I've made a couple of format changes to this week's bracket. (Seed list link) From this point forward, I will no longer list the rundown in the blog post. I've placed it at the bottom of the bracket page to make it easier to process the information. However, I removed the smaller, italicized numbers I've used in years past to illustrate how a team's seeding had changed from the previous week. I think this makes for a cleaner bracket, and you can get that same information in the newly updated and color-coded bracket trends sheet.
With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, it's time to talk about what I did with this week's bracket.
I moved Pitt up to the #1 overall seed. I also moved them to Dayton, since it's actually slightly closer to their campus than Philadelphia is. I realized that I put all four one seeds at Thursday/Saturday sites in last week's entry, meaning that the Opening Round winner couldn't be placed at a Friday site. That's no longer a problem. North Carolina and Duke are still solidly on the top line, and at the moment they'd meet in the National Semifinals. I moved Connecticut up to the top line, replacing Oklahoma, who slides down to line 2.
The Sooners are joined by Syracuse, the only returnee to these slots from last week, and Michigan State and Wake Forest, who move up from line 3. While the Orange are 4-0 in the Big East, the wins have come against, arguably, the four worst teams in the conference. Murderers' Row awaits for SU, starting Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Keep on winning and the sky is the limit. Start losing and, while it may not be 2007 or 2008, things could get dicey. The Demon Deacons have a great chance to jump up further if they knock off UNC tonight. Michigan State seems to be getting back to normal with the return of Goran Suton.
Georgetown and Texas have dropped down to the 3 line. The Hoyas are here because of a 2-2 start to league play, while the Longhorns loss at bracket newcomer Arkansas cost them. Wisconsin moves up from the 5 line (despite losing to Purdue today, remember my bracket week goes from Sunday to Saturday) and Clemson moves up from the 4 seeds. Long term, expect the Badgers to continue to stay in this neighborhood and the Tigers to drop. While Clemson's been tested more this year than in year's past, the level of competition is still not to the UNC, Duke, Wake level.
The final batch of protected seeds are all playing at Western sites this week, since no one from the Pacific or Mountain time zones, other than Arizona State, has been able to move up that high on my S-curve. (Watch out for Gonzaga now that they seem to have their swagger back, however.) Michigan moves up, even if it did take them OT to get a win at Indiana. Butler also gains a protected seed this week. While both teams are playing well, their arrival among the protected seeds is more of a result of other teams falling than the Wolverines or Bulldogs surging. Arizona State and Xavier both drop down here from the 3 line, again more because of what other teams are doing around them.
At the other end of the bracket, we have two teams in the field as auto bids who may not be there next week as their conferences play a few more games. Duquesne represents the A-10 this week, a consequence of the Sunday-Saturday week. Florida has a better chance of sticking around, but they're going to have to keep on winning SEC games for that to happen.
The gap between the last few teams in and the last few teams left out is always narrow, but it's especially difficult to separate teams at this time of year because of the lack of league games. I kept Maryland in, despite the loss to Morgan State on Wednesday. Had they lost to Georgia Tech on Saturday, they would've been dropped. Boston College and Arkansas are also both in, even though they both followed up great wins with befuddling losses (two in the case of the Eagles). They're also skating on thin ice at the moment. Even though I had Dayton as high as a 5 seed last week, they're barely hanging on this week because of a bad loss to UMass (even if it was at the Mullins Center), that Flyer fans are hoping isn't symptomatic of the issues they had last year.