BracketBot: December 30, 2019

1. Kansas (9-2; 0)
2. Duke (11-1, 1-0 ACC; 0)
3. West Virginia (11-1; +5)
4. San Diego State (12-0, 2-0 MWC; +8)
5. Auburn (12-0; 0)
6. Ohio State (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten; -3)
7. Maryland (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten; -3)
8. Butler (12-1; +9)
9. Baylor (9-1; -2)
10. Gonzaga (13-1; +6)
11. Oregon (11-2; 0)
12. Michigan State (10-3, 2-0 Big Ten; -2)
13. Louisville (11-2, 2-0 ACC; -7)
14. Arkansas (11-1; +7)
15. Dayton (10-2; -1)
16. Villanova (9-2; +3)
17. Wichita State (11-1; +9)
18. Florida State (11-2, 1-1 ACC; 0)
19. Memphis (11-1; -4)
20. Arizona (10-3; -7)
21. Colorado (11-2; +2)
22. Xavier (11-2; +8)
23. Virginia (10-2, 2-0 ACC; -14)
24. Penn State (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten; -2)
25. Michigan (10-3, 1-1 Big Ten; 0)
26-30. Indiana, Marquette, Oklahoma State, St Mary’s, Northern Iowa

After taking a bit of a hiatus last week due to the holiday, here’s another ratings update! The movements in this update encompass two weeks worth of data, so there’s a lot to get to. Let’s get right after it!

The first team to make note of is #3 WEST VIRGINIA, already a team that was on my radar as “actually really good”, but now they appear to be on everybody’s radar. Yesterday they got the spotlight, taking down #6 Ohio State 67-59 in what was technically a neutral site, but was really in Cleveland, so a site favoring the Buckeyes. The Mountaineers already had a number of strong wins (#17 Wichita State, #30 Northern Iowa, #59 Pittsburgh, all away from Morgantown), but now they have the looks of at least a top-ten team.

Speaking of #6 OHIO STATE, this update also incorporates their win over #37 Kentucky on December 21. Kentucky, in one man’s opinion, isn’t nearly as strong as people seem to think, but their win over #13 Louisville this past weekend was a big boost for them, and OSU by proxy. (More on Kentucky later.) So with a loss yesterday, the drop for the Buckeyes is not as precipitous as it could have been.

Let’s not totally skip over the teams ranked at 4 and 5 though: #4 SAN DIEGO STATE and #5 AUBURN are the two only undefeated teams left in Division I, and both now find themselves in the top 5. The Aztecs are the ones making a big jump in this update, from #12 two weeks ago. They had one big win in that time frame, demolishing #68 Utah by 28 on a neutral court, but SDSU also benefits from the hot streak that both #38 Creighton and #33 Iowa are on. Those are two of SDSU’s three best wins at the moment, the other being a road win at #31 BYU. I like their non-conference SOS a lot more than other analysts appear to, and there are plenty of opportunities awaiting them for more good wins in the Mountain West. Their toughest game remaining comes this week though, with a visit to #32 Utah State coming on Saturday. As for Auburn, they’ve played a similar schedule: no top-level teams, but a lot of tricky ones, as they head into SEC play with a 6-0 record against my top 100. The Tigers have four quality wins on neutral courts alone (#95 Davidson, #62 New Mexico, #66 Richmond, #57 Saint Louis) and, of course, no losses to speak of. All of that happened before this two-week stretch we’re talking about now, so Auburn was already #5, but this is a team worth appreciating.

#8 BUTLER is another team worth appreciating. The Bulldogs’ only loss came on the road at #9 Baylor, and although seeing a team right ahead of a team that beat them sets off alarm bells for a lot of people, Butler has a ton of quality wins to speak of. This update is incorporating their big win over #55 Purdue at the Crossroads Classic, the yearly event pitting teams from Indiana against each other. Their wins over #39 Stanford and #54 Minnesota look better every week as well.

The real-life #1 team, #10 GONZAGA, finally makes their entry into the top 10 here. Gonzaga’s lagging behind here for a pretty simple reason: they’ve played a bunch of teams that didn’t tell us anything about how good they were, and actively tanked their schedule strength. The Zags have played 7 games against teams ranked outside of my top 240. In one of those, vs. UT-Arlington on November 19, they won by just 6 points, a game that would have been a loss against more qualified opposition. Tonight, they add another Q4 game to that list as well, playing Detroit Mercy, one of the 50 worst teams in this system. Their lone loss being against Michigan is another reason – Michigan is a team that’s significantly overrated at this point, so they are penalized slightly more for that here than others would. By all accounts the Zags are really good, I’m just not convinced they’re top-5, much less #1.

