Sunday, January 6, 2019

6-JAN Bracket Projections: North Carolina rises, Pittsburgh, Florida drops.

Teams with a Zero
Nevada’s unbeaten streak is over as they get palindromed at New Mexico 85-58.  The Lobos exercise some demons from the historic Wolf Pack come back from two seasons ago, allowing a 2-0 Nevada lead to be the day’s only real bright side for Nevada.  Nevada will likely be just fine in conference play, but I’m interested to see how they do at Fresno State next weekend.  The Mountain West probably has less strength in the middle this year, but I do think the two or three teams at the top are playing good basketball. 

Virginia ran away from Florida State, although mop up time allowed the Seminoles to close with a more respectable score.  Michigan got a double digit win against Indiana, as did Houston against Memphis, both on Sunday.  All three will be challenged on the road this week.  Houston will be at Temple, Michigan is at Illinois, and Virginia is at Boston College.

Two previously winless teams earned their first victory on Saturday.  Coppin State knocked off Savannah State in a game which neither team managed better than 0.92 points per possession.  Dejuan Clayton had an efficient day with a season high 23 points on just eleven shots.  Alabama State had less drama, and thumped Grambling State at home by a score of 74-53.  It was the defense that earned the Hornets the victory allowing a season low in effective field goal and two point shooting percentage against Division I competition. 

South Carolina State was close to breaking through, but lost to North Carolina A&T in overtime.  They will have to stew on that for a few extra days as they do not play again until this weekend.  The other six teams are in action.  While none will be favorites, five of the six will be playing at home giving them a little better chance to breakthrough.  Southern will have Texas Southern, Maryland Eastern Shore hosts Howard, and Alcorn State battles Prairie View A&M with all games on Monday.  North Alabama will get Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, and New Hampshire will have UMass Lowell on Wednesday.  UNC Asheville is the lone team facing a road test with a game at Longwood on Thursday. 

Notable Games
This week's top five as I see them (3-2 last week, 56-24 overall):
#5 Fresno State at Utah State, Wed – Utah State 73, Fresno State 70
#4 TCU at Kansas, Wed – Kansas 74, TCU 73
#3 Purdue at Michigan State, Tue – Michigan State 79, Purdue 72
#2 Auburn at Mississippi, Wed – Mississippi 74, Auburn 73
#1 North Carolina at North Carolina State, Tue – North Carolina State 82, North Carolina 76

My updated bracket can be found below.  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. 

Six automatic bids are being swapped out in this update after many conferences began play this weekend. 
Ivy- Brown (Yale)
Patriot- Lehigh (American)
Northeast- LIU Brooklyn (Wagner)
SWAC- Texas Southern (Grambling State)
American East- Vermont (Stony Brook)
Big South- Radford (Gardner Webb)

As for the at large teams, swapping out just one team after this weekend’s games.  Villanova is back in, Vanderbilt is out.    

My latest bracket has one bid going to first timers, with Abilene Christian clinging to the Southland bid.  Wichita State (7), Arizona (6), Xavier (5), Providence (5), West Virginia (4), Butler (4), Seton Hall (3), Miami FL (3) and Iona (3) would see multiple year streaks of tournament appearances snapped if this bracket would hold.  Brown, 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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