Scoreboard Watching: December 9, 2016

In the books

Iowa 78, Iowa St. 64: The Hawkeyes show a pulse for the first time this season, running away with this rivalry win at home.  Can they build on it from here?
 
UT Arlington 65, Saint Mary's 51: Massive win for the Mavericks, who have now won 7 straight since starting 0-1.  The Gaels only have two opponents the rest of the way ranked in the KenPom Top 150, so they'll need a strong showing to be in the at-large conversation while their SoS rankings fall.

Tipping Off This Weekend

Wisconsin at Marquette: The Badgers have looked strong in their last two games against quality opponents, disposing of both Syracuse and Oklahoma at home.  However, Marquette badly needs a quality win out of conference - and definitely has this one circled as a must have.
 
Wichita St at Omaha: The Shockers start a two game road swing against the Oklahoma Big 12 schools.  A sweep would put them in solid position heading into MWC play.  Meanwhile, the Sooners look to bounce back after getting shallacked in their aforementioned trip to Madison last weekend.
 
Notre Dame at Villanova: It's a Big East flashback as Notre Dame takes an undefeated record on the road against the team currently occupying everyone's #1 spot. 
 
Cincinnati at Butler: Ever since the Bearcats went into Iowa St and got the win, a lot of eyes turned toward this showdown at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  This would be Butlers best win of the season, bringing them to 10-0 before next weekend's clash with Indiana.
 
Michigan at UCLA: The Bruins are red, red hot and Pauley Pavilion will be rocking as they return home after their monumental road win over Kentucky. Meanwhile, Michigan has been middling, barely edging Texas for a home win on Tuesday to inch their hopes forward.  If they don't shoot better, the Bruins may very well run them out of the gym.
 
Rhode Island at Houston: Both teams need it. Rhode Island needs to rebound from last weekend's loss to Providence, while Houston needs something to keep the door open for a bubble berth.
 
Colorado at BYU: Coming off a home win over Xavier, the Buffs' stock is rising fast.  The Cougars are only 1-2 against the KenPom Top 100 with an anchor of a loss to Utah Valley.
 
Florida at Florida St: The Gators are playing their first actual road game of the year (I'm not counting UNF as a road environment) while they wait for the O-Dome to finish renovations.  FSU is hoping for a signature win to prove that their young team is ready to compete against the ACC slate.

Scoreboard Watching: December 8, 2016

In the books

Indiana St 72, Butler 71: The Scott brothers strike again.  Two weeks after Fort Wayne's Bryson Scott led his team to an upset win over Indiana, it was his twin brother Brenton who netted the game winning free-throw with 0.8 seconds left.  We said yesterday this had the making of a trap game for the Bulldogs before Saturday's game with Cincinnati, and they proved us right.
 
Colorado 68, Xavier 66: Topping off a bad night for the Big East was Xavier, dropping their second straight road game.  A huge win for the Buffallos who head into Saturday's game with BYU looking like they're on the right side of the bubble.
 
Creighton 77, Nebraska 62:  The Jays pulled away in the second half after a game that was close for the first twenty minutes.  Creighton guard Maurice Watson Jr. dominated with his quickness, finishing with a season-high 25 points and 8 assists.
 
Grand Canyon 76, San Diego St 72: With back-to-back losses to Loyola (IL) and now Grand Canyon, the Aztecs are officially out of the conversation for an at-large bid if they can't take the MWC crown.
 
SMU 74, TCU 59: In one of the bigger DFW showdowns in a while, the Mustangs finally got back to looking like they did in the early part of the season, controlling the game behind Semin Ojeleye's 23 points.
 
Seton Hall 60, Cal 57: The Pirates are slowly building themselves back into a tournament team.  Monday's game against South Carolina would be a big step in that direction heading into conference play.

