Start of the Stretch Run Bracket- 23 February

There aren't too many changes to the top four lines and at-large pool in today's bracket (seed list, trends), but there is quite a bit of movement on lines six through 12. I'm going to warn everyone right now, those of us in the Bracketology business had better not be saying to much about first round matchups when the Committee completes its work on March 15. There simply is not much separation between teams in the middle of this year's bracket, so there should be upsets aplenty this season.

Since there weren't too many changes to tonight's bracket, my summary is going to be unusually brief. Pitt is the new number one overall seed, for the moment. Oklahoma is second overall, but this may change, depending on how much more time Blake Griffin will miss with concussion symptoms. UConn is third and North Carolina is fourth. The Tar Heels need to watch it, as Memphis is on their heels for the fourth one spot.

Joining the Tigers on line two are holdovers Louisville and Michigan State, and newcomer Duke, who replaces Wake Forest. The Blue Devils jumped the Demon Deacons after they won their Sunday encounter, 101-91. Wake is joined on the three line by three teams who were there on Saturday: Clemson, Marquette, and Missouri.

Arizona State is a new four seed tonight. Xavier slides down to make room for the Sun Devils. Kansas, Purdue, and Villanova (who could arguably be higher) complete the roster of protected seeds. Keep an eye on Florida State. The Seminoles helped knock Virginia Tech out of today's bracket and have a real chance to make a push up the S-curve with games against Clemson in Tallahassee and at Duke to come.

Two other at-larges from Saturday join the Hokies in the NIT today. San Diego State falls out after getting blasted by New Mexico in The Pit on Saturday afternoon. They simply don't have the wins to justify a place in the field right now, especially outside of the MWC. (The Lobos face a similar predicament.) Michigan is, again, playing to the level of its opponent. This isn't a problem against teams like Duke, UCLA, or UConn. However, you're playing with fire when you play to the level of a team like Iowa.

Maryland, St. Mary's, and Temple are today's newcomers. The Terps got their second signature win of the year by beating UNC Saturday afternoon (beating Michigan State at Disney is the other). The Gaels are showing they can win without Patty Mills, thanks to their gutty, entertaining, 75-64 decision over Utah State Saturday afternoon. Temple is now tied with Xavier and Dayton in the loss column in the A-10. The Owls have wins at fellow bubble team Penn State and at home to Tennessee. That's more than a lot of their competition can say. I must say that losses to Buffalo, Long Beach State, and UMass aren't helpful, but considering two of those teams lead their respective conferences at the moment, they're not terrible.

My next update will come on Saturday morning. Also, look for some big site news in the coming days.

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