Here we go again with the weekly bracketology. To spoil the surprise, I'll tell you in advance that UVA doesn't make the field this week. If they had, I'd have pulled them out of spite.
Let's start telling the week's story by following up on the highlighted games from last week:
-- St. John's 7, Hofstra 6. Part one of the Hofstra Meltdown.
-- Notre Dame 9, Ohio State 4. This and Cornell's surprise loss to Bucknell vaulted the Irish to the #1 spot. OSU followed up with a win over Bellarmine - which isn't a bad team - to maintain a place in the bracket, but they lose hosting duties.
-- Princeton 10, Yale 9. It was a close one but Yale's tourney hopes are close to being snuffed.
-- North Carolina 10, Maryland 8. A huge one for Carolina, bringing Maryland down to earth and, along with Princeton solidifying their spot (UNC beat the Tigers earlier) the Heels jump into the bracket.
-- Cornell 10, Penn 5. Helped keep Cornell in the top four after that loss to Bucknell, and turned out not to hurt Penn too badly. Duke and Princeton remain two very useful feathers in the Quakers' cap.
-- Drexel 8, Hofstra 7. Part two of the Hofstra Meltdown. Unfortunately for the two teams that beat Hofstra, they both beat Hofstra. Which kind of cancels out the effect. Why is Hofstra still in the bracket? More in a sec.
-- Johns Hopkins 15, Virginia 8. ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-
Those last second losses to Cornell and Syracuse are starting to loom very large.
As for Hofstra. The way it goes is that they and Syracuse are tremendously close in the system rankings, and you could make a case for either. The tiebreaker between the two here is that Hofstra still has that win over Notre Dame, which happens to be the clear #1, while Cuse has no wins over a team currently in the bracket. If you want to point out that my system lacks a measurement for Size Of Fanbase and Likely TV Ratings, I wouldn't argue.
The easy choice for #1 right now is ND, and the easy choice for #2 is Denver. But the next four are a virtual dead heat in the system's ranking. Cornell gets the #3 seed for being tops in the two metrics that matter most, and Penn is next for being next in both. Duke beat Carolina, so they're #5.
Penn State is the current holder of the CAA autobid, but, like Hofstra last week, would have a strong enough at-large case if they needed one. Bucknell, too, thanks to that win over Cornell. If Bucknell blows it in the regular season by losing too many, then the Patriot will stay a 1-bid league. But if they survive the rest of their schedule, they could be a bid thief if they lose in their conference tournament. Guess which two teams are playing each other on Tuesday?
Last week I said I didn't shuffle the "first four out" and "next four out." I lied. I had to this week because UVA was above Hopkins. That's absurd, obviously. The reason is that UVA has the toughest SOS in the country right now, which inflates their ranking. By kind of a lot, really. I'm getting close to tweaking the system to avoid doing that because I have to account for that more often than I'd like to.
Here are the games to watch this week:
-- Penn State at Bucknell. Both teams have a good case for an at-large bid right now, Penn State more so. But they're also positioned such that the loser might be knocked out of that seat and into needing their autobid.
-- Brown at North Carolina. This remains on the very edge of possibility, but a Brown upset here could make them a real factor in the race for the last couple at-large bids. Teams like Cuse and Hofstra (and probably UVA, too) are going to hope UNC snuffs out the Bears.
-- Johns Hopkins at North Carolina. Big week for the Heels, in case you haven't noticed. The Hop still needs help - their UVA win lost some luster when most of UVA's opponents also lost.
-- St. John's at Notre Dame. Again on the very edge of possibility, or even plausibility, but ND did have some trouble today with lowly Rutgers. St. John's clings to the edges of the race and will receive a boost merely by playing the Irish.
-- Brown at Princeton. One of Brown's best chances to nose into the conversation; a win at Princeton would be a double whammy with a boost to their chances at the expense of a close competitor.
-- Yale at Penn. Could either make a mess or clean things up some by burying the Elis once and for all.
-- Loyola at Ohio State. Loyola's resume is such that if they didn't have the autobid this week, they'd be in the mishmash with Cuse and Hofstra and probably come in third in that group. So they need this one; otherwise they'll probably cede the autobid next week to Denver and open up a spot for another at-large. On the other hand, if they win they could join PSU in good-enough-either-way territory.
-- Maryland at Virginia. Just win one. Please.