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Men’s College Basketball NCAA Tournament Bracketology 2022: The Bubble Is Not a Place for the Claustrophobic

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✴️ = new bracket entrants
⬆️ and ⬇️ = bracket returnees’ seed movement relative to Friday’s bracket
(#) = Overall rank of the top 16 teams (top four seeds in each region)

Acknowledgements: NET rankings and records are accurate as of Tuesday, February 15, 2022 and reflect only games against Division I teams. Selection Sheet info is from WarrenNolan.com. Team logos are from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.

Team of the Week: Obviously, this is Geo Baker and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-9, 9-5), even if they currently sit six spots beyond the cut line. At the rate they’re going, five wins over the NET Top 25, including Saturday’s at Wisconsin (winning on the road was something Steve Pikiell’s 2020-21 team struggled with), should eventually overwhelm three terrible, early sub-100 losses, including one to 315th-ranked Lafayette.

Disappointment of the Week: The Michigan Wolverines (13-10, 7-6) remain in the bracket, barely, as they couldn’t follow Thursday’s dominant 82-58 home win over Purdue by defeating Ohio State on the road, falling 68-57 on Saturday. Two big road trips loom this week: Iowa on Thursday, then Wisconsin on Sunday.

Tuesday: (4) Michigan State at Penn State, 6:30 p.m. (BTN) | Minnesota at (5) Ohio State, 8:30 p.m. (BTN) | (3) Wisconsin at (8) Indiana, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

Wednesday: (3) Illinois at (N4O) Rutgers, 7 p.m. (BTN) | (2) Purdue at Northwestern, 9 p.m. (BTN)

Thursday: (12) Michigan at (8) Iowa, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Rutgers will have another huge opportunity to move closer to the field when it hosts Illinois, now the top No. 3 seed on Wednesday night. Purdue, the fourth No. 2, will visit Evanston in the back half of that Big Ten Network doubleheader. Michigan State, 16th overall, could be ripe for an upset when it visits Happy Valley tonight, and the same could be said for Wisconsin, who is just 4-3 in its last seven, as it heads to Bloomington later in the evening. On Thursday, Michigan’s trip to Carver-Hawkeye is a worthy standalone Big Ten contest.

Big 12 (7)

Team of the Week: After a midseason swoon, the Baylor Bears (21-4, 9-3) are definitely back following a 2-0 week capped by Saturday’s dominant 80-63 home win over Texas. However, the Bears are not out of the woods when it comes to their injury issues, as junior forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is now out for the year after hurting his left knee in that contest. Still, the 2021 champs are now the second No. 2 seed behind conference rival Kansas Jayhawks.

Disappointment of the Week: It feels like a race against time and the bubble for the Iowa State Cyclones (16-9, 3-9) following four consecutive losses, the latest coming after OT on Saturday, 75-69 to Kansas State. Despite not having any bad losses, it seems like T.J. Otzelberger’s club finds itself in the opposite predicament as Rutgers. Will quality non-conference wins over Xavier, Memphis, Creighton, and Iowa be enough when you’ve only been able to add three Big 12 wins (including home victories over Texas Tech and Texas) to your ledger?

Tuesday: (5) Texas at (11) Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (ESPN2) | (9) Iowa State at (9) TCU, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Wednesday: (2) Baylor at (3) Texas Tech, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

On Monday night, Kansas took care of business against tournament-ineligible Oklahoma State and Kansas State handed West Virginia another loss—a result that simultaneously pushed the Wildcats into the bubble crowd. The three midweek games on offer all have significant postseason implications. Tonight, Oklahoma hosts Texas coming off a disappointing 71-69 loss at Kansas that looks like a real missed opportunity for the Sooners’ to solidify their place in the field. The Iowa State-TCU game that follows features two teams that cannot feel secure on seed line No. 9. On Wednesday night, Baylor travels to Lubbock for a titanic showdown. The Red Raiders, now on seed line No. 3, already edged the Bears in Waco, 65-62, back on January 11th.

Team of the Week: The Villanova Wildcats (19-6, 12-3) are within range of Providence in the Big East race following last week’s victories over St. John’s and Seton Hall. The ‘Cats have also solidified themselves as a threat for a top four seed.

Disappointment of the Week: The Marquette Golden Eagles (16-9, 8-6) have dropped from the 4 line to the 6 after dropping road games to UConn (which, fine) and Butler (not acceptable, even if the Bulldogs are improved of late). Shaka Smart’s team has sandwiched three away losses around a February 2nd home victory over Nova.

