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Bracketology 2021: Michigan Surges While Texas Slips

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The Longhorns’ Wednesday loss to Texas Tech not only cost them a spot on the top line (for now anyway), it helped the Red Raiders break into the field.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan
Isaiah Livers and Michigan might just be the team best positioned to challenge Gonzaga and Baylor for the No. 1 overall seed.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the pandemic leading many conferences to adjust their scheduling formats for this season pre-emptively and causing cancelations left and right, pre-weekend bracket and bubble updates this season are likely to be less chaotic than in most seasons.

Let me put it this way. Of the 68 teams present in Tuesday’s bracket, only half (34) played on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night. Of the half of the field that played, their results broke down in this manner:

  • 26 winners
  • 8 losers (with two of those being auto bid holders).

Of the first eight teams out of the field, two won, with both entering this projection as a result, four lost, and two had their games postponed (Michigan State and SMU).

A much higher proportion of teams will be in action over the weekend, so look for next Tuesday’s projection to feature more shuffling.

But There Was Some Movement ...

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Texas
Texas Tech grabbed its second Quad 1 road win of the season in Austin on Wednesday night.
American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

The two biggest results of the week were Michigan’s 77-54 throttling of Wisconsin on Tuesday—a scoreline that frankly flattered the Badgers—and Texas Tech’s thrilling 79-77 win at Texas one night later. That combo of results sees the Wolverines, now 11-0 and 6-0 in the Big Ten jump to the top line, replacing the Longhorns, who now rank below both Villanova (the fourth-ranked No. 1) and Tennessee (the top No. 2). As for the Red Raiders, the 11th-ranked team in the NET leaps into the field as a nine seed, with the chance to go even higher after Saturday, when they host Baylor.

Texas Tech replaces NC State, a 105-73 loser at Florida State on Wednesday, in the field, while Wichita State, fresh off an emphatic home win over Tulsa, jumps in to replace Arkansas. The Razorbacks dropped their third game in four, 92-76 at LSU.

After today’s bracket and rundown, I’ll have your weekend viewing guide.

The Bracket

Stars (✴️) indicate new entrants, while arrows (⬆️ ⬇️) indicate movement up and down the seed list.

Rundown

IN (4): LIU (NEC), Montana State (Big Sky), Texas Tech, Wichita State
OUT: Arkansas, Bryant (NEC), NC State, Southern Utah (Big Sky)

Last Four Byes: Seton Hall, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Wichita State
Last Four IN: Indiana, Pittsburgh, Stanford, VCU
First Four OUT: Utah State, Arkansas, Syracuse, SMU
Next Four OUT: Tulsa, Michigan State, NC State, Colorado State

Bids by Conference

*: auto bid holder

One-bid conferences: 21

Big Ten (9): 1. Michigan*, 2. Iowa, 3. Wisconsin, 4. Illinois, 5. Ohio State, 7. Minnesota, 7. Rutgers, 8. Purdue, 11. Indiana (First Four)
ACC (7): 3. Virginia Tech, 4. Clemson, 5. Louisville, 8. Florida State, 9. North Carolina, 10. Virginia*, 11. Pittsburgh (First Four)
Big 12 (7): 1. Baylor*, 2. Texas, 3. Kansas, 6. Oklahoma State, 6. West Virginia, 9. Texas Tech, 11. Oklahoma
Big East (5): 1. Villanova*, 2. Creighton, 6. UConn, 8. Xavier, 10. Seton Hall
Pac-12 (5): 4. Colorado, 5. USC, 5. UCLA*, 7. Oregon, 11. Stanford (First Four)
SEC (5): 2. Tennessee, 4. Missouri, 6. Alabama*, 9. LSU, 10. Florida
Atlantic 10 (3): 7. Saint Louis, 11. VCU (First Four), 12. Richmond*
American (2): 3. Houston*, 11. Wichita State
Mountain West (2): 8. Boise State*, 10. San Diego State,
West Coast (2): 1. Gonzaga*, 9. BYU

Weekend Lineup

Games are presented in relative order of importance. All times are Eastern. All times and broadcast information is CoVID-dependent.

Friday

It’s a busy day and night of mid-major hoops, as you’ll see if you check out the Matt Sarz’s Sports schedule for this week. However, there is one game that will impact the at-large and protected seed picture: Wisconsin at Rutgers, which tips at 9 p.m. (since we have to specify in 2021) on FS1.