Tipping Off Today

Iowa St at Iowa: The Hawkeyes got a much needed cupcake in Stetson to end their four game skid, punctuated by a home loss to Nebraska Omaha on Saturday.  They still don't have a win against the KenPom Top 300(!).  Meanwhile, the Cyclones just beat that same Nebraska Omaha team to end their own 2-game slide.  All signs would point to the Iowa St rolling on the road.
 
UT Arlington at Saint Mary's: Arlington has gotten back on track after their 1-3 start, but face their toughest test of the season in Moraga against the undefeated Gaels.  Saint Mary's only had two opponents the rest of the way ranked in the KenPom Top 100, surely something that will hurt them come selection time.

Scoreboard Watching: December 7, 2016

In the books

Florida Atlantic 79, Ohio St 77: Nick Rutherford's floater in the lane as time run down in overtime lifted the Owls to a monster upset on the road - the Buckeyes were 97% favorites to win by KenPom.
 
Duke 84, Florida 74: Much like their other loss to Gonzaga, the Gators started strong and then slowly faded away as things wore on.  Duke's continues to look strong despite a 6-man rotation most of the game as their walking wounded continue to heal.
 
Michigan 53, Texas 50: Trailing late, it appeared as those the Wolverines' skid would continue. However, a Mo Wagner block with 4 seconds left allowed Michigan to fight to see another day.  Next up? Red-hot UCLA on the road this Saturday.
 
Cal 62, Princeton 51: The Tigers may be the best team in the Ivy League, but they don't look like they'll be the world beaters that Harvard and other recent Ivy teams have been.
 
Arkansas 84, Houston 72: The Razorbacks cruise to a win that could be nice if they can play themselves in to the bubble in SEC play.
 
Purdue 97, Arizona St 64: The Boilermakers are still searching for their first KenPom Top 100 win of the season, but blew out ASU on a neutral flor, who lives just outside at 101.

Tipping Off Today

Xavier at Colorado: Xavier looked unstoppable before their tough loss at Baylor, while Colorado badly needs a quality win.
 
Creighton at Nebraska: The Jays have stormed through their schedule thus far, but this road trip will be one of their toughest tests so far
 
Seton Hall vs California:  Both teams badly need a win to boost their stock back into the bubble conversation.
 
TCU vs SMU:  This DFW showdown finally has some weight to it for once.  TCU has quietly marched through their schedule, while SMU has slumped after an impressive first few games.
 
Butler at Indiana St: A possible trap game for the Bulldogs, who could get caught looking ahead toward their tilt with Cincinnati this weekend.

Scoreboard Watching: December 6, 2016

In the books

UConn 52, Syracuse 50: Down 10 with 11:45 remaining, it looked like UConn was resigned to another disappointing showing.  Instead, the Huskies mounted a comeback before Christan Vital's free throws sealed with win with 2.2 seconds remaining.  Can this be the turning point for Kevin Ollie's squad?  Saturday's trip to Ohio St will likely give them a quick answer to that question.

Tipping Off Today

Florida vs Duke: The Gators' neutral-court tour keeps on with this trip to NYC to tip-off against Duke.  The Blue Devils should get Grayson Allen back, who joined Coach K's walking wounded with a toe injury that forced him to miss Saturday's win over Maine.
 
Texas at Michigan: Two teams at an early crossroads as Texas looks to build upon their win over Alabama over the weekend, while Michigan has lost it's last two tilts with quality opponents.  It's a big week for John Beilein's team, who also hosts UCLA on Saturday.
 
Houston at Arkansas: Two teams hoping for at-large berths face off in Fayetteville.
 
Princeton vs California: The Tigers hope to steal one on a neutral floor for their first win over a KenPom Top 300 team this year.  They still look to be the class of the Ivy League, but are definitely disappointed with their 2-3 start t the season.
 
Purdue vs Arizona St: The Boilermakers are 0-2 against KenPom Top 100 teams, so this tilt in NYC is even bigger for Matt Painter's team.
 