Tuesday: (4) Villanova at (2) Providence, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)

Wednesday: St. John’s at (7) Xavier, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN) | Georgetown at (6) Marquette, 8 p.m. (FS1) | (8) Seton Hall at (6) UConn, 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Thursday: (12) Creighton at DePaul, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)

The game of the week in the Big East is set for tonight at the Dunk, as Villanova can move within a loss of Providence by winning the pair’s first meeting of the season. They’ll play again at Finneran Pavilion on March 1st. As the week progresses, both Marquette and Xavier will attempt to take care of business at home, while Seton Hall heads to UConn looking for a key season sweep. On Thursday, Creighton heads to Chicago aiming to extend its win streak against Big East strugglers to four, following a sweep of Georgetown and Tuesday home win over Butler.

Team of the Week: The Alabama Crimson Tide (16-9, 6-6) put two good performances together in the same week for the first time since sweeping LSU and Missouri in mid-January. First, the Tide swept Ole Miss by 14 in Oxford, then they edged bracket neighbor Arkansas, 68-67, back at Coleman Coliseum. Nate Oats’ team now ranks as the top 6 seed with room to grow.

Disappointment of the Week: It’s now six straight losses to tournament or bubble teams for the Mississippi State Bulldogs (14-10, 5-6). Last week, they managed to both lose to Tennessee by nine at home and drop a 69-65 heartbreaker at LSU.

Tuesday: (F4O) Florida at Texas A&M, 7 p.m. (SECN) | (1) Kentucky at (5) Tennessee, 9 p.m. (ESPN) | (6) Arkansas at Missouri, 9 p.m. (SECN)

Wednesday: Mississippi State at (6) Alabama, 7 p.m. (ESPN2/U) | Georgia at (7) LSU, 7 p.m. (SECN) | Vanderbilt at (1) Auburn, 9 p.m. (SECN)

On Wednesday, Mississippi State visits the last contender it was able to defeat, Alabama. The Bulldogs edged the Crimson Tide, 78-76, on January 15th in Starkville. But the two most noteworthy games are set for Tuesday night. First up, Florida heads to College Station coming off a 78-57 thrashing at Kentucky that snapped a four-game win streak. The Aggies, however, have dropped eight in a row, so a loss tonight would push the Gators further from the cut line with the bubble becoming increasingly crowded. As for the Wildcats, they travel to Knoxville, where Tennessee will be looking to avenge the 107-79 hammering UK administered at Rupp on January 15th. Kentucky remains the fourth No. 1 seed this week, while the Vols are now the top No. 5, knocking on the door of a protected seed.

ACC (5)

Guess who’s 5-0 against ACC schools in the state of North Carolina?

The Miami Hurricanes.

It’s the first time we’ve gone undefeated against all four of North Carolina’s ACC teams. pic.twitter.com/jPHbsfAxGr

— Canes Hoops (@CanesHoops) February 14, 2022

Team of the Week: In a good week for the upper echelon of ACC bubble teams, the Miami Hurricanes (18-7, 10-4) edged their competition by following up a 79-70 home win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday by winning an actual road game against a fellow contender on Saturday—76-72 at Wake Forest. That completed a Hurricane sweep of the Demon Deacons, who have also defeated each of the ACC’s other three North Carolina teams.

Disappointment of the Week: The Clemson Tigers (12-13, 4-10) had the whole world in front of them last Tuesday, with North Carolina, Duke, and Notre Dame all visiting Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately for Brad Brownell’s team, it got swept, with only the Tar Heels’ visit being a close contest.

Tuesday: (10) Wake Forest at (3) Duke, 7 p.m. (ESPN) | Clemson at Florida State, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACCNX)

Wednesday: Boston College at (9) Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (ESPN2/U) | (11) Miami at Louisville, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACCNX) | Pittsburgh at (11) North Carolina, 8 p.m. (ACCN)

The ACC’s biggest game of the week for the bubble already happened on Big Monday, as Virginia Tech, now the fifth team out, took down Virginia, currently eighth out, 62-53, to earn a split of the season series. As for the games to come, Miami and Wake will both face road tests of varying difficulty, while Notre Dame and UNC host opponents they absolutely cannot lose to.

Team of the Week: The USC Trojans (21-4, 10-4) were able to record a third Quad 1 win—and a first top-tier one—by continuing their recent dominance over visiting UCLA, 67-64. It was a 2-0 week for Andy Enfield’s squad, though they struggled to get past Pacific in a Tuesday non-conference tilt, 74-68. USC now sits on seed line 5.

