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Bracketology 2022: Traditional Powers Start to Revolt

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Kansas and Michigan State haven’t managed to crack the top seed line yet, but this weekend’s results pushed both ever closer.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Note: This story is best viewed on desktop.

✴️ = new bracket entrants
⬆️ and ⬇️ = bracket returnees’ seed movement

Note: BYU (a natural 7 seed) and Xavier (a natural 6 seed) were swapped to ensure the Cougars’ placement in a Thursday/Saturday regional and pod.

Graphic updated 1:07 p.m. 01/25/2022

Conference Notes with Key Midweek Matchups

All game times are Eastern. All game info is subject to change due to the pandemic. Seed numbers in parentheses.

Big 12 (8 Teams)

Winner of the Weekend: With a pair of three-point victories at Kansas State and after two overtimes against Texas Tech back at Phog Allen, Kansas moved to 17-2 overall and 6-1 in Big 12 play, a full game up on Baylor. The Jayhawks are fully ensconced in the race for a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.
Loser of the Weekend: On the other hand, K-State may rue its 78-75 loss to its Sunflower State rival, especially since the Wildcats led by 17 early in the second half. Bruce Weber’s squad could have climbed the bubble by extending its win streak to three—having defeated Texas Tech and Texas in the previous week.

Tuesday: Kansas State at (1) Baylor, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (8) Texas at (12) TCU, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Wednesday: (10) Oklahoma at (7) West Virginia, 8 p.m. (ESPN2); (6) Iowa State at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Kansas State gets another chance at a marquee win tonight, though the assignment is a more difficult one than KU in Manhattan, as the Wildcats visit Baylor. TCU is the newest at-large in today’s projection, and the Horned Frogs can solidify their standing by defeating Texas in Fort Worth tonight. Then there’s Oklahoma, who has slid closer to the cut line thanks to four consecutive losses (and five in its last six). The Sooners face an extremely difficult week; however, as they visit Morgantown tonight, No. 1 Auburn on Saturday, then host TCU on Monday.

Big East (7)

Winner of the Weekend: Marquette keeps on rolling. On Sunday, the Golden Eagles extended their winning streak to six by taking fellow protected seed contender Xavier down, 75-64, at home.
Loser of the Weekend: Seton Hall had a real opportunity with its weekend home-and-home series against St. John’s. While the Pirates were able to take down the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden, they couldn’t complete the sweep, even playing on-campus for a raucous students-only audience.

Tuesday: DePaul at (3) Villanova, 7 p.m. (FS1); Georgetown at (6) UConn, 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Wednesday: (8) Creighton at Butler, 6:30 p.m. (FS1); (4) Providence at (6 flipped to 7) Xavier, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN); (5) Marquette at (7) Seton Hall, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)

Seton Hall’s troubles could get worse on Wednesday, as red-hot Marquette visits the Prudential Center. That’s one of two massive showdowns set for tomorrow evening, as Providence, winner of three straight (all at home), visits Xavier. At 6-1 in Big East play, the Friars are one game up on Villanova, UConn, and Creighton in the loss column.

Big Ten (7)

Winner of the Weekend: On Friday night, Michigan State thumped Wisconsin, 86-74, in Madison. While the Badgers remain on the top line thanks to their still overwhelming total of 10 Quad 1 and 2 victories, the Spartans, now a 2 seed in this projection, are in pole position in the Big Ten race. For now.
Loser of the Weekend: Indiana followed up an inspiring Thursday home win over Purdue by getting absolutely trucked by Michigan, at Assembly Hall, by an 80-62 count.

Tuesday: (2) Michigan State at (7) Illinois, 7 p.m. (ESPN); Maryland at Rutgers, 8 p.m. (B1G Network)
Wednesday: Northwestern at Michigan, 6:30 p.m. (B1G Network); Penn State at (9) Indiana, 8:30 p.m. (B1G Network)
Thursday: (1) Wisconsin at Nebraska, 5 p.m. (B1G Network); (5) Ohio State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (ESPN); (3) Purdue at (9) Iowa, 9 p.m. (FS1)

Michigan State’s place at the top of the conference comes under immediate threat tonight when it visits Illinois. The Fighting Illini are ranked 14th in the NET, four spots ahead of the Spartans, but their profile hasn’t caught up to their metrics. Illinois has just one Quad 1 victory (against three losses). A reason for this: of the Illini’s six Big Ten wins, only one has come against a team in this projected field (Iowa). Speaking of the Hawkeyes, they will move to 1-4 in Quad 1 games if they can earn a season split with Purdue on Thursday night.