Monmouth vs Wagner: Two teams who are favored to win their conference face off in a game that could help be the difference between a 13 and 15 seed.

Scoreboard Watching: December 5, 2016

In the books

Gonzaga 69 vs Arizona 62: The Bulldogs stormed out to an early lead and never really allowed Arizona back in.  Mark Few's team just keeps winning and is projected by KenPom to finish 27-3 on the season.
 
Baylor 61, Xavier 61: Talking of teams that just keep winning, Baylor pulled away late for their second strong home win of the season to go with their Battle 4 Atlantis title. 
 
West Virginia 66, Virginia 57: The Mountaineers dominated the end of the game, picking up a huge win despite only having two players in double figures (Jevon Carter 11, Nathan Adrian 10).  The Temple loss is still tough for WVU's resume right now, but this does a lot to move them back up the S-Curve.
 
UCLA 91, Kentucky 92: What a statement by the Bruins, scoring the most points against Kentucky in the John Calipari era.  They'll face a struggling Michigan team in Westwood before playing Ohio State on the 17th in Las Vegas.  
 
USC 91, BYU 84: LA's other team is rolling along themselves, as Andy Enfield looks to have his strongest Trojan team yet with their third win over a KenPom Top 100 team and an 8-0 record.  Barring an upset, they'll beat up on cupcakes and enter Pac-12 play undefeated.
 
Maryland 71, Oklahoma St 70:  Maryland bounces back from their loss to Pitt with a strong win at home over a good Oklahoma St. team.  both teams live around the middle of the at-large pool currently.
 
Providence 63, Rhode Island 60: In a rivalry game between two teams that look destined for life on the bubble, this head-to-head match-up may the tie-breaker that keeps the Friars in and the Rams at home.
 
Minnesota 56, Vanderbilt 52: The Gophers continue to look good - not great - in this pseudo home game in Sioux Falls, SD.  With cupcakes the rest of the month, their best non-conference win is likely Arkansas, not exactly something that will wow the committee without a 10-win conference showing.
 
Wisconsin 90, Oklahoma 70: The Badgers continue to show signs that they'll be ready to go toe-to-toe with Indiana for Big Ten supremacy, cruising to this home win.
 
Loyola Chicago 65, San Diego St. 59: The Aztecs suffer a huge loss they could ill-afford.  Their tilt against Arizona State on Saturday is now huge for their at-large hopes if they don't win the MWC.
 
Marquette 89 at Georgia 79: The Bulldogs can never seem to turn the corner, falling to 0-3 against the KenPom Top 50 on the year, while Marquette starts to fight back into bubble contention.  A huge home tilt with Wisconsin waits for them next week.

Tipping Off Today

UConn vs Syracuse: Can the Huskies show any sign of life in this neutral court rivalry showdown at Madison Square Garden?  Kevin Ollie's team has played one game - a 2 point win (!) against Boston U - in the last 10 days and have many, many holes to fix if they hope to right the ship.  

Bracketology 2017: December 5, 2016

With most teams having a sample size of 6-9 games in the books, early December offers us our first chance to reset the field of 68.  Here are some thoughts on this field of 68:

