Bracketology Update: January 23

Bubble-time.

When last we met, Iowa was coming off a painful home loss to Michigan State and the first Big Ten win of the season, a road tilt with Northwestern. Since then, Iowa added an impressive home win over Wisconsin (the same Wisconsin that had just beaten Indiana in Bloomington). What did that do for Iowa's bubble stock? (Iowa also lost to Ohio State last night, but that loss hasn't been factored into most of the bracketology predictions yet.)

ESPN: Joe Lunardi (link)

LAST WEEK: First Four Out

THIS WEEK: First Four Out

No improvement after the win over Wisconsin, but no regression, either. Iowa's former bubble neighbor Wisconsin moves up to a 7-seed here (that win over Indiana was big), while Iowa State is still hanging out on the "Last Four In" side of the bubble after sweeping West Virginia and TCU last week. Iowa still sits in an odd spot vis-a-vis Iowa State. On one hand, they're unquestionably Iowa's best non-conference win and every win they pick up adds a little more shine to Iowa's win. On the other hand, they're also (for now) direct competition for one of those bubblicious NCAA Touranment spots. Ultimately, I think Iowa State will pull a Wisconsin and continue to move up the bracket ladder; the Big 12 is not that overwhelming this year and Iowa State seems capable of ending up as one of the top 4-5 teams in the league, assuming they can continue to defend their home court. (And if they can beat Kansas in Hilton, so much the better; they were achingly close to beating them in Lawrence a few weeks ago, so a win in Ames seems plausible.) If they do that, Iowa State should move out of "Last Four In" territory (and direct competition with Iowa for a spot) and into a more comfortable spot in the bracket.

Blogging the Bracket: Chris Dobbertean (link)

LAST WEEK: "Also considered" (8th of 18 teams listed)

THIS WEEK: "Last Four In" (11-seed vs. Indiana State)

Well, that was quite a jump for Iowa in Dobbertean's projected bracket. A week ago, they were effectively behind 15 teams on his bubble -- this week they're in. Hooray for volatility!

CBS: Jerry Palm (link)

LAST WEEK: n/a

THIS WEEK: First Four Out

Iowa dropped out of Palm's picture entirely (although he only goes 68 teams deep, unlike several other bracketologists), but this week they're back as the first team listed in the "First Four Out" category, suggesting that they're right back on the bubble. Iowa State is one of those "Last Four In" teams here as well, while Wisconsin is up to a 7-seed. In fact, Iowa State, Indiana State, Memphis, and St. Mary's are teams that show up in the "Last Four In"/"First Four Out" portion of the bubble on several of these brackets. January seems early to be actively rooting against teams, but it probably couldn't hurt to be throwing those teams some bad vibes (although there's value to Iowa State continuing to win, as I noted above). This is especially true if they have the chance to score a big upset win; wins like that are extra-damaging for Iowa's tournament aspirations.

College Sports Madness: USA Today (link)

LAST WEEK: 11-seed (vs. Cincinnati)

THIS WEEK: 11-seed (vs. Georgetown)

Steady as she goes. This bracket has been one of the few to have Iowa in since we started tracking this stuff earlier in the month and nothing has changed on that front. If anything, I imagine Iowa's win over Wisconsin only solidified Iowa's standing in this bracket. Meanwhile, if bracketology itself is an inexact science (at least this far from the finish line; it gets far more accurate the closer we get to March), picking the matchups is downright lunacy. That said, an Iowa-Georgetown game would be a jaw-dropping contrast in styles. Iowa is all go-go-go frenzy, while Georgetown is one of the slowest teams in the country. A game between them would either be fascinating or cover-your-eyes awful.

Bracketville (link)

LAST WEEK: First Five Teams Out

THIS WEEK: 11-seed (vs. Wichita State)

Iowa had been hanging around the bubble in this bracket for several weeks, but the win over Wisconsin pushed them into the bracket -- and into a rematch with Wichita State, per these matchups (see above for caveat regarding projected matchups, of course). Revenge on the Shockers!

The Hoops Report (link)

LAST WEEK: First Four Out

THIS WEEK: Last Four In, 11-seed (vs. San Diego State)

Same as the bracket above, basically. Iowa goes from hanging around the bubble to creeping into the bracket, yet again as an 11-seed.

One thing to note with these brackets is that a consistent theme is emerging: on the brackets where Iowa is in the field of 68, the Big Ten places 8 teams into the Dance, while in brackets where Iowa is on the outside looking in, the Big Ten places just 7 teams into the field. So Iowa isn't replacing another Big Ten team on any of these brackets -- they're expanding the Big Ten's presence in the bracket. That suggests that Iowa's competition for a spot in the NCAA Tournament isn't necessarily its fellow Big Ten teams, but rather various other teams around the nation (the likes of Indiana State, St. Mary's, Memphis, etc.).

Still, it's definitely worth paying attention to what Illinois and Wisconsin do over the next few weeks. Barring catastrophe, five teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Ohio State) seem secure in their tournament fates. Penn State and Nebraska likewise seem secure in their tournament non-fates (they will go to the Big Queso Dip and they will like it, dammit). Northwestern and Purdue have similar league records to Iowa, but they don't have much traction at all in these bracket projections; short of a stunning winning streak in league play or winning the Big Ten Tournament (something which would definitely hurt Iowa), they don't seem to have much hope of making the Dance.

Wisconsin boosted their tournament profile with a strong start to Big Ten play (4-0, including that huge win over Indiana), but they've since gone 0-2 (against Iowa and Michigan State) and their next seven games are against Minnesota (twice), Ohio State (twice), Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan. If they continue to falter, they could easily play their way back onto the bubble -- or off it. Illinois, meanwhile, is kind of a reverse-Wisconsin; they've endured a miserable 1-4 start to Big Ten play (prior to last night's road win over Nebraska), including a 14-point home loss to Northwestern (note: not a good loss). Yet they're still in every bracket listed above, ranging from a 7-seed to a 10-seed (and a spot on the bubble). Not many teams with a 1-4 league record would have such a favorable bracketology position, but then again not many teams have the non-conference resume the Illini do this year -- those wins over Butler and Gonzaga just look better and better. If Illinois becomes direct competition for Iowa on the bubble, the Hawkeyes could be in danger; if the league performances of the two teams is even, non-conference accomplishments could be a big trump card for Illinois. Stay tuned.

And if you need even more brackets to look at, check out the Bracket Matrix over here. Iowa features in most of the bracket projections there, usually in the 10-12 seed range, although one brave soul has them as high as an 8-seed!

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