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Bracketology 2022: Auburn rises to the top after Baylor’s rough week

Both the Tigers and Gonzaga jumped the Bears, who lost two home games after ascending to the top spot in the bracket and the polls. Note that I’m trying a couple of new things in today’s post, so your feedback is welcome.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Alabama
K.D. Johnson and Auburn lead off today’s bracket projection.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Note: This post is best viewed on desktop.

The East and West regional brackets for Tuesday, January 18, 2022.
The Midwest and South regional brackets for Tuesday, January 18, 2022.
The bracket rundown for Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

Conference Notes with Key Midweek Matchups

All game times are Eastern. All game info is subject to change due to the pandemic.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Baylor
Oklahoma State celebrated a win in Waco on Saturday—mere consolation for a team banned from the postseason.
Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 (8 Teams in Today’s Field)

Tuesday: (1) Baylor at (7) West Virginia, 5 p.m. (ESPN2); (3) Kansas at (7) Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (ESPN); Kansas State at (9) Texas, 8:30 p.m. (LHN); (5) Iowa State at (4) Texas Tech, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Wednesday: (12) TCU at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

After rising to the top of the polls last Monday, Baylor dropped two home games and slid down to the No. 3 overall spot in today’s bracket. The Bears will look to end their skid in Morgantown this afternoon—not an easy task. Tuesday’s other key game is set for Lubbock, where host Texas Tech will try to rebound from a disappointing Saturday loss to Kansas State when it hosts Iowa State. With both squads in the 4–5 seed range, this matchup will be vital in the race for a protected seed. In Wednesday’s lone contest, bracket newcomer TCU faces a stiff road test in Stillwater when it meets tournament-ineligible Oklahoma State.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Villanova
Blue is sad because his Butler Bulldogs aren’t very good.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Big East (7)

Tuesday: Butler at (5) UConn, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Wednesday: St. John’s at (11) Creighton, 7 p.m. (FS1); (9) Marquette at (2) Villanova, 8 p.m. (CBSSN); (4) Xavier at DePaul, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Thursday: Georgetown at (5) Providence, 5 p.m. (FS1); (5) UConn at Butler, 9 p.m. (FS1)

Thanks to pandemic rescheduling, this week’s Big East slate features a rare back-to-back home-and-home between UConn and a Butler squad that lost by 40 at Villanova on Sunday. Wednesday’s lineup features the conference’s game of the midweek, as Marquette, winner of four straight, heads to Nova, currently the top-ranked No. 2 seed in this projection. Elsewhere, Creighton and Providence will be tasked with defending their respective home floors, with 10-5 St. John’s far better positioned than 6-8 Georgetown to take advantage of a road victory.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Illinois
Purdue took down an Illinois squad that could have used the marquee Big Ten win after two OTs on Monday afternoon.
Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten (7)

Tuesday: Maryland at Michigan, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); IUPUI at (6) Ohio State, 7 p.m. (B1G Network); (2) Wisconsin at Northwestern, 9 p.m. (B1G Network)
Wednesday: Minnesota at Penn State, 6:30 p.m. (B1G Network); (8) Iowa at Rutgers, 6:30 p.m. (B1G Network)
Thursday: (1) Purdue at (8) Indiana, 7 p.m. (FS1)

The Big Ten game of the week is set for Thursday night, as Purdue, fresh of Monday’s double-OT win at Illinois, visits archrival Indiana, who is a perfect 10-0 at Assembly Hall so far this season. Otherwise, Wisconsin travels to Evanston for perhaps the second most intriguing game on the slate, as the Badgers will put their six-game win streak on the line against a Northwestern squad that stunned Michigan State on Saturday to boost its bubble case. Minnesota, meanwhile, on the outside looking in after the last week, can’t slip up at Penn State.

