Yes, we are only 29 days away from the release of the only poll or bracket that really matters. At that point, it will be time to enjoy the three greatest weekends in sport, but before we get there, a lot of teams still have a chance to leave an impression on the people who are going to determine the field. Here's my latest best guess at where everyone stands.
This week's bracket (seed list, bracket trends) includes a bit more upheaval than originally anticipated. Of course, there wouldn't have been nearly as many changes had I not been struck by some evil upper-respiratory infection thing and released a bracket back on Monday.
Stability on the Top Line
The composition 1-line remains mostly the same this week as last, with UConn number 1 overall and Pitt at number 4. Oklahoma and UNC switch places, however. The Sooners are now second overall at the moment.
Not a Great Week for Lines 2 Through 4
Duke wasn't able to fully execute their game plan (read as, "Carolina was able to outrun and outgun the Blue Devils."), so you'd think that would hurt them in the bracket this week. Not so, if only because the teams on lines 2, 3, and 4 didn't have a great week for the most part. Memphis and Michigan State were among the exceptions, so they're now two seeds. Louisville remains here, even after getting blown out at Notre Dame on Thursday evening.
Clemson (after dropping one to FSU at Littlejohn and beating BC) and Marquette (losers of two straight), meanwhile, fall down to the 3 line where they join Kansas (up from a 4) and Wake Forest (who, as loser of 5 of 7, is in real danger of falling further down the S-curve).
Missouri joins the protected seeds this week, after their amazing come-from-behind win over KU on Monday night. Xavier drops down to the 4 line after two league losses. (They also, at least temporarily, surrendered the A-10 auto bid to Dayton.) UCLA is barely hanging on after losing to Arizona State on Thursday night. The Sun Devils have, arguably, a better shot at holding a protected seed in 29 days. Villanova is also a 4-seed this week, and they would've been higher had they not been beaten at their own game by West Virginia last night.
Watch the two Pac-1o teams on the 5-line, the aforementioned Sun Devils and Washington, closely. They both have really good chances at getting games close to home this season. Gonzaga's chances took a major hit when Memphis dismantled them at Spokane Arena a week ago. Don't overlook Ohio State either, as they have a rather favorable end to their Big Ten slate (@Wisconsin - even if they struggle there, Northwestern twice, Illinois and Penn State in Columbus, and Purdue - probably sans-Robbie Hummel and Iowa away).
Three At-Large Newcomers
California, Kansas State, and Virginia Tech jump back in this week, replacing Georgetown, Michigan, and Saint Mary's. The Hoyas' strength of schedule may save them. The same can be said for the Wolverines. I was prepared to leave them in after the close loss to UConn a week ago, but their struggles against Michigan State at home cost them. The Gaels, meanwhile, are really missing Patrick Mills. They've dropped four of five since his injury.
The teams in this bracket that are the most danger, in my opinion, are obviously my last four in (Boston College, Miami, San Diego State, and USC). The Eagles' lack of consistency could very well cost them at the end of the season. The Hurricanes are dropping too many close games. The Trojans don't have a great profile (They're lacking in good out-of-conference wins, in particular) and are running out of chances to get marquee wins. The Aztecs blew a golden opportunity Wednesday night when they couldn't sweep Utah and lock down the MWC lead. They may very well need to win the conference tournament to ensure their place, considering that USD is their best win out of the league.
I'd expect at least two of these teams to be replaced in my next bracket on Monday evening.