Bracket accounts for games through Tuesday, Feb. 18
The Terps haven’t lost in six weeks
When NC State ascended to the 1 line last week and then immediately lost two in a row, it became clear that we’d once again have a change at the top of the bracket. There are arguments to be made for maybe five teams to take the Wolfpack’s spot, but ultimately we went with Maryland this week.
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To keep it simple: The Terps keep winning, and winning big. That counts for something. This week, they beat Iowa — a 4 seed this week — by 34 points, then followed it up by walloping Penn State by 37. Stephanie Jones, who is just fifth on the team in scoring, averaged 18.5 points over those two games. And with their toughest game remaining (against Purdue) at home, where they are 13-1, Maryland has a good shot to get into the Big Ten Tournament with no further blemishes.
They have 10 wins against RPI top 50 teams and their only losses have come against protected seeds. Their only two Big Ten losses are against teams that the Terps later beat.
Maryland is a deserving 1.
Now a quick word on NC State, which is in the bracket today as a 3 seed. That seems like a rough fall for a team that lost a totally reasonable game to Louisville then a somewhat questionable one against Georgia Tech. In reality, the Wolfpack only fell five spots — from the lowest 1 seed to the highest 3. It’s not much, and the margin between them and the other 2s are paper thin. The Wolfpack, along with Stanford, Louisville, and UCLA, are all still in play for 1 seeds if things break right. UConn, the other 2 seed, probably won’t lose the rest of the way, but also won’t have the opportunities to pick up a win that would move the needle enough to elevate it. Its best hope would be some major slip-ups for the other 1s and 2s, which doesn’t seem reasonable to predict at this point.
One notable team to break into the field this week: The Duke Blue Devils. They’re an 11 seed for now, headed to Starkville to face South Dakota and potentially Mississippi State in the first weekend. At 15-10, Duke isn’t going to blow anyone away with its resume, but its solid for a bubble team. A win over Florida State on Sunday put them over the top, giving them the one data point that was missing — a second W over a bona fide tournament team. Duke has also played the ninth-best schedule in the country and has eight wins over RPI top 100 teams.
Here’s the full bracket:
Bids by conference:
Big Ten: 8
Big 12: 5
Big East: 3
Michigan from a 9 to a 10
Central Michigan from a 10 to a 9
Last Four In:
First Four Out:
Next Four Out:
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