The lone non-conference game of the six sees Ohio State host an IUPUI team that is 0-14 against Division I opposition so far this season.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Kentucky
Oscar Tshiebwe and Kentucky honored the memory of former Wildcat coach Joe B. Hall by blasting Tennessee on Saturday.
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

SEC (6)

Tuesday: Missouri at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. (ESPNU); South Carolina at Arkansas, 7 p.m. (SECN)
(6) Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 9 p.m. (SECN)
Wednesday: Mississippi State at (11) Florida, 6:30 p.m. (SECN); (2) LSU at (5) Alabama, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); (3) Kentucky at Texas A&M, 8:30 p.m. (SECN); Georgia at (1) Auburn, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Wednesday’s slate sees a titanic showdown between LSU, down to a 2 seed this week, and Alabama, which has slid to a 5 after three consecutive losses. But it’s an even bigger midweek window for the conference’s bubble teams. First team out Arkansas will be expected to take care of South Carolina at Bud Walton on Tuesday, while Wednesday’s early evening showdown pits the fourth team above the cut line, Florida, against the third team out, Mississippi State. Then there’s Texas A&M, fifth team out despite a 15-2 record. The Aggies currently lack a marquee win, but defeating a Kentucky team that looked amazing in wrecking Tennessee on Saturday will change that.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Colorado State
Colorado State followed Wednesday’s five-point home win over fellow at-large contender Utah State by winning at San José State by 36 on Saturday.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Mountain West (3)

Tuesday: Air Force at (12) Boise State, 9 p.m. (CBSSN); Utah State at Fresno State, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)
Wednesday: San José State at Wyoming, 9 p.m. (MWN); New Mexico at (9) Colorado State, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)
Thursday: (12) Boise State at Utah State, 9 p.m. (MWN)

San Diego State, currently an 8 seed, has the midweek window off. The Aztecs will host Boise State on Saturday, with the Broncos likely to be tired after playing two tricky opponents before heading to Viejas—8-6 Air Force at home tonight and fellow bubble team Utah State in Logan on Thursday. Speaking of the Aggies, they visit another potential bubble contender in Fresno State tonight. Wednesday sees Wyoming, 26th in the NET but in need of a marquee win or two, and Colorado State, hanging in on the 9 line, host the two weakest teams in the Mountain West.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Southern California
Oregon is without a doubt the Team of the Week for this projection, thanks to its timely sweep of the UCLA and USC swing.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 (4)

Thursday: (6) USC at Colorado, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks); Washington State at (11) Oregon, 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks); (4) UCLA at Utah, 11 p.m. (FS1); (3) Arizona at Stanford, 11 p.m. (ESPNU); Washington at Oregon State, 11:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

By sweeping the Los Angeles schools, Oregon served notice that it would be a threat to claim the Pac-12 title and stormed into the field as the final bye team in today’s bracket. The Ducks will look to extend their win streak past five when they host the Washington schools this weekend. The three conference squads higher up in the bracket face potentially difficult road tests. USC, which has fallen from a 2 to a 6 thanks to dropping two of its last three, heads to Boulder, where the Trojans last won in 2018. On the other hand, UCLA can win for a third consecutive time at the Huntsman Center when it takes on struggling Utah. Arizona, meanwhile, visits Stanford having dropped its lone meeting with the Cardinal in a lost 2020-21 season.

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga
Last Thursday, BYU lost at Gonzaga by a 110-84 count. But the Cougars picked up a vital road win at San Francisco 48 hours later.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

WCC (4)

Thursday: San Diego at (7) BYU, 9 p.m. (BYU TV); Santa Clara at (10) Saint Mary’s, 9 p.m. (CBSSN); (9) San Francisco at (1) Gonzaga, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)

Saturday night saw USF drop a home nail-biter to BYU, 71-69. The Dons’ hope for a rebound are slim; however, as they visit the buzzsaw that is Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have scored 110+ in their last three games, while allowing only 83 or 84 points in each. Amazing consistency for a three-game span. The other two WCC at-large entrants today, BYU and Saint Mary’s, both host teams that boast a single conference loss. However, San Diego sits a bit higher in the standings at 3-1 than 1-1 Santa Clara, which came off a COVID. layoff last week.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Duke
Duke took down Triangle rival NC State on Saturday to further establish itself as a No. 1 seed contender—and the ACC’s lone mid-January tournament lock.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

ACC (3)

Tuesday: (10) North Carolina at (10) Miami, 7 p.m. (ACCN); (2) Duke at Florida State, 9 p.m. (ESPN); Clemson at Syracuse, 9 p.m. (ACCN)
Wednesday: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. (ACCN); Virginia Tech at NC State, 7 p.m. (ACCN); Boston College at Louisville, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACCNX); Virginia at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m. (ACCN)
Thursday: North Florida at Florida State, 12 p.m. (ACCN)

At the moment, the ACC only has three teams in the field because Miami has a half-game lead on Duke in the standings—courtesy the Hurricanes’ 76-74 win at Cameron Indoor. A home win over UNC would help solidify the Canes’ place. As for the Blue Devils, they visit Florida State, which has won three in a row. But the Seminoles last defeated Duke back in 2017—in Tallahassee. Repeating that feat, then completing a season sweep of Miami on Saturday in Coral Gables would do wonders for the Noles’ at-large hopes.

Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest all need wins to avoid slipping further. Pretty much every other ACC team needs the auto bid or a miracle to dance at this point.

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament-Davidson vs VCU
Davidson’s last trip to VCU saw the Wildcats drop a 64-52 decision in the rearranged Atlantic 10 Tournament’s semifinals.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Atlantic 10 (2)

Tuesday: (10) Davidson at VCU, 7 p.m. (CBSSN); (11) St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Richmond at Fordham, 8 p.m. (SNY/MASN/ESPN+ ($))
Thursday: Saint Louis at UMass, 7 p.m. (NESN+/Bally Midwest/ESPN+ ($))

The Atlantic 10’s two entrants both hit the road tonight with dangerous opponents on tap. Davidson travels to Richmond for the first of two meetings in an eight-day span with a VCU squad that saw its seven-game win streak end with a thud in Olean on Friday. Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure has rebounded from a rough finish to non-conference play and a COVID pause to start Atlantic 10 play at 2-0. But the Bonnies will be tested by a Dayton squad that needs as many quality wins as possible for its at-large chances to overcome the three-game non-conference home losing streak that’s tanked the Flyers’ metrics.

Richmond and Saint Louis, two teams who also need wins to get within bubble range, both hit the road. The Spiders may have the trickier game of the two, as they visit Fordham, who is a surprising 2-1 in the A 10 standings.

NCAA Basketball: Murray State at Memphis
Murray State won at Memphis on December 10th. The Racers have lost just once since, at Auburn on December 22nd.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

OVC (2)

Thursday: (12) Belmont at Morehead State, 7 p.m. (ESPN News); Eastern Illinois at (11) Murray State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

On Saturday, Murray State served notice to Belmont by blasting the Bruins, 82-60, in Nashville. Thursday will see Casey Alexander’s squad visit Morehead State, currently 4-0 in the OVC, a win behind the Racers in the standings. As for Murray, it will meet Eastern Illinois for the second time in four days, having blasted the Panthers by 36 in Charleston on Monday night.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Wichita State
On Sunday, Cincinnati picked up a gutsy 61-57 win at Wichita State to boost its bubble chances.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Other Conferences

Tuesday: (12) Iona at Monmouth, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (16) Jacksonville at Liberty, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); UCF at East Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (8) Loyola Chicago at Evansville, 8 p.m. (Bally Midwest/NBCS Chicago Plus/ESPN+ ($)); South Florida at (3) Houston, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Wednesday: (13) Vermont at NJIT, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Wichita State at Temple, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Northern Iowa at Valparaiso, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Bradley at Drake, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Thursday: SMU at Memphis, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); Monmouth at Fairfield, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (12) New Mexico State at Sam Houston State, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Grand Canyon at Stephen F. Austin, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (13) Oakland at Milwaukee, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Tulsa at Cincinnati, 9 p.m. (ESPNU); (15) Cal State Fullerton at UC Irvine, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Tuesday sees a key matchup at the top of the MAAC, as Iona, 14-3 overall and 6-0 in the league, visits Monmouth. The Hawks had an at-large shot until their return from a COVID pause on January 14th. Since then, King Rice’s squad has lost by five at in-state rival Saint Peter’s and recorded an astoundingly bad 84-48 loss at Marist on Sunday. The grind continues for Monmouth on Thursday when they visit to Fairfield.

Don’t look now, but the Missouri Valley is threatening to be a multi-bid league, somehow. It may take a team other than Loyola winning Arch Madness, but UNI (5-1) and Drake (4-1) are both showing they can contend in conference play.

The American is currently a one-bid league, as Houston has established itself as the favorite, while teams like Cincinnati and SMU have work to do. In the Mustangs’ case, that means winning in Memphis on Thursday. The Tigers slide out of the field today after back to back losses to UCF and East Carolina. As for the Knights, their at-large case took a major hit with a 75-51 loss at archrival South Florida on Saturday night.

I’ll be back on Friday with a fresh bracket and weekend/Monday preview.