Disappointment of the Week: Entering Thursday, the Washington State Cougars (14-10, 7-6) were in the NET Top 40 and poised to pick up some quality wins that would vault them into legitimate at-large discussions. Today, they’re NIT-bound after being swept at home by the Arizona schools and dropping a 62-59 decision at Oregon on Monday night. There’s still hope for Wazzu, though a trip to Los Angeles this week makes the task more difficult.

Tuesday: Colorado at Oregon State, 9 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

Thursday: Oregon State at (1) Arizona, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks) | (12) Oregon at Arizona State, 9 p.m. (ESPN/2) | Colorado at California, 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks) | Washington State at (4) UCLA, 11 p.m. (FS1) | Utah at Stanford, 11 p.m. (ESPNU) | Washington at (5) USC, 11:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

This week not only sees the Washington schools visit UCLA and USC, which impacts Washington State’s slim chances, the Oregon schools head to the desert, where the Ducks have the most to play for. Before heading to Tucson on Saturday, Oregon faces a tricky trip to Tempe. ASU only lost by two in Eugene way back on December 5th, dropping a 69-67 OT decision.

Team of the Week: The Mountain West title race will be one to follow over the last few weeks of the season, with Colorado State’s (19-3, 10-3) epic 77-74 OT win over Boise State (18-6, 10-2) being representative of the thrillers you can expect to see between now and Selection Eve in Las Vegas. The pair meet again in Fort Collins on March 5th with a third showdown possible at the Thomas & Mack Center one week later. Of course, Wyoming, San Diego State, Utah State, and Fresno State will have something to say about that.

Disappointment of the Week: This goes to San Diego State (15-6, 7-3) despite two wins. The problem for the Aztecs—the second team out of this projection, mind you—is the increased competition on the bubble, including some teams I’ll discuss below.

Tuesday: (7) Wyoming at New Mexico, 9 p.m. (Stadium College Sports Atlantic/MWN) | Utah State at (F4O) San Diego State, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)

Wednesday: UNLV at Fresno State, 10:30 p.m. (CBSSN) | (9) Boise State at Air Force, 11 p.m. (FS1)

Thursday: (8) Colorado State at New Mexico, 9 p.m. (MWN)

With Wyoming, Boise State, and Colorado State all hitting the road, danger lurks for the three Mountain West teams in this projected bracket. San Diego State, however, has a real opportunity when it hosts Utah State. However, the Aggies had little trouble with the Aztecs in Logan on January 26th, recording a 75-57 victory that started a five-game streak. However, USU will enter this one having dropped two straight, Tuesday’s missed opportunity at Wyoming and a 13-point home loss to Nevada.

WCC (3)

Team of the Week: The Gonzaga Bulldogs (21-2, 10-0) further cemented control of the WCC race by sweeping Pacific and Saint Mary’s. While the Zags are now back at the top of the polls, they remain No. 2 overall in this projection. Sweeping the league regular season and tournament crowns might just give the Bulldogs an edge when all is said and done, considering the competition their rivals for the top spot must still deal with.

Disappointment of the Week: Santa Clara (17-9, 7-4) we hardly knew you. The Broncos followed Tuesday’s 77-72 win over Saint Mary’s that pushed them into a picture with a 74-58 home loss to San Francisco that dropped them back out. The only thing that could change the situation for Herb Sendek’s club is a win at the Kennel on Saturday.

Tuesday: (11) San Francisco at Pacific, 10 p.m. (NBCS Bay Area/WCCN)

Wednesday: (1) Gonzaga at Pepperdine, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)

Thursday: (11) San Francisco at (7) Saint Mary’s, 10 p.m. (NBCS Bay Area Plus/WCCN)

BYU (19-8, 7-5), the new first team out, thanks to the entry of SMU, has the midweek window off before a make-or-break trip to Moraga to face a Gaels squad that must host San Francisco on Thursday. Remember that Saint Mary’s needed a huge rally to defeat the Dons, 72-70, back on January 27th. USF has to play Pacific first, however, while Gonzaga begins a stretch that sees it play three of its last four on the road with the easiest of those contests—at 7-20 and 1-11 Pepperdine.

American Athletic (2)

Team of the Week: The American is currently a two-bid league, thanks to this week’s results, led off by SMU’s (18-5, 9-2) 85-83 home win over Houston. The Mustangs have the auto bid at the moment, at the expense of the Cougars.

