Wednesday, December 26, 2018

26-DEC Bracket Projections: Iowa State rises, North Carolina, Kansas drops.

Teams with a Zero
We are down to five undefeated teams, as three teams lost road games.  Buffalo ran into a red hot Markus Howard at Marquette and suffered their first defeat 103-85.  LSU missed a chance a few games back to give a program (Houston) its first loss, but the Tigers sent Furman home with a 75-57 defeat.  Finally, Kansas fell from the ranks of the unbeatens with an 80-76 loss at Arizona State.  

As for the remaining teams, Virginia will be off until Monday.  Michigan is a big favorite at home against Binghamton, while Houston is also at home and favored against NJIT.  The other two schools are on the road.  Nevada will go to Utah for a road test, but the Wolf Pack should prevail.  St. John’s will have an even tougher out when they go to Seton Hall for a Big East conference game.

Two programs earned their first win over the weekend.  La Salle knocked off fellow winless Alabama A&M on Friday in a quick four team tournament.  The Bulldogs then used the consolation bracket to knock off Tulane 67-59 for their first win.  Tulane led that game by seven late second half prior to Alabama A&M making their comeback.  Ten programs are still searching for their first Division I win.

Alcorn State, Alabama State, UNC Asheville, Monmouth, and South Carolina State are all idle or playing non-Division I programs this weekend.  North Alabama is finding their first year in D1 challenging, and will hope to find their first win in a weekend road trip that swings through Spokane, WA on Friday prior to a game at Eastern Illinois Sunday.  The EIU game is winnable, although that’s some brutal travel.  If the Lions can’t get it done, we will probably remain at ten teams on this list.  Coppin State (Notre Dame), Maryland Eastern Shore (Virginia Tech), Southern (Marquette), and New Hampshire (Dartmouth) are all on the road and sizable underdogs.

Notable Games
This week's top five as I see them (3-2 last week, 45-20 overall):
#5 Belmont at Purdue, Sat – Purdue 79, Belmont 76
#4 BYU at Mississippi State, Sat – Mississippi State 78, BYU 73
#3 Lipscomb at Clemson, Sun – Clemson 75, Lipscomb 73
#2 Butler at Florida, Sat –Florida 68, Butler 67
#1 Kentucky at Louisville, Sat – Louisville 76, Kentucky 74

My updated bracket can be found below.  Currently, the weighting is 98% this season’s results and 2% 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.  In other words, it includes their future schedule, for better or for worse. 

Nine automatic bids are being swapped out in this update. 
NEC- LIU Brooklyn (Sacred Heart)
Big South- Radford (Gardner Webb)
CUSA- Old Dominion (North Texas)
Atlantic 10- Dayton (Rhode Island)
MEAC- Howard (Morgan State)
Big West- UC Santa Barbara (UC Irvine)
Patriot- Lehigh (Colgate)
Atlantic Sun- Lipscomb (Liberty)
American East- Stony Brook (Vermont)

As for the at large teams, swapping out four after last week’s games.  Marquette, Iowa, Miami FL, and Fresno State are in.  Oregon, Saint Mary’s, Connecticut and Akron are out.

My latest bracket has two bids going to first timers, with Grambling State and Abilene Christian taking a spot.  Wichita State (7), Villanova (6), Arizona (6), Xavier (5), Providence (5), West Virginia (4), Seton Hall (3), and Iona (3) would see multiple year streaks of tournament appearances snapped if this bracket would hold.  Grambling State, Furman, Howard, Rider, 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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