In terms of the bubble, Michigan and Minnesota are the teams in biggest need of a victory. The Wolverines have crept back up the pecking order since returning from a COVID pause, but they’ll hand those gains back if they lose at home to Northwestern.

SEC (7)

Syndication: The Courier-Journal Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK

Winner of the Weekend: Auburn took down Kentucky in an electric atmosphere on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers, 18-1 and 7-0 in the SEC, subsequently rose to the top of the polls for the first time. They also solidified their place at the top of this projection.
Loser of the Weekend: Florida followed up its huge home win over Mississippi State by hammering Vanderbilt on Saturday ... then by dropping a 70-54 decision at Ole Miss—a team missing its two top scorers. As a result, the Gators are the last team in, just ahead of the Bulldog team they defeated on Wednesday.

Tuesday: (5) Alabama at Georgia, 6:30 p.m. (SECN); (1) Auburn at Missouri, 8:30 p.m. (SECN); Mississippi State at (4) Kentucky, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday: (12) Florida at (6) Tennessee, 6 p.m. (ESPN2); Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPNU); (12) Arkansas at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. (SECN); Texas A&M at (4) LSU, 9 p.m. (SECN)

Things don’t get easier for Florida either, as a trip to Knoxville is on tap for Wednesday. The last Gator team to win at Thompson-Boling was Billy Donovan’s penultimate squad that went 21-0 against SEC opposition and reached the Final Four. Elsewhere, both Alabama and Auburn hit the road to take on beatable opponents, while both Mississippi State and Texas A&M will try to pick up profile-boosting road victories.

ACC (4)

Winner of the Weekend: Since losing to Duke on January 12th, Wake Forest has won four straight, including a pair of dominant home wins this weekend. The Demon Deacons took down UNC by 22 on Saturday, then vaporized Boston College by 30 on Monday night. While Steve Forbes’ club is still in the First Four group, that won’t last if it keeps on winning—even in a very down ACC.
Loser of the Weekend: Virginia Tech faced the same two opponents as Wake on Saturday and Monday. But the Hokies had to take on both BC and Carolina on the road. It didn’t go well. The Eagles took down the Gobblers by a 68-63 count, an unforgivable result. Tech then followed that up by dropping a 78-68 decision in Chapel Hill. Mike Young’s squad now sits at 10-9 overall and 2-6 in the ACC after an extremely unproductive weekend.

Tuesday: Clemson at (2) Duke, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); Syracuse at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. (ACCN)
Wednesday: (10) Miami at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. (ACCN); Boston College at North Carolina, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACCNX); (9) Florida State at Georgia Tech, 9 p.m. (ACCN); NC State at Notre Dame, 9 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACCNX)

You would expect Duke to handle Clemson at Cameron and Florida State to win at Georgia Tech, perhaps uncomfortably. But there’s a lot of mystery in the rest of the slate. Miami, fresh off a failed rally against the Seminoles, heads to Blacksburg to take on a desperate Virginia Tech squad. UNC hosts BC to close the weekend loop. Then there’s NC State-Notre Dame which is what passes for the second best bubble game of the week in the ACC in 2022.

Pac-12 (4)

Winner of the Weekend: While both Los Angeles teams swept the Rocky Mountain road swing, USC gets the edge over UCLA here, thanks the the Trojans’ Monday night triumph over Arizona State back at the Galen Center.
Loser of the Weekend: Of the two swept squads, Colorado was in best position to make some noise by gaining at least a split. However, the Buffaloes fell by a mere three points to USC and six to UCLA after a failed late push.

Tuesday: Colorado at (11) Oregon, 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks); (2) Arizona at (3) UCLA, 11 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday: Utah at Washington State, 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Thursday: California at (3) UCLA, 9 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks); Stanford at (5) USC, 11 p.m. (FS1); Colorado at Washington, 11 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

One of the games of the year is set for a late tip on ESPN, as Arizona, the top team in the NET, heads to Pauley Pavilion to take on UCLA. Both teams are 2-1 in Quad 1 win opportunities, thanks to the weakness of this Pac-12, so tonight’s winner will gain an edge nationally. Note that the Bruins have a quick turnaround for the Bay Area squads’ trip to L.A. this weekend.

Colorado has now dropped three of its last four, with all of those defeats coming against the three strongest Pac-12 squads. Tonight, the Buffaloes visit the fourth, Oregon.

WCC (4)

Winner of the Weekend: Let’s call this a four-way tie between the WCC’s four projected teams. Gonzaga was off on Saturday, while BYU, Saint Mary’s, and San Francisco all took down teams they should have.
Loser of the Weekend: Vacant for this week for the reason above. That won’t be the case on Friday, however!

