Thursday, December 20, 2018

20-DEC Bracket Projections: LSU, TCU rise, Arkansas drops.

Teams with a Zero
Texas Tech lost to Duke tonight, suffering their first loss of the season and reducing our unbeaten teams from nine to eight.  Kansas, Virginia, and St. John’s cruised in their games earlier this week.  Buffalo won an important tilt at Syracuse, while Houston also scored an impressive home win against Utah State.  Michigan, Furman, and Nevada were all idle.

The remaining eight unblemished teams are in action this weekend with a number of tough road games on the schedule.   Furman will have the toughest match-up, in terms of remaining undefeated, with a road game at LSU.  The Paladins will be underdogs.  Buffalo will be a slight underdog for the second straight game, this time getting a point or two from Marquette.  Kansas looks like it will be a favorite on the road at Arizona State, but this could be a slog against a sneaky ASU and a PAC 12 conference that desperately needs some good publicity.  Nevada is home, against Akron, and despite this being in Reno I think could also be scrappier than the spread might indicate.  Michigan (Air Force), Houston (Coppin State) and St. John’s (Sacred Heart) are all home and heavy favorites to remain undefeated. 

Delaware State just needed an instate rival to get right in the win column (and 48% three point shooting) as the Hornets of Newark knocked off Delaware 73-71 for their first Division I win.  Mount St. Mary’s had no such luck with the shooting stroke in their game against American in which both teams shot poorly and mustered less than one point per possession.  However the Mountaineers kept more possessions alive rebounding nearly half of their misses, wringing out just enough to take a 56-55 win. 

This leaves twelve teams remaining teams looking for that first Division I win.  Monmouth, UNC Asheville, and Southern are all either idle this weekend, or welcoming in non-Division I teams in for a game.  Alabama A&M and La Salle will square off in a game so big only Atlantic City could showcase it.  The loser of this match-up will get the loser of Tulane and Towson the next day for a chance at instant retribution.    North Alabama will also have a good shot at a victory with a game at VMI, and probably expect to be a one point or so underdog.  New Hampshire is home, and won’t be as much of a toss-up like North Alabama, but the Wildcats are probably a 2-5 point dog and a reasonable team to keep an eye on if you're looking for teams that could drop off this list.  Alabama State will be hard pressed to find a win this weekend when they get Liberty in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Alcorn State (South Florida), South Carolina State (Cincinnati), and Maryland Eastern Shore (American) will all be big road dogs.  Coppin State will throw quantity at the problem with games at Louisiana Monroe and Houston, and likely two more losses for Juan Dixon's squad.  In total, we’ll absolutely whittle down by one, and a reasonable chance we could hit single digits for both undefeated and winless teams this weekend. 

Notable Games
This week's top five as I see them (5-0 last week, 42-18 overall):
#5 Vanderbilt at Kansas State, Sat – Kansas State 71, Vanderbilt 69
#4 Buffalo at Marquette, Fri – Marquette 73, Buffalo 72
#3 Akron at Nevada, Sat – Nevada 75, Akron 70
#2 Oklahoma at Northwestern, Fri –Northwestern 71, Oklahoma 67
#1 North Carolina vs Kentucky, Sat – North Carolina 82, Kentucky 79

My updated bracket can be found below.  Currently, the weighting is 95% this season’s results and 5% last year/pre-season.  This bracket (as well as my previous brackets) are a projection of where I think the teams will be as of Selection Sunday based off the schedules remaining.  

Five automatic bids are being swapped out in this update. 
NEC- Sacred Heart (St. Francis NY) reversal of the last update.
Big South- Gardner Webb (Radford)
CUSA- North Texas (Old Dominion)
Atlantic 10- Rhode Island (Davidson)
MEAC- Morgan State (Howard)

As for the at large teams I'm swapping out three after this week’s games.  Purdue, Northwestern, and Akron are in.  Arizona State, Texas, and UCLA are out.  I’m skeptical about Akron’s inclusion, but they’ve dominated in their wins and their four losses are by a combined 12 points.  Their projecting to do nearly as much damage as Buffalo and Toledo in conference, and the MAC is currently grading out as the 9th best conference.  We’ll find out more this weekend with their trip to Nevada, or this might be a short stay in the brackets for the Zips. 

My latest bracket has four bids going to first timers, with Grambling State, Sacred Heart, Gardner Webb, and Abilene Christian taking a spot.  Wichita State (7), Villanova (6), Arizona (6), Xavier (5), Providence (5), West Virginia (4), Seton Hall (3), Miami FL (3) and Iona (3) would see multiple year streaks of tournament appearances snapped if this bracket would hold.  Grambling State, Furman, Rider, Colgate, and Texas State would be ending droughts of at least 20 years with an automatic bid.  Toledo and San Francisco I have securing an at large bid, would be snapping a drought of 38 and 20 years, respectively.  

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