- After a poor showing in out of conference play, a lot of bracketology experts thought that Marquette would have to claw their way through the Big East schedule for an at-large bid. Fast forward two weeks and the Golden Eagles are 3-0 in conference, with three top 100 wins (although each game was down to the wire). The S-Curve after team #40 is close to awful this year, so they fit in safely the 7-9 seed range. 9-9 in conference play should seal an at-large bid, and with opportunities at home against Notre Dame and Syracuse down the road, the Eagles have the opportunity to go even higher (a 5 or 6).
Is there a case for a Gonzaga 1 seed?
- What else are the Zags supposed to do in their out of conference slate? They scheduled extremely tough knowing that the WCC was facing a down year. They drilled Oklahoma and Kansas State away from home, won at Oklahoma State on New Years Eve, beat a decent Baylor team that is in consideration for an at-large, and come three time zones east for a Saturday prime-time match up against a scorching hot Butler squad. The home loss to Illinois is no blemish and is the only thing standing between them and perfection. That's a lot more than Louisville, Syracuse and Indiana accomplished in the non-conference schedule. Heck, Syracuse traditionally refuses to schedule a true road game before Big East play. Despite the fact that Gonzaga has nine upcoming conference games against RPI 150+ teams, it's unfair to punish a team for a conference slate they didn't choose. They're the model of what the selection committee preaches for scheduling. If they somehow win out or lose just one more game through March, they should receive serious consideration for the top line.
Illinois needs to correct itself before it wrecks itself
- A little over a month ago I heaped praise on the Illini for results that John Groce was getting out of his team, and how this year was certainly different from the last. But Illinois has started Big Ten play a 1-3, with a terrible loss to Purdue and followed up with two behind the woodshed beatings from Wisconsin and Minnesota. This follows a disturbing pattern from 2011-2012, when they started hot and finished miserably. The lapses on the defensive end are concerning to say the least, and some of the turnovers they commit are just silly. But it's not too late. There are 14 games left, and Illinois needs to win eight of them and they're a lock for the tournament (seven would probably make them safe as well). It doesn't even really matter which teams they beat from here until March 17th because they've already racked up three signature wins. Like Marquette, they just need to get to .500 in conference play.
Creighton is more than a one man show
- Doug McDermott. Doug McDermott. Doug McDermott. There, I said his name three times to give the All-American his due credit. Now let's talk about how good rest of the team is. Is anyone noticing that Grant Gibbs has a 5:1 assist to turnover ratio? Or that Ethan Wragge is lights out from deep? (He needs to shoot it more and get more minutes, by the way. Same goes for Austin Chatman). After giving up 70 plus points in three of their first four, the Jays have given up 70 just once since their confounding loss to Boise on November 28th. Much of that is due to Greg Echenique becoming a defensive force down low while also scoring more consistently. While the Jays didn't get any really impressive wins out of conference, they had several solid wins (Arizona State, Wisconsin, Cal, Saint Joe's). That's enough to overcome their loss to a good Boise State and will get them a top 5 seed if they continue to play at a high level. And if Wragge and Chatman get hot in March, watch out. This team can make the Final Four.