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Bracketology 2021: Michigan heads into pause as the third No. 1 seed

On Saturday, the Wolverines became the fourth top seed required to hit pause on their season. However, given their position on the bracket, two teams will need to pass them over the next two weeks for them to lose their spot on the top seed line.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Purdue
Just 24 hours after handling Purdue in West Lafayette, the Michigan Wolverines received some bad news.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, Michigan walloped Purdue by a 70-53 score at Mackey Arena to improve to 13-1 overall and 8-1 in a rugged Big Ten. The victory further solidified the Wolverines’ position as the No. 3 overall seed in that afternoon’s bracket projection. Then, Juwan Howard’s team received some unwelcome news on Saturday night.

Four of the Wolverines’ games have now been postponed as a result, starting with Wednesday’s scheduled trip to Penn State and ending with a February 6th visit from archrival Michigan State. Despite losing those contests (for the moment anyway), don’t expect Michigan to drop too far behind Gonzaga and Baylor on the seed list in the immediate future, thanks to its sterling record. However, if the Wolverines can begin play again on February 11th, when Illinois visits Ann Arbor, keep an eye on whether they resemble the Bulldogs and Bears upon their returns to play ... or Villanova, the current fourth No. 1 seed, who got back into the swing of things more slowly after almost a month off the court.

Michigan was not the only top tier team to experience a CoVID setback over the past three days, as Texas received some bad news on Monday.

The Longhorns, currently the second-ranked No. 2 seed—behind red-hot Alabama—will now be without their coach for at least their next two games, tonight against Oklahoma in Austin and Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge contest at Kentucky. American-leading Houston and Iowa join Alabama and Texas as No. 2 seeds.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Tennessee
Might Missouri be 2021’s answer to the eternal question: Who’s the second best team in the SEC?
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

After impressively taking down Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday night, Missouri ranks as the top No. 3 seed, ahead of a dangerous Florida State team, Ohio State, and the Vols themselves. The Buckeyes leapfrogged Wisconsin, now the top No. 4 seed, with a 74-62 victory in Madison on Saturday afternoon. Creighton, Virginia, and Virginia Tech round out the top 16.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota
Maryland has a very 2020 profile in 2021.
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Turning our attention to the cut line picture, Maryland is one of two Big Ten teams ranked among the “Last Four In,” alongside Rutgers. While the Terps are currently 9-7 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play, all of their conference victories have come on the road against teams currently projected as in. To firm up their chances, Mark Turgeon’s team will need to start winning at home, starting on Wednesday against Wisconsin. As for the Scarlet Knights, they somehow won at Indiana by four to snap a five-game losing streak. Rutgers will get another chance to pick up a decent win on Thursday night when it hosts Michigan State.

Stanford is the third new at-large entrant in today’s bracket, thanks Oscar da Silva.

The Cardinal replace Utah State, who drop out following Monday’s 59-56 loss at UNLV.

After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll preview the TV schedule for the next three evenings.

The Bracket

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

Rundown

IN (6): Grand Canyon (WAC), Liberty (ASUN), Maryland, Prairie View A&M (SWAC), Rutgers, Stanford
OUT: Jacksonville (ASUN), Marquette, Richmond, Southern (SWAC), Utah State, Utah Valley (WAC)

Last Four Byes: Pittsburgh, UConn, Stanford, Seton Hall
Last Four IN: North Carolina, Maryland, Colorado State, Rutgers
First Four OUT: Richmond, Utah State, San Diego State, Providence
Next Four OUT: Georgia Tech, Syracuse, VCU, Wichita State

Bids by Conference

*: auto bid holder

One-bid conferences: 22

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

Midweek Lineup

Games are presented in relative order of importance. All times are Eastern. All times and broadcast information is CoVID-dependent. I’ll try to keep this section updated, but if I don’t, check out MattSarzSports.com’s weekly and daily schedules.

Tuesday

Afternoon and early evening

Oklahoma at Texas, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Kentucky at Alabama, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Mississippi State at Tennessee, 7 p.m. (SECN)
North Carolina at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (ACCN)
Dayton at Saint Louis, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
Richmond at Saint Joseph’s, 6 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
SMU at Memphis, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Tulsa at Temple, 1 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Saint Louis is scheduled to return from its lengthy CoVID pause. That was supposed to happen last week, but the Billikens should finally return to the floor after more than a month away when they host Dayton for their first Atlantic 10 game of the season.

