After the latest merry-go-round of bracket busting, resume altering games from prospective #1 seeds falling to in conference rivals, to mid-majors still fighting above their weight. For everything this season of College Hoops has lacked in quality, the sheer quantity of teams capable of making a deep tournament run bodes well for March madness.
The latest #1 seed to fall was Indiana who lost on the road to Minnesota Golden Gophers last night, whilst this is not the worst thing in the world to happen to the Hoosiers, who will likely be overtaken by Gonzaga on Monday (if they themselves do not lose) - it must be noted that it is the second time Indiana have lost the game immediately after being made the top ranked National side. The reason they lost though was they lost the board battle to Minnesota 38-25, led by Trevor Mbakwe's personal tally of 12 (6 offensive) and gave up 40 points in the paint, in a 77-73 loss. Mbakwe accounted for a huge block on Cody Zeller that benched the would-be Wooden award winner for several crucial first half minutes.
For Minnesota it was a much needed win, they remain 7-8 in the Big 10 but 19-9 overall with a weak remaining schedule with Penn State (8-18) at home, followed by a dual road trip to Northwestern (13-15) and Purdue (13-14). The chance to finish 22-9 coupled with some big RPI wins will guarantee an at large bid, most likely one of 7 from the Big 10 with Illinois on the bubble probably.
Indiana though, have a tougher run-in at home to Iowa (17-10) is ended with road trips to Ohio State (20-7) and then #4 Michigan (23-4). Indiana are one of those teams that seem to alter when on the road, which is unusual considering the experience in the squad, yet the rebounding is now becoming an issue that teams can exploit.
Florida so often thought of as a definite #1 seed for the tourney, are trying their best to become a 2 or 3. They lost on the road to a resurgent Tennessee, and the injuries Billy Donovan's side have had to compete with seem to have started taken their toll, they missed Will Yeguette (knee) and Michael Frazier II (concussion) as in a tight contest they lost 64-58 to the Volunteers, who are making a late charge for the tournament as one of the last four in.
Florida should win the SEC title but how many SEC sides will get in. Missouri have fallen off the radar, Ole Miss have been inconsistent, Kentucky are still coming to terms with the loss of Nerlens Noel (and face Florida at home in the last regular season game on March 9th) whilst Tennessee themselves have three winnable games (at Georgia, at Auburn, v Missouri) the chance to have a 20-win season is attainable and something that was unthinkable a month ago. Kudos coach Cuonzo Martin.
Kansas seem to be that sort of team that people either respect because Bill Self is able to take a team of would-be's sophomores and other parts to create a side who is able to compete for a school's 9th successive conference title, or they are the sort of Manchester United - the big noise that gets the favourable calls on the road. Yet just like those Red Devils, these Jayhawks whilst making it hard for themselves know how to win ugly after playing ugly that nearly railroaded their conference campaign.
Kansas beat Iowa State in OT for the 2nd time this season helped by a career night for Elijah Johnson who had 39 points (11 in OT), yet it was the charge no charge call at the end of regulation on Johnson that overshadowed a highly intense game. The Big 12 have said the officials got the call wrong, Johnson converted both free throws to tie the game and take it to overtime.
Kansas are now looking like a possible 1 seed - depending on other team's finishes - they have games remaining versus West Virginia and Texas Tech at home, then a road trip to Baylor. Whilst Ben McLemore has gone a bit cold of late, Jeff Withey is a solid leader and if they keep getting big performances from others such as Johnson or Travis Releford; the team can make some noise. On their day they can hang with any team.
Along with Indiana and Kansas, the other teams to consider for National Championship title contenders are Duke, Miami, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Louisville and perhaps New Mexico or Butler, the perennial Cinderellas.
One thing for certain is the bracket should be fun to fill in.