  • I use a "if the season ended today" approach to picking my at-large teams and seeding the field.  Automatic berths are largely taken from who KenPom projects to win the field, with only one exception (I took Bucknell over Lehigh in the Patriot).
  • On the bubble, I choose Dayton, Michigan St, VCU, Providence, SMU and Pitt over Miami, Marquette, Seton Hall and Minnesota.  Strength of schedule was a big factor for whether you are in or out and this point.  Most of the teams out haven't had many quality wins to date. 
  • Speaking of Michigan St, the Spartans almost didn't make the field at only one game over .500 after a gauntlet in November.  I fully expect them to steadily climb as the season wears on and their freshman grow.
  • UCLA's win over Kentucky catapults them all the way up to 1-seed.  They are clearly the class of the Pac-12 right now - and their biggest threat may be cross town rival USC in a bit of a surprise.
  • Indiana has the two best wins of the season, but that loss at Fort Wayne weighs their stock down.  I have the Hoosiers as a high three seed.
  • Baylor and Gonzaga just keep winning and take up two other spots on the top-line, along with #1-overall seed Villanova.  I've had the Wildcats atop my rankings for a couple weeks now.
  • San Diego St's loss to Loyola (IL) has taken them out of the at-large discussion.  With only three opponents left in the KenPom Top 100, they may have to win the MWC to have a shot at the field.
  • Michigan seems safe for now at a 9-seed, but it's a big week for them with Texas and UCLA coming to Ann Arbor coming off a 2-2 stint.
  • Kansas St and Wichita St swapped 9/10 seeds to help avoid a Big 12 rematch in the opening weekend in their pods.

Seed list

  1. Villanova, Baylor, Gonzaga, UCLA
  2. Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky
  3. Virginia, Indiana, Butler, Louisville
  4. Saint Mary's, Xavier, West Virginia, Creighton
  5. Wisconsin, Florida, Cincinnati, South Carolina
  6. USC, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Arizona
  7. Florida St, Oregon, Purdue Syracuse
  8. Clemson, Ohio St, Maryland, Oklahoma St
  9. Iowa St, Wichita St, TCU, Michigan
  10. Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Kansas St, Northwestern
  11. Dayton, Michigan St, VCU, Providence, Fort Wayne
  12. Florida Gulf Coast, San Diego St, Valparaiso, SMU, Pitt
  13. Middle Tennessee, UT Arlington, UNC Wilmington, Winthrop
  14. Vermont, Chattanooga, Monmouth, Eastern Michigan
  15. Princeton, Belmont, Bucknell, Cal St Bakersfield
  16. UC Irvine, North Dakota, Stephen F Austin, Wagner, Texas Southern, NC Central

Bids by conference:

Atlantic Coast Conference 10
Big 12 Conference 8
Big Ten Conference 8
Big East Conference 5
Pac-12 Conference 4
Southeastern Conference 4
American Athletic Conference 2
Atlantic 10 Conference 2
West Coast Conference 2
America East Conference 1
Atlantic Sun Conference 1
Big Sky Conference 1
Big South Conference 1
Big West Conference 1
Colonial Athletic Association 1
Conference USA 1
Horizon League 1
Ivy League 1
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference 1
Mid-American Conference 1
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference 1
Missouri Valley Conference 1
Mountain West Conference 1
Northeast Conference 1
Ohio Valley Conference 1
Patriot League 1
Southern Conference 1
Southland Conference 1
Southwestern Athletic Conference 1
Sun Belt Conference 1
Summit League 1
Western Athletic Conference 1

Scoreboard Watching: December 3, 2016

In the books

Duquense 64, Pitt 55: The Panthers' 15 year-winning streak against their in-town rivals is over after shooting 3-22 3-PT.  The loss puts the Panthers back squarely in the bubble conversation.
 
Texas 77, Alabama 68: Kerwin Roach netted 16 PTS on 12-16 FT to lead the Longhorns to a much needed home win to get back above .500.  Next weekend's trip to Michigan is a big game for both teams as they look to right their ship heading into the holiday season.
 

Tipping Off Today

Gonzaga vs Arizona: The Zags have three KenPom Top 50 wins, while Arizona looks strong, but their only good win so far this season is over Michigan St, and it's hard to tell what to make of that just yet.  Regardless, this game being on a neutral court in LA makes the prize of the win that much greater for the victor.
 
Xavier at Baylor: Oregon thought they had an easy game in Waco earlier this season - and quickly found out they were wrong.  Meanwhile, all Baylor has done is go 7-0 with 5 KenPom Top 100 wins, including 6 wins in the top 35!  A win against a very strong Xavier team likely means they'll be undefeated going into Big 12 play.  Meanwhile, Xavier starts a stretch of four straight games against KenPom Top 100 foes.
 