Elsewhere, Alabama will look to continue its dominance of the SEC when it hosts struggling Kentucky, Oklahoma would love to follow Saturday’s home win over Kansas by topping Shaka Smart-less Texas in Austin, and Tennessee hosts Miss. State aiming to stop a two-game skid. UNC-Pitt is a key bubble matchup, with the Panthers moving toward safety, while Richmond, SMU, and Tulsa all put their hopes to the test on the road.

Late evening

Georgia Tech at Duke, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Missouri at Auburn, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Butler at UConn, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
LSU at Texas A&M, 9 p.m. (SECN)

On Saturday night, Georgia Tech lost a heartbreaker at Virginia, and the Yellow Jackets cannot let the Cavaliers beat them twice when struggling Duke visits tonight. Missouri impressed in winning at Tennessee Saturday, but can the Tigers do it again against Sharife Cooper and Auburn? UConn hosts Butler aiming to end a two-game losing streak, while LSU will try to do the same at A&M.

Wednesday

Afternoon and early evening

Miami (Fla.) at Florida State, 6 p.m. (ACCN)
Creighton at Seton Hall, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Marquette at Providence, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Virginia Tech at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs)
Penn State at Ohio State, 7 p.m. (BTN)
Vanderbilt at Florida, 6:30 p.m. (SECN)
Pepperdine at BYU, 3 p.m. (WCC Network)
UMass at VCU, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Georgia at South Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Florida State hosts in-state rival Miami looking to extend its win streak to five, while the two Big East games in the 7 p.m. window have serious bubble implications, as all of those involved not named ‘Creighton’ could use a quality win. Elsewhere, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, and Florida all face potential trap games.

Late evening

Wisconsin at Maryland, 9 p.m. (BTN)
Boise State at Colorado State, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
Louisville at Clemson, 9 p.m. (ACC RSNs)
Wake Forest at NC State, 8 p.m. (ACCN)
Ole Miss at Arkansas, 8:30 p.m. (SECN)
Washington State at Colorado, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Kansas State at Baylor, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Utah State at UNLV, 11 p.m. (FS1)
St. John’s at DePaul, 9 p.m. (FS1)

While Wisconsin’s trip to Maryland is the highlight here, don’t ignore the first game of Boise State and Colorado State’s double-dip in Mountain West play. The Broncos have won 13 straight, while the Rams have won five of six. On Saturday, Wake Forest finally clipped an at-large hopeful by beating Pitt in Winston-Salem. Can the Demon Deacons do it again in Raleigh? Clemson travels to Louisville needing to end a three-game blowout streak, while Baylor entertains K-State 72 hours before Auburn visits Waco.

Arkansas will look to win its third in succession, while Colorado hosts Washington State four days after defeating the Cougars in Pullman, 70-59. Utah State, meanwhile, will look to avenge Monday night’s loss to UNLV in the second game of their series.

Thursday

Afternoon and early evening

Michigan State at Rutgers, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Oregon State at USC, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
Wyoming at San Diego State, 5 p.m. (FS1)
UNC Asheville at Winthrop, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Last Tuesday, Oregon State edged USC 58-56 in Corvallis, but the Trojans will get a quick chance at revenge this afternoon. Michigan State travels to Piscataway aiming to complete a season sweep of Rutgers, currently the Spartans’ lone win over a team in the field or near the cut line. San Diego State cannot afford a slip up against Wyoming, while Winthrop will look to remain perfect when it hosts UNCA.

Late evening

Villanova at UConn, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Stanford at Arizona, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)
Memphis at SMU, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Houston at Tulane, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
TCU at Kansas, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Gonzaga at San Diego, 9 p.m. (KHQ/WCC RSNs/WCC Network)
Belmont at Austin Peay, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

UConn will play its second home game in a three-day span when Big East-leading Villanova visits. Stanford, fresh off a stunning win over UCLA, travels to Arizona. Houston, Gonzaga, and Belmont will all aim to remain in command of their respective conference races, while SMU hosts Memphis in a rapid rematch of Tuesday’s contest (a 76-72 Tiger home win). Kansas, meanwhile, joins the group of Big 12 teams playing potential trap home games before the SEC Challenge on Saturday, The Jayhawks visit Tennessee in that series.

On Friday, we’ll see what the bracket looks like heading into the final weekend of January.