Saturday

Early afternoon

Ohio State at Illinois, 12 p.m. (Fox)
North Carolina at Florida State, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Syracuse at Pittsburgh, 12 p.m. (ACC RSNs)
Missouri at Texas A&M, 1 p.m. (SECN)
Marquette at St. John’s, 12 p.m. (FS1)
Georgia at Ole Miss, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Buckeyes travel to Champaign for a vital game in the protected seed race, while the Orange will aim to avenge an earlier home loss to the Panthers in a bubble showdown.

Mid-afternoon

Michigan at Minnesota, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
San Diego State at Utah State, 1:30 p.m. (CBS)
Stanford at Colorado, 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Arkansas at Alabama, 3:30 p.m. (SECN)
Creighton at Butler, 2 p.m. (FS1)
Georgia Tech at NC State, 2 p.m. (ACC RSNs)
Kentucky at Auburn, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

On Thursday, Utah State established itself as a serious contender for the Mountain West crown, along with an at-large, by handling San Diego State in a rematch of their 2020 conference championship game matchup. Another is on tap today in Logan. Michigan can further cement its top seed credentials by grabbing a quality road win in Minneapolis, while Colorado and Alabama can burnish their own by taking out visiting bubble teams. Creighton, now on the two line, can’t stumble at Hinkle, while Kentucky must get back on track against an Auburn team that made itself postseason-ineligible.

Late afternoon

Baylor at Texas Tech, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Xavier at Seton Hall, 3:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Florida at Mississippi State, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
ETSU at Furman, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Washington at UCLA, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

Can Texas Tech knock off two Big 12 top seeds in a four-day span? Baylor’s visit to Lubbock is the most intriguing game in this window, though the winner of Xavier-Seton Hall could end up looking back on this contest as a reason why they ended up on the right side of the bubble.

Early evening

Virginia at Clemson, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 6 p.m. (SECN)
Colorado State vs. San José State (at Phoenix), 6 p.m. (MWN)
Arizona State at Oregon State, 7 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

The marquee matchup in the early evening window is Virginia’s trip to Clemson, with the Cavaliers desperate to both keep the ACC lead and earn their first quality win of the season.

Mid-evening

BYU at San Francisco, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Louisville at Miami, 8 p.m. (ACCN)
South Carolina at LSU, 8:30 p.m. (SECN)
Kansas State at Texas, 8 p.m. (LHN)
Iowa State at Kansas, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

BYU heads to War Memorial aiming to jump USF in the WCC standings. Louisville will look to avoid slipping up at Miami, while both LSU and Texas host beatable foes. Meanwhile, Bedlam should be a thriller, particularly with the hosts coming off a huge home win over Kansas.

Late evening

Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
Washington State at USC, 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
California at Utah, 10 p.m. (ESPNU)

Saint Mary’s hosts perfect Gonzaga, fresh off a Thursday loss to BYU. In Salt Lake City, Utah can boost its bubble position by following Thursday’s home win over Stanford with another over struggling Cal.

Sunday

Iowa at Northwestern, 12 p.m. (CBS)
UCF at Houston, 2 p.m. (ESPNU)
Memphis at Tulsa, 3 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Penn State at Purdue, 1 p.m. (BTN)
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, 6 p.m. (ACCN)
Dayton vs. George Washington (at George Mason), 4:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Sunday’s schedule is limited due to the NFL playoffs. The biggest change is the move of Iowa-Northwestern to the noon ET CBS spot after Michigan State-Indiana was postponed due to CoVID concerns. Otherwise, UCF needs to grab a marquee road win over Houston to complement their win at FSU earlier this season. The Knights are 1-3 since upsetting the Seminole. Tulsa saw its bubble position take a hit with Wednesday’s loss at Wichita State, but completing a season sweep of Memphis will improve their chances.

Monday

Kansas at Baylor, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Florida State at Louisville, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
St. John’s at UConn, 2:30 p.m. (Fox)
Notre Dame at Howard, 2:30 p.m. (Fox)

It’s the first Big Monday of the season, highlighted by a titanic Kansas-Baylor matchup in the nightcap. But take a nap during FSU-Louisville, which will impact the protected seed race before all is said and done. With Notre Dame’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup at Howard canceled due to CoVID concerns within the Bison program, St. John’s-UConn gets promoted to the afternoon Fox network slot.

I’ll post my next bracket update on Tuesday.