BYU vs USC: The Staples Center's other game (along with Gonzaga/Arizona) on Saturday is a big one for two teams that want to fight their way into the dance.  USC Sports a 7-0 record with wins over Texas A&M and SMU.
 
Oklahoma St at Maryland:  The Terps are coming off a tough loss to Pitt while Oklahoma St pulled off an impressive third place in Maui, only losing to UNC.
 
Rhode Island at Providence: Both teams will be looking for a bubble bid but need the wins to get themselves there.  This rivalry game could prove big come March.
 
UCLA at Kentucky: Everything that is a strength for Steve Alford's 8-0 UCLA team, Kentucky looks to have an answer for.  The Bruins lead the nation in effective FG%, the Wildcats are 3rd in defensive effeciency.  UCLA shoots 45.6% from 2, Kentucky has a top 10 3-PT defense.  UCLA doesn't have their shots blocked (3.7% of shots are blocked), while Kentucky blocks 1 of every 5 shots put up against them.  Did I mention this game is in Rupp?  Tough draw for a Bruins team that should cruise to a tournament bid.
 
West Virginia at Virginia: The Mountaineers got caught off guard by Temple last week in Brooklyn.  They'll need to play much better against a Virginia team that has absolutely schooled their opponents so far, ranking 2nd in defense and 10th in offense by tempo free metrics.
 
Vanderbilt vs Minnesota: In an odd game taking place in Sioux Falls, the Gophers look to bounce back from their road loss to Florida State in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge against a Vanderbilt team that has struggled for a 4-3 start.
 
Marquette at Georgia: Georgia is in bad need of something resembling a good non-conference win, and this is their best change at it at home against an up and down Marquette team.  It seems as close to a must-have for both teams as you'll find in early December.
 

Scoreboard Watching: December 2, 2016

In the books

Cincinnati 55, Iowa St 54 (OT): The Bearcats used a balanced offensive attack from their starters, who scored all but two of their points, to knock off Iowa St and snap the Cyclones 37-game home non-conference winning streak.  Cincinnati gets to tune up against Bowling Green on Sunday before traveling to Butler on December 10th for what will be a very intriguing showdown.  Meanwhile, Iowa State tarts to get worried after back-to-back losses and only the Hawkeyes remaining as quality non-conference opponents before Big 12 play.

Tipping Off Today

Alabama at Texas: Combined, these two teams are 0-5 against the KenPom Top 100 and in desperate need of a  win to how signs of life.  It's a competitive stretch for each, with the Tide facing Oregon next and Texas traveling to Ann Arbor.

Scoreboard Watching: December 1, 2016

In the books

Indiana 76, North Carolina 67: Well, the Hoosiers now have the best two wins of the young college basketball season (to go with their neutral court win over Kansas) and the worst loss of any team in contention for a top seed at Fort Wayne.  This win goes a long, long way to erasing the sting of that loss heading into a stretch of cupcake games before facing Butler on the 17th.
 
Louisville 71, Purdue 64: The Cardinals defense continues to be smothering, especially inside where they held the Boilermakers to 9-30 on 2-PT FG (as opposed to 10-23 from 3-PT).  Louisville should coast from here to their December 21 showdown with Kentucky before opening ACC play with Virginia just after Christmas.
 
Virginia Tech 73, Michigan 70: Yesterday I asked which Michigan team would show up, the one that looked dominant in NYC or the poor version we saw at South Carolina?  Turns out it was both.  Michigan controlled the game early, holding a 96% chance of winning with seven minutes left, only to see it slip away in the final minutes.
 
Saint Mary's 66, Stanford 51:  The Gaels continue to roll through thier non-conference schedule, always important before WCC play starts.  They'll take on UT-Arlington next week in their last game against a KenPom Top 100 team out of conference.
 
