With selection Sunday fast approaching the top teams are really starting to separate themselves as the cream is starting to rise to the top. This week we will switch it up yet again with yet another fresh perspective on Bracketology. Bracketology will feature the usual power eight featuring my projected one and two seeds, along with eight teams ranked outside the top 25 that can-do serious damage in March.
Duke reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 for the third time this season. Read the story: https://t.co/e0Tzk4j5Hn
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) February 18, 2019
Duke is finally back on top of the national polls after a slip up by Tennessee Saturday evening against Kentucky. The headline grabber this week was Duke’s 23 point come back Tuesday night to stun a very good Louisville team on the road. Duke looks to be too big, too strong, and too athletic to be beaten. They look to be in the fast track to yet another national championship.
Virginia showed a lot of resilience last Monday night defeating North Carolina on the road after a loss to Duke. The Cavs played typical Virginia basketball holding Tar Heels star Coby White to 6-19 shooting in the contest. Virginia’s Deandre Hunter led the way per usual scoring 20 points on 7-10 shooting. Virginia is the 2nd best team in the country trailing only Duke.
My third one seed is still Tennessee despite an embarrassing loss to Kentucky Saturday night. The Vols were completely outclassed by the Wildcats. Despite the loss, Tennessee still only has two losses and has a non-conference resume that ranks among the best in the country with wins over Gonzaga and Louisville. We will see if Rick Barnes can write the ship this week.
Kentucky had its ten-game winning streak snapped by LSU last week before dominating Tennessee Saturday night. The controversy was abundant in the loss to LSU as the referees clearly missed a goaltending call on the game winning shot. PJ Washington has emerged as the Wildcats prime time performer averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds. The Wildcats now have four players averaging double digit scoring making Kentucky extremely dangerous.
Gonzaga continues to roll through the West Coast conference with still only just two losses. Their non-conference schedule is quite impressive with wins over Duke and Washington. The Bulldogs also have no bad losses. Their two losses are to Tennessee and North Carolina respectively. Gonzaga’s conference schedule is my only concern. Can they flip a switch in March after not being tested for months?
North Carolina (20-5)
Even with a home loss to Virginia, UNC is still one of the nation’s top teams. They still have two contests with arch rival Duke. It would be nice to see the Heels get at least a split to avenge the home Virginia loss.
An embarrassing loss to bottom of the barrel Penn State doesn’t overshadow what the Wolverines have done thus far. Michigan is 6-0 against ranked teams this year. Five of these wins have come by double digits. They also only have three road losses in a very tough and competitive Big Ten.
Michigan held a team meeting a few weeks ago. One unexpected voice, in particular, spoke up.
Since then, Charles Matthews has been on another level. “He always plays with passion, but this is a senior-leader, last-year type of passion.” – Isaiah Livers https://t.co/1dSqL9jSoN
— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) February 17, 2019
The Golden Eagles are ranked 11th in the latest AP Poll and it isn’t high enough in my opinion. Marquette has impressive wins over Kansas State, Wisconsin, Buffalo, and Villanova. They are well coached and boast one of the best point guards in the nation in Markus Howard who is averaging 25 points a game. Marquette is the class of the Big East and is a serious Final Four contender.
After a lot of midseason shuffling in the Atlantic 10, Davidson now sits a top the standings. The Atlantic 10 tournament won’t be a cake walk but I consider Davidson the favorites. The combination of Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmansonn will be tough to beat. Let’s also remember that four of Davidson’s six losses came months ago while Grady was nursing a knee injury.
Murray State (21-4)
Murray State will be pushed by Belmont in their quest to gain an automatic bid out of the Ohio Valley conference. I give the edge to Murray State based on their projected to five draft pick Ja Morant.
Ole Miss (18-7)
Ole Miss sits 4th in the SEC and barring a complete collapse shouldn’t have a problem gaining an at large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss is led by a very talented back court featuring upperclassmen Breein Tyree. Tyree is averaging just over 18 points per game and is shooting 48 percent from the field. He’s the type of guard that can power a sweet 16 run.
St. John’s (19-7)
St. John’s got a big win over Villanova Sunday evening at MSG. The Red Storm rallied from 19 down to stun the defending national champions. St. John’s also has the number of Marquette after sweeping the Golden Eagles. Chris Mullen seems to have St. John’s back on track and primed for a run in March.
— #BIGEASThoops (@BIGEASTMBB) February 18, 2019
Kent State (19-6)
Kent State has some work to do to get in the mix for an at large bid. The Golden Flashes could be dangerous if they earn a bid. Standout guard Jaylin Walker is averaging 22 points per game and shoot an incredible 40 percent from 3 point range.
Lipscomb should be able to lock up an automatic bid with ease out of the Atlantic Sun conference. The Bison shoot the lights out with five players shooting above 40 percent from three. They can break heart in March if they can string together good shooting performances.
Syracuse has a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Boeheim and a terrific point guard in Tyus Battle. I also like they have been battle tested playing in the ACC.
It’s nearly March and the Knights only have 5 losses. They boast a trio of capable guards with BJ Taylor, Aubrey Dawkins, and sharp shooter Terrell Allen. The Knights true x factor could be Tacko Fall. Fall stands 7’6 and can present obvious problems in the low post.
Potential Cinderella’s (Teams That Can Make A Run)
Like most every season under head coach Matt Painter, Purdue is in the mix for a Big Ten title. Purdue had an impressive blowout win over ranked arch rival Indiana Saturday and has one of the best point guards in the country in Carson Edwards. Edwards is averaging 24 points per game and is the type of player who can carry a team to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Murray State (15-2)
The Racers continue to dominate the Ohio Valley conference with two blowout victories this week and look to be a lock for an automatic bid into March Madness. Once they get in they have a chance to do real damage with an NBA caliber in Ja Morant. Morant is averaging 24 points and 10 assists on the season at torched SIU-Edwardsville for 40 points in Saturday’s victory.
Even after a puzzling loss to and underachieving St. Josephs, I still believe in this team. They rebounded nicely with a blowout victory over Richmond Saturday. Davidson currently sits 3rd the Atlantic 10 and have work to do if they want to have their name called on selection Sunday. They shouldn’t be counted out with a player like Kellen Grady on their side.
San Francisco (16-3)
The Don’s are Gonzaga’s biggest competition in the West Coast Conference. They have 3 losses on the season and have wins over California and Stanford. The bubble will be very nervous when San Francisco inevitably takes on Gonzaga in the WCC title game. The Don’s are a bid stealer waiting to happen.
Bracket Buster’s (Teams I don’t Trust)
A two-point loss to a less than stellar Kentucky team Saturday sums up Auburn perfectly. They win big over teams they should beat and fall when tested. That doesn’t make for a team I can trust in my bracket come March.
Mississippi State (14-3)
Like Auburn, Mississippi State sits at 2-2 in a very average SEC. I don’t think this team has the horses at the guard position to make a deep run into March.
Ohio State (12-5)
The Buckeyes are winless in four tries in Big Ten play. Ohio state is in serious trouble of not making the NCAA tournament even after a promising non- conference record. Even in a competitive conference like the Big 10 you must win at last some games.
With six losses already and coming off a blowout loss to arch rival Purdue, I struggle to see Indiana making a serious run come March. This is a complete turnaround from my opinion on Indiana in the debut of Bracketology, but star guard Romeo Langford can’t do it all himself.