It’s going to be one of those seasons. With no dominant team in college basketball, we can expect near weekly churning near the top of the bracket. The ink was barely dry on the bracket I posted about a week and a half ago before Duke, Iowa State, Kentucky and Purdue lost. That means it’s time for a refresher, and this time, the big loss of the week (so far) happened before the bracket was created.
Michigan State took its first loss of the season at Iowa on Tuesday night. The Spartans are still playing without player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine, who is recovering from knee surgery. He is expected back sooner rather than later, but that timetable is still indefinite. Michigan State remains on the top line of the bracket for now, but no longer as the overall No. 1 seed.
That honor belongs to Oklahoma, which has been playing fantastic basketball all season long behind another player of the year candidate, Buddy Hield. With Kansas also on the top line and Iowa State not far behind, the top of the Big 12 will be a lot of fun to watch this year.
But what of Baylor? The Bears are near the bottom of the top 25 in the rankings, but not in the bracket. The reason for that is simple – a putrid schedule and no results. Baylor has played two competent opponents away from home and lost both games. They do have a two-point win over Vanderbilt at home, and the Commodores are in the bottom half of the bracket. That’s it. The Bears’ other eight opponents are 200 or below, mostly way below, in the RPI, and they have also played a non-Division I opponent. Baylor is hanging its NCAA tournament hopes on how it does in conference play. Given the strength of the top of the league, that could be pretty risky.
The Big 12 isn’t the only top heavy league so far. The Big Ten has had three teams separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue have pulled away, although Iowa is making a push to join them. The Hawkeyes are at Purdue this weekend to attempt to make another statement that they belong with the elite in the league.
The Big East looks to be pretty top heavy as well, with top-seed Xavier, Villanova, Providence and Butler all playing very well.
Fasten your seat belts. There’s a long way to go this season, and the ride figures only to get bumpier.