Virginia 63, Ohio St 61: This game remained close throughout before the Cavs finally closed out the win at home.  London Perrantes led UVA with 19 PTS on 4-8 3-PT, pacing what is surprisingly a Top 10 offense acording to KenPom's Tempo-Free metrics.  They'll host West Virginia on Saturday.
 
Boise St 72, SMU 62: After being anointed AAC favorites after three games, the Mustangs have tanked, dropping 3 of 4 with this upset road loss.  They'll have a couple games to get right before facing nearby rival TCU next Wednesday.
 
TCU 86, Washington 71: Speaking of the Horned Frogs, Jamie Dixon quietly has his alma mater at 7-0 including now back-to-back wins over Washington.  The aforementioned game against SMU could be the game that starts to get them on people's radar.
 
Clemson 70, Nebraska 58: The Tigers get back on the right track after a disappointing showing at WWOS last week.
 
 
 

Tipping Off Today

Cincinnati vs Iowa St:  Speaking of being anoint AAC favs, that conference very much looks like the Bear-cats to lose at this point.  Iowa St looks to bounce back from Sunday's loss to Gonzaga with a quality win at home.
 

Scoreboard Watching: November 30, 2016

In the books

Wisconsin 77, Syracuse 60:  Ethan Happ lead the Badgers with 24 points on 10-12 shooting to go with 13 rebounds and 4 assist, while Syracuse shot 6-23 from 3 in a game that was never really close.   Wisconsin hosts Oklahoma on Saturday while the 'Cuse hope to right the ship against North Florida and UConn in the next week.
 
VCU 81, Princeton 70: The Tigers remain heavy favorites to win the Ivy League, but don't look to be the danger that sometimes Ivy League teams can be come March at 2-3 and without a win against a KenPom Top 300 team.    Meanwhile, the Rams improve to 2-1 against the KenPom Top 100 heading into Saturday's showdown with Illinois in Miami.
 
Pitt 73, Maryland 59: The Terps fall for the first time this season against a not-very deep Pitt team that only saw one bench player break 10 minutes, but still shot 20-36 on 2-PT FG.  Maryland hosts Oklahoma St on Saturday.
 
Illinois 88, NC State 74: The Illini show a sign of life for the first time this season, and its bad news for an NC State Team in bad news of a good non-conference win, which they likely won't get now with the loss and no KenPom Top 100 teams remaining on their OOC schedule.
 
Valpo 65, Rhode Island 62:  The Crusaders make the most of their home game against a decent opponent, topping Rhode Island in their biggest win of the season.  Next up?  A road trip to Lexington next Wednesday.
 
Duke 78, Michigan St 69: Miles Bridges looks much more freshman than phenom for the Spartans right now.  They'll grow and change as the season goes one (one would expect), but right now this young MSU team is battling injury and struggling.  Duke, who is also battling injuries, is not struggling.  Which is scary when you think of the amount of talent currently wearing street clothes on their bench..

Tipping Off Today

North Carolina at Indiana: One of the non-conference's most intriguing games as UNC enters fresh off a Maui Invitational title while Indiana owns one of the season's best wins (Kansas) and worst losses (Fort Wayne).
 
Purdue at Louisville: After they couldn't hold on against Villanova at home, the Boilermakers would love to pick up a quality road win against Louisville's national-leading defense.
 
Virgina Tech at Michigan: Which Michigan team will show up?  The one with dominant big men that looked so good in NYC, or the team that looked flat at South Carolina.
 
Saint Mary's at Stanford: The Gaels enter 5-0 with 3 wins against KenPom Top 100 opponents.  A road win over their NoCal foes would help send a message to the committee that they're not your normal mid-major.
 
Ohio St at Virginia: The Cavs are coming off a dominant performance at the Emerald Coast Classic over Iowa and Providence, but face what may be their toughest stretch of non-conference season with OSU and West Virginia this week.