCLA that they are an at-large contender. They’ll need a ton of conference wins though.
42. USC (16-3) – Blown out by Oregon and Utah, but just picked up a solid road win at Colorado (who is somehow defeated in the Pac 12).
43. Pittsburgh (12-6) – What the hell was that on Saturday? 46 points against Miami after scoring 88 against Virginia?
44. Arkansas (13-4) – I guess they’d be in right now. Man, these teams aren’t very good.
45. Marquette (12-5) – Katin Reinhardt has played for the same amount of teams as he has tattoos.
46. Nevada (15-3) – The class of a down, but pretty balanced Mountain West. That comeback over New Mexico in the pit was bananas.
47. UNC Wilmington (17-2) – Lost to the two best teams they’ve played, but have started 6-0 in the CAA.
48. Seton Hall (12-5) – Angel Delgado is a hoss.
49. Clemson (11-6) – I still think this team is good, but you have to win sooner or later. Lost four in a row.
50. UT-Arlington (12-5) – Just got trucked by Troy (by 22), but also won at St. Mary’s.
51. Monmouth (13-5) – Haven’t heard about any bench shenanigans this year, but they’ve won at Memphis. Favorites in the MAAC.
52. Chattanooga (14-4) – Probably a three-horse race in the Southern (ETSU, UNC Greensboro).
53. Princeton (10-6) – Harvard will challenge them, but Princeton really challenged themselves out of conference, which will serve them well.
54. New Mexico State (17-2) – The Aggies have wins over New Mexico and Arizona State. While that sounds good, both those teams stink. The WAC isn’t very good.
55. Vermont (14-5) – Always the favorites in the America East. 4-0 start in league play.
56. Akron (14-3) – The only undefeated team in the MAC.
57. Valparaiso (14-4) – Alec Peters is a stud. Oakland already beat Valpo and will challenge for the bid.
58. Florida Gulf Coast (14-5) – Do they still call themselves Dunk City? What caught my eye was single digit losses to Baylor and Sparty.
59. Fort Wayne (14-5) – The Mastodons are struggling, but they have the talent to get it together and scare someone in the tournament.
60. Belmont (11-4) – Lone remaining undefeated in the OVC. They always can score it.
61. Boston U. (10-7) – KenPom has Lehigh ranked higher in the Patriot, but BU beat them by 14. The Terriers also almost beat UConn and NC State.
62. UNC Asheville (13-6) – UNCA and Winthrop will challenge for the Big South title.
63. Texas Southern (8-9) – Not sure if Mike Davis has allowed them to play a home game yet.
64. Weber State (9-6) – The Big West is always a crapshoot, and I always put Weber in early because of Harold Arcenaux.
65. UC Irvine (11-9) – The Big West looks to be brutal this year, as only two teams are over .500.
66. NC Central (11-6) – Has the MEAC champion ever not had to go to Dayton since the tourney expanded to 68?
67. LIU Brooklyn (12-7) – Only team with a winning record in the NEC.
68. Stephen F. Austin (8-9) – Yeah Stone Cold stinks now that Walkup is gone, but they’ll still win the Southland.