Disappointment of the Week: Speaking of Houston (20-4, 9-2) not only did they lose at Moody Coliseum on Wednesday, the Cougars saw their 37-game home win streak end at the hands of the Memphis Tigers (14-8, 8-4), now the third team out of the field.

Tuesday: (F4O) Memphis at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Wednesday: (12) SMU at Temple, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Thursday: UCF at (4) Houston, 7 or 9 p.m. (ESPN/2) | Wichita State at Cincinnati, 7 or 9 p.m. (ESPN/2)

While Houston will look to rebound at home on Thursday, Memphis and SMU will both put their improved bubble positioning to the test on the road. Tonight, the Tigers visit Cincinnati, who will look to defeat both Memphis and Wichita State to boost their own stock. On Wednesday, SMU travels to Philadelphia to take on a Temple squad that’s dropped two straight.

By the way, Memphis heads to Dallas on Sunday afternoon looking to avenge the 70-62 loss the Ponies doled out on January 20th.

Atlantic 10 (1)

Team of the Week: Just when you thought St. Bonaventure (15-7, 7-4) was done, it managed to sweep fellow bubble team Saint Louis (17-8, 8-4) in a Friday/Monday home-and-home series. The Bonnies still have six regular season games to play, and they may need to win each and every single one of them to bump their computer numbers enough to move up the bubble.

Disappointment of the Week: The easy choice here would be the Billikens, who have slid down the Atlantic 10 standings and bubble pecking order over the past four days. But I’m going with Davidson (21-4, 11-2) despite the fact the Wildcats remain the conference leader and lone representative in the bracket. Monday’s 72-61 victory over Duquesne was the first double-digit win for Bob McKillop’s club in over a month. Davidson has also dropped a home game to VCU and road trip to Rhode Island in that span, with the latter defeat coming on Saturday.

Tuesday: VCU at Fordham, 7 p.m. (SNY/MASN2/ESPN+ ($))

Wednesday: UMass at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | La Salle at Saint Louis, 8 p.m. (Bally Midwest Plus/ESPN+ ($))

While Davidson has the midweek window off, as does bubble team Dayton (who took down URI) on Monday night, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis both get winnable home games on Wednesday. Tuesday night, VCU, also still in the picture, heads to the Bronx to take on a Fordham team that’s reverted to form after a 2-0 A 10 start.

Elsewhere

It was yet another rough weekend for those hoping to complete perfect conference seasons. Vermont dropped an overtime thriller at 2021 America East champ Hartford on Monday to follow Longwood, a 70-62 loser at North Carolina A&T on Saturday, out of the club. Now just three teams remain: NCAA lock Gonzaga and OVC leader Murray State and Summit power South Dakota State. Both the Racers and Jackrabbits play home games on Thursday night.

Tuesday: Kent State at (13) Toledo, 6 p.m. (CBSSN) | High Point at (15) Longwood, 6 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Miami (Ohio) at Ohio, 7 p.m. (ESPN3) | (12) Iona at Saint Peter’s, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (14) Liberty at North Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Bradley at Southern Illinois, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Indiana State at Missouri State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Northern Iowa at Illinois State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Wednesday: (13) Vermont at New Hampshire, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Jacksonville at Stetson, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (16) Colgate at Army West Point, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (11) Loyola Chicago at Valparaiso, 8 p.m. (Bally Midwest/NBCS Chicago/ESPN+ ($)) | Evansville at Drake, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Jacksonville State at Lipscomb, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (14) Seattle at UTRGV, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Thursday: Towson at (16) UNCW, 6 p.m. (CBSSN) | Troy at Appalachian State, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Austin Peay at (10) Murray State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU) | (14) Wagner at Sacred Heart, 7 p.m. (SNY/ESPN3) | (12) North Texas at Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UNCG at Chattanooga, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UTEP at Louisiana Tech, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Rice at UAB, 8 p.m. (Stadium) | Western Illinois at (13) South Dakota State, 8 p.m. (Midco Sports 2/ESPN+ ($)) | Eastern Illinois at Belmont, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Arkansas State at (15) Texas State, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (15) Longwood at High Point, 9 p.m. (ESPNU) | Dixie State at New Mexico State, 9 p.m. (Aggie Vision/Bally Arizona Plus/ESPN+ ($)) | (15) Montana State at Eastern Washington, 9 p.m. (SWX/ESPN+ ($)) | Sacramento State at Weber State, 9 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (16) Long Beach State at CSUN, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

On Friday, I’ll be back with another look at the lock and bubble picture heading into the weekend that will feature the Selection Committee’s preview of the top four seeds in each region.



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