One of the most overlooked teams out there at the moment is #14 ARKANSAS. In sharp contrast to Gonzaga, Arkansas’s lowest-ranked opponent so far has been #251 Texas Southern. They’ve also only played 1 game against a top-100 opponent, but that was yesterday’s win over #26 Indiana (a road win even). A loss at Western Kentucky is a worse loss than most of these top 25 teams have, but the Hogs get credit here for going on the road to a team like that (as opposed to, say, Stephen F Austin winning at Duke). Arkansas will start SEC play with another pretty easy matchup (the really dreadful Texas A&M coming to Fayetteville), but then the real tests start.

#17 WICHITA STATE enters the top 25 this week after being 26th two weeks ago. The Shockers have been on my radar since their dominating win at #28 Oklahoma State on December 8, and they’ve followed it up with really solid wins against Oklahoma and VCU. The fact that WSU’s only loss to this point is to the sky-high West Virginia continues to be a positive for them every week as well.

The other team moving into the top 25 this update is #22 XAVIER. X didn’t play at all this past week, but they had moved into what would have been last week’s top 25 after a nice road win at #86 TCU, part of the Big East’s domination of the Big XII in a matchup between the two conferences in which every team took part. (The Big East won 8-2, and is actually my top-rated conference right now.) Xavier’s loss to Wake Forest doesn’t look good on paper, but it was a road game, so again, the penalty is lessened somewhat. The ceiling of the Musketeers’ schedule is low-ish at this point, their best win being either #61 Connecticut on a neutral floor or the aforementioned TCU game, but an 11-2 record speaks for itself to some extent as well.

One of two teams dropping out only made a slight drop, just happening to fall out of the top 25, and that’s #26 INDIANA, 24th in the previous update. As mentioned earlier, the Hoosiers dropped a home game against Arkansas over the weekend, but had also picked up an OK win over Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic. IU continues to be able to hang their hat on a home demolition of #18 Florida State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, but it’s not quite enough to stick around in the top 25 after picking up a second loss.

The other is a team that fell precipitously from the top 25 in the week before Christmas before making a big rebound on Saturday, and that’s #37 KENTUCKY. The Wildcats picked up consecutive losses in that week to Utah and Ohio State, with both games being played in Las Vegas, and had dropped all the way outside my top 50 at that point. But a big overtime win over rival #13 Louisville is enough to salvage Kentucky’s non-conference season to some extent. UK owns two incredibly strong wins (Louisville, but also Michigan State), though their third strongest win is over #116 Georgia Tech at home, and they still have a loss to #131 Evansville hanging over them.

Notable unranked teams include #33 Iowa, #34 Rutgers, #39 Stanford, #43 DePaul, #45 Washington, #48 USC, #54 Minnesota, #57 Saint Louis, #63 Wisconsin, #69 Illinois, #71 Arizona State, #75 Missouri, #79 North Carolina, #86 TCU,
#104 Notre Dame, #146 UCLA, #175 California, #200 Murray State, #217 Illinois State, #316 SEMO, and #347 SIUE (that’s out of 353).

Games of the Week: here I’m gonna pick out a game for each night of the week that you can try and watch, using a combination of how good the teams are and how close the game is likely to be. I’m gonna include my predicted final score for each game and viewing information as well. This week in particular is dominated by the Big East, with them starting conference play a bit earlier than the other major conferences (but also, as I mentioned earlier, being my top-rated league overall)
Monday: #22 Xavier @ #16 Villanova, 6:30 ET on FS1 (Villanova 71, Xavier 68)
Tuesday: #8 Butler @ #50 St. John’s, 7:30 ET on FS1 (Butler 70, SJU 63)
Wednesday: #27 Marquette @ #38 Creighton, 9:00 ET on CBSSN (Creighton 77, Marquette 76)
Thursday: #11 Oregon @ #21 Colorado, 9:00 ET on ESPN2 (Colorado 69, Oregon 68)
Friday: #35 Georgetown @ #49 Seton Hall, 9:00 ET on FS1 (Seton Hall 78, Georgetown 72)
Saturday: #4 San Diego State @ #32 Utah State, 10:00 ET on CBSSN (SDSU 65, USU 63)
Sunday: #25 Michigan @ #12 Michigan State, 4:30 ET on CBS (MSU 76, Michigan 70)

Alright, that’ll do for this week! Everybody have a great week, a happy New Year, and may your teams all win this week!

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