We're down to nine days until Selection Sunday. There was a time, not that long ago, when that meant we'd be putting together a Marchifornication bracket because Iowa was two games away from the abyss. Those times were fun. These are better.
ESPN (Joe Lunardi) (update 3/4 late night): 2 seed, Region 3, vs. UMBC
This is not the first time that Lunardi has put Iowa on the two-line. It is the first time that the Hawkeyes have moved into the Region 3 or 4 bracket, meaning that Joe's got the Hawks among the national top six. Ohio State has now slipped behind Iowa which, given recent results, makes sense. The Buckeyes have lost three straight, including a game against Iowa at home last weekend, and a regular season finale against Illinois doesn't exactly look like a slumpbuster.
A move to Region 3 wouldn't really change much for Iowa's chances at a deep run. If anything, it might hurt: Region 3 means Michigan at the top of the bracket, and we've seen how that matchup looks for the Hawks. However, it does seem to indicate that a win over Wisconsin and a Big Ten tournament title (especially one with a win over Illinois or Michigan) could get the Hawkeyes to the last one-line. That would be a gigantic shift: Top seeds make the final four at twice the rate as twos.
CBS (Jerry Palm) (update 3/5 morning): 2 seed, Region 1, vs. Southern Utah
That Nebraska win wasn't enough to move Jerry Palm: Still a 2, still opposite Gonzaga, still facing the Big Sky champion. Different champion, though: The magnificently-named Thunderbirds of Southern Utah, a fun-and-gun outfit that shoots poorly and often. Sign me up for that one.
SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean) (update 3/5 noon): 2 seed, Region 1, vs. Sam Houston State
Again, no change for Blogging the Bracket. Iowa is still behind OSU, still the last two seed
Fox Sports (Mike Decourcy) (update 3/5 noon): 2 seed, Region 1, vs. South Dakota State
Decourcy finally moves Iowa to a two seed, in line with Dobber and Palm. Houston drops to make room, an interesting move given that the Hawks only beat Nebraska and Houston hasn't even played. But hey, we're not going to argue a lack of internal logic when it's in our favor.
The Bracket Matrix: 2 seed, Region 3
Even before the Nebraska game, Iowa had pulled even with Ohio State in the Bracket Matrix. Nobody has ranked the Hawkeyes as a top seed as of yet, but their placement on the two-line is nearly universal: Of 63 brackets submitted on Thursday, just four have Iowa as anything but a two seed (three holdouts have the Hawkeyes as a three, and one clown insists on them as a five).
The contest for the top eight seeds is truly down to nine teams: Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan are locked into top seeds. Illinois, Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State are in play for the fourth one-line, and West Virginia and Houston probably can't get to the top line but could grab a two. Villanova got a good win Wednesday night against besieged Creighton, but the Butler loss was really bad. Kansas barely got past UTEP last night, Arkansas lost too many early, and Florida State has one of the worst losses of the season (by 12 at home to UCF) without much benefit in the ACC (a win over Virginia, I guess?)
NCAA NET rankings: No. 6
Nothing changed in the NET. The top ten are stable, actually (Kansas dropped from 11 to 15 after a near-loss to UTEP), and the story with the NET remains less about where teams are ranked and more about just how closely it will be followed.
If you want a test case for how closely NET will determine seeding, watch Colgate. They're the presumed Patriot League champion at 11-1. They're also 93rd in Kenpom and haven't played a team in the national top 200 all season. In fact, they've only played three teams -- Army, Boston U. and Holy Cross -- four times each. But since they're 6-0 on the road and two of those wins (at Army) were Quad 2, Colgate is currently NINTH nationally in the NET. Now, the Committee isn't going to give Colgate a 3 seed. But if NET really matters independent of context, they might be an 11 seed rather than the 13 or 14 they probably deserve.
GAMES OF NOTE:
UNI at Drake (MVC Tournament, 5:00, ESPN Plus): Not really important to Iowa the university. Definitely important to Iowa the state.
Florida State at Notre Dame (11:00, ESPN2): A Notre Dame win here would be nice, but Holy Hell What Happened to Notre Dame is significantly more likely.
Oklahoma State at West Virginia (1:00, TBD): The Okie State boomlet ended with a loss to Baylor earlier this week, but the Pokes are good enough to put a dagger through the two-seed hopes of Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers.
Alabama at Georgia (1:00, CBS): If you're really invested in Iowa's chances at a one seed, having Bama screw it up against someone like Tom Crean's Bulldogs helps. Bama beat them by 27 earlier this year, though, and not in football.
Villanova at Providence (1:30, Fox): Again, a loss is debilitating for Villanova, and also looks extremely unlikely.
Illinois at OSU (3:00, ESPN): With the Big Ten regular season decided and the tournament looking outsized for seeding, this loses a bit of importance. Still, winner is in pole position for a one seed.
Duke at North Carolina (5:00, ESPN): I met a traveler from an antique land who said "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert....Near them, on the sand, half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well those passions read which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things. The hand that mocked and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: My name is the Duke-UNC rivalry, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away."
Memphis at Houston (11:00, CBS): The last best chance for Houston to screw up before the NCAAs, and Memphis is as legit as the American conference gets this year.
Wisconsin at Iowa (12:37, Fox): Derp.
Michigan at Michigan State (3:30, CBS): If last night was any indication, this isn't going to be much of a game, but what the hell, it's Sunday afternoon.