After a few extra days off for the teams, conference play opened with some classics. First, we had Minnesota and Michigan State at The Barn in Minneapolis on Tuesday – by the way, an arena that is absolutely on my bucket list for when I get a chance to do a college hoops tour one of these winters. This game featured Minnesota opening up a sizable lead that they held until about 8 minutes to go, only to see the Spartans force overtime behind the unstoppable inside game of freshman Nick Ward. In the extra session, a clutch 3 by Tum Tum Nairn was the difference, as Michigan State prevailed 75-74.
The next night featured Oregon and UCLA battling in Eugene. As if the game wasn’t already good enough, we were treated to Bill Walton on the color commentary, along with play by play man Roxy Bernstein. Never known for understating things, Walton at one point exclaimed that “every game in the Conference of Champions this season will be like this!” After a back and forth, high-scoring game, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks hit a last-second 3 to give the Ducks the win, 89-87. The ending was so exciting that the Oregon fans stormed the court twice.
Plenty of other teams opened with big wins, which are reflected in my updated projection. One that I have to mention is Nebraska going into Indiana’s Assembly Hall and ending the Hoosiers’ 26-game home winning streak. Did anyone see this coming? Sure, Nebraska had played a tough schedule in the non-conference, but they had little to show for it besides a neutral-court win against Dayton. Indiana had played an overall weak schedule outside of the conference, but they had wins over Kansas and North Carolina.
So, is Nebraska for real? Is Indiana a fraud? With the conference season just starting and so much basketball left to play, it’s going to be a great ride, if the opening games are any indication.
Now, on to the projection.
In since last update: Wagner, Georgia
Out since last update: LIU-Brooklyn, Auburn
1s: Baylor, Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky (+1)
2s: North Carolina, UCLA, Louisville (-1), Gonzaga
3s: Xavier, Florida, Duke, Creighton
4s: Virginia (+1), Florida State, Saint Mary’s, Southern Cal
5s: Maryland (+1), Arizona, Purdue (+1), Butler (-1)
6s: Northwestern, Dayton, Minnesota (-1), Temple (-1)
7s: South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin (+1), Cincinnati (+3)
8s: Oregon (+3), Arkansas (-1), Middle Tennessee, Pittsburgh (+1)
9s: Wake Forest (-1), Indiana (-2), VCU, TCU
10s: Michigan (-1), Notre Dame, Ole Miss (-2), SMU (+1)
11s: Nevada (-1), Oklahoma State, Rhode Island, Michigan State (+1), Clemson (+1)
12s: Wichita State, Texas-Arlington, Georgia (new), Providence (-1), Tennessee State (+1)
13s: UNC-Wilmington (-1), Winthrop, Valparaiso (+1), Chattanooga (+1)
14s: New Mexico State, IPFW (-1), Monmouth (-1), Florida Gulf Coast (+1)
15s: Akron (-1), New Hampshire, Bucknell, Yale
16s: Eastern Washington, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern, Sam Houston State, UC-Irvine, Wagner (new)
Last Four In: Michigan State, Clemson, Georgia, Providence
First Four Out: Auburn (prev 10 seed), Virginia Tech, Miami, UCF
Next Four Out: Houston, Stanford, Charleston, North Carolina State (+1)
Third Four Out: Nebraska (+2), Colorado, Massachusetts (+1), Illinois (-1)
Fourth Four Out: Vanderbilt (+1), Davidson (-1), Ohio State, Marquette (+1)
Others to Watch: Texas A & M, Georgetown, Iowa State, Illinois State, Saint Joe’s, La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, Seton Hall, San Diego State, Tennessee
Thanks for reading and as always, make sure to check out the Bracket Matrix for more!