Thursday: (10) Saint Mary’s at (11) San Francisco, 10 p.m. (Stadium); (7 flipped to 6) BYU at Santa Clara, 11 p.m. (ESPNU); Loyola Marymount at (1) Gonzaga, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)

While BYU has a tricky trip to Santa Clara on its calendar for Thursday (the Cougars’ lone scheduled regular-season matchup with the Broncos) and Gonzaga hosts Loyola Marymount, the game of the week is set for War Memorial in San Francisco. That’s where USF hosts Saint Mary’s in what’s also the lone scheduled meeting of the pair. While both the Dons and Gaels are hovering on the right side of the cut line, the victor will be able to breathe a little bit better heading into the weekend’s action.

MW (3)

Winner of the Weekend: It wasn’t the viewers of Boise State’s 42-37 boulder fight victory over San Diego State, that’s for sure. But the Broncos did move to 6-0 in the Mountain West and 14-4 in games against Division I opposition even without the benefit of earning some style points.
Loser of the Weekend: Wyoming lost by winning. The Cowboys edged New Mexico, 93-91, in Laramie to move to 4-0 in conference and 14-2 in D1 games. However, that performance wasn’t enough to keep the Pokes in the field with what else happened nationally.

Tuesday: Nevada at (8) Colorado State, 9 p.m. (FS1); Fresno State at New Mexico, 9 p.m. (Stadium/Marquee); Wyoming at (11) Boise State, 9 p.m. (MWN/Stadium College Sports Pacific)
Wednesday: (10) San Diego State at Utah State, 10:30 p.m. (FS1)

That might not last for long for Wyoming; however, as the Cowboys head to Extra Mile Arena for a top of the table clash with Boise State. If Jeff Linder’s team wins that one, it will be in Friday’s projection as the Mountain West leader. Colorado State will try to keep pace, meanwhile, when it hosts Nevada on Tuesday. As for San Diego State, who rebounded from Saturday’s performance by hammering UNLV, 80-55, it plays a tricky road game at struggling Utah State on Wednesday night.

Elsewhere

Winner of the Weekend: Toledo took control of the MAC race with an emphatic 87-69 at defending league champ Ohio on Friday night. The Rockets will put their six-game winning streak on the line when Buffalo visits Savage Arena tonight.
Loser of the Weekend: Dayton saw its four-game win streak snapped by the barest of margins in Fairfax on Saturday. The Flyers failed to crack 50 in falling by a point to George Mason, 50-49. Anthony Grant’s club cannot afford losses like that given the three-game November losing streak that put the Flyers in a hole before the ESPN Events Invitational resuscitated their hopes.

Tuesday: Richmond at Rhode Island, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN); Cincinnati at Temple, 7 p.m. (ESPNU); Siena at (11) Iona, 7 p.m. (ESPN3); Fordham at Dayton, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)): Buffalo at (13) Toledo, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Northern Illinois at Ohio, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Missouri State at Indiana State, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Southern Illinois at (8) Loyola Chicago, 8 p.m. (Bally Midwest/NBCS Chicago/ESPN+ ($))
Wednesday: St. Bonaventure at George Mason, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (13) Vermont at Stony Brook, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Northern Iowa at Evansville, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); SMU at South Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Wofford at (13) Chattanooga, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); George Washington at Saint Louis, 8 p.m. (Bally Midwest/ESPN+ ($)); UCF at Wichita State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Drake at Illinois State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); VCU at (9) Davidson, 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN); Stephen F. Austin at (14) Seattle, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Thursday: (15) Arkansas State at Appalachian State, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)): Rice at Louisiana Tech, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)): (8) Loyola Chicago at Southern Illinois, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); North Texas at Southern Miss, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); Belmont at Austin Peay, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); (12) Murray State at Tennessee Tech, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)); East Carolina at Memphis, 9 p.m. (ESPN2); (12) UAB at Western Kentucky, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)

There are a lot of intriguing matchups that will help set the table for conference tournament play on tap this week with Buffalo-Toledo, Vermont-Stony Brook, Wofford-Chattanooga, SFA-Seattle, and Arkansas State-Appalachian State looking like the most important. In terms of at-large contenders, both Davidson and Loyola have big weeks ahead of them. The Wildcats will look to complete a season sweep of VCU on Wednesday night, while the Ramblers will attempt to defeat Southern Illinois twice in three days. After dropping a 79-69 home decision to Missouri State on Saturday, Drew Valentine’s team needs to make a statement.

On Friday, I’ll be back to take a look at where things stand heading into the final weekend of the season that features some significant non-conference matchups, the Big 12/SEC Challenge.