BRACKETWATCH: The Gang of Seven

By Patrick Vint on March 2, 2021 at 2:59 pm
OOOH IT'S MARCH
© Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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We let the dust settle for a few days after Iowa's staggering defeat at Michigan and upset win over Ohio State.  Turned out losing big to a presumed top seed, then beating another presumed top seed, was a net positive!  Here's where the Hawks sit with the bracketologists as of Tuesday:

ESPN (Joe Lunardi) (update 3/2 morning):  2 seed, Region 1, vs. Grand Canyon

Lunardi dropped Iowa to a three in the aftermath of the Michigan game, then moved the Hawkeyes up to the third-ranked two-seed on Monday, and now we're here (presumably because Michigan is the second overall seed now and the committee wouldn't put Iowa in the same bracket as the Wolverines).

The internal logic of seeding the top seven spots doesn't look too complicated at this point.  Gonzaga, Michigan and Baylor have done enough to earn top seeds, even if any of them were to lose the rest of the way.  The fourth top seed probably gets decided (a) if any of Illinois, Ohio State or Iowa wins the Big Ten Tournament, presumably with a couple of wins over other teams in that group, or (b) this weekend's Illinois-OSU game, if none of those three were to make a run in the conference championship.  And if, say, Michigan won the Big Ten title and both Illinois and OSU flamed out early, Alabama probably gets the fourth one seed.

CBS (Jerry Palm) (update 3/2 morning):  2 seed, Region 1, vs. Eastern Washington

As it stands right now, pairing Iowa with Gonzaga is popular; Palm comes to the same conclusion as Lunardi.  For what it's worth, I think Iowa would welcome a potential rematch with the Zags, given the Hawkeyes' newfound defensive stoutness.  Just keep us the hell away from Michigan and we're good.

By the way, first time we've looked at Eastern Washington in one of these.  The Eagles are 12-6, have not beaten a team this season in the Kenpom top 170 (lost to Oregon big, and Arizona, Washington State and St. Mary's close), and are coached by former Cal point guard Shantay Legans, who is quite possibly younger than Jordan Bohannon.

SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean) (update 3/2 noon):  2 seed, Region 1, vs. UMBC

Another bracket, another 2 seed opposite Gonzaga.  Of course, Dobbertean has paired Iowa with the one 15 seed nobody wants to see due solely to historical performance.  He's always hated us.

Fox Sports (update 3/1 noon): 3 seed, Region 1, vs. Abeline Christian

Mike Decourcy gives Ohio State the requisite downgrade after losing to Iowa, but the Hawkeyes don't get much of a bump.  Fox puts Iowa behind Houston, which I sorta get: The Cougs are beloved by the advanced metrics even more than Iowa, their record is gaudy and they just beat USF by 40. 

I just don't understand how you can put both Houston AND West Virginia ahead of Iowa.  Either record and metrics matter (in which case Houston probably gets a 2) or quality of competition and "eye test" matter (in which case West Virginia is 17-6 and 18th in Kenpom but will likely be second in the Big 12).  In either scenario, Iowa is one of the top two of those three teams.  And yet, here, they're third.

By the way, Abeline Christian was the landing spot for former Hawkeye quarterback Peyton Mansell and played a big part in the Worst Gambling Beat of All Time this fall.

The Bracket Matrix: 2 seed, Region 2

Iowa slipped to the top 3 seed for some time after the Michigan loss, but has rebounded into the No. 7 overall position with a bullet.  There is one guy with a Google Sheet that has the Hawkeyes in a top seed.  That man deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

NCAA NET rankings: No. 6

Iowa moves down one spot in the NET, behind Illinois.  The Illini still face Michigan and Ohio State this week, so either they move back down below Iowa with losses or they solidify that position with wins.

GAMES OF NOTE:

TUESDAY

Baylor at West Virginia (4:00, ESPN):  The best night of college hoops all year starts before most of us get home from work.  It hurts to say it, but we want Baylor here.
Illinois at Michigan (6:00, ESPN):  Same thing here: The lock 1 seeds can keep winning against the marginal 1/2/3 seeds all day, as far as we're concerned.
Auburn at Alabama (6:00, ESPN2):  This isn't a good Auburn team, which means this is usually where I give the high-rated team a lock and then they lose in horrific fashion.  You know what?  I'm cool with that.
Wisconsin at Purdue (8:00, ESPN2):  Neither of these teams really threaten Iowa's seeding, but a Purdue loss would give Iowa a B1G double-bye with a win against Nebraska or Wisconsin later this week.

WEDNESDAY

Creighton at Villanova (7:30, FS1):  Creighton isn't really in play for a 2 seed anymore, but Nova could still pull it off with a few wins down the stretch.  A loss here and they're probably out of contention.
Stanford at USC (9:30, FS1):  The Trojans lost to Colorado (OK) and Utah (not so much) last week, which should put an end to their chances of leapfrogging Iowa, but Stanford could definitively end it here.

THURSDAY

Oklahoma State at Baylor (6:00, ESPN2):  Okie State has some buzz, having won five in a row and sweeping back-to-back Bedlam games.  Keep an eye out: a win over a suddenly-struggling Baylor would get them in the conversation for a two seed.
TCU at West Virginia (6:00, ESPN Plus):  TCU has five Big XII wins this season: Two against Okie State, two against ISU, one against K-State.  One of these things is not like the other.
Michigan State at Michigan (6:00, ESPN):  It's hard to imagine a scenario where the outcome of this one changes anything for Iowa, but it's still Big Ten hoops.
UTEP at Kansas (7:00, TBD):  Why?
Nebraska at Iowa (8:00, BTN):  Der.
Texas at Oklahoma (8:00, ESPN):  Recent results by Texas (4-6 since January 9) and OU (lost 3 in a row, including that wet fart at Kansas St.) have taken these teams down the bracket, and they've run out of time.  Probably not relevant.

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