Kansas’ surprising loss to Washington on Wednesday night could — and probably should — have juggled the No. 1 seeds. Instead, all it did was drop the Jayhawks from No. 2 overall to No. 4. The reason is that a bevy of teams sitting just behind KU also went down, some in equally ignominious fashion.
Notre Dame? No thanks, lost at home to Ball State in a game the Irish were given a 93 percent chance to win. Florida? Double disaster, lost a pair at home to Florida State (semi-understandable) and Loyola Chicago, averaging 62.5 points in the process after putting up 99.5 PPG in six prior outings. Texas AM, Virginia and Cincinnati were among other highly ranked unbeatens to suffer their first defeats.
So Kansas lives to see another day on the top line. This is significant in large part because the Jayhawks have pretty much made it their permanent home. For a staggering seven of the past 11 years, in fact. What happens next? Kansas will likely be favored in all but one of its remaining regular-season games (Jan. 15, at West Virginia). Even with Wednesday’s loss, the Jayhawks retain No. 1 seed odds of nearly 80 percent.
Projection: More of the same.
Next up for a No. 1 seed. That would be Wichita State, but the Shockers were nearly shocked at home by South Dakota State. Further, any such consideration should wait until the return of injured forward Markis McDuffie. At full strength, most agree the sky is the limit for Gregg Marshall’s team.
Projection: Correctly seeded for a change (most likely as a No. 2)
Texas AM still moves. The Aggies, benefitting from some of the same circumstances propping up Kansas, dropped a narrow decision to Arizona, yet improved from No. 9 overall to No. 8. The accompanying No. 2 seed seems to ignore that defeat, but really is another reflection that rankings never happen in a vacuum. Every team is slotted in conjunction with the performances of others in close proximity on the seed list.
Projection: Regular-season SEC title and no worse than a No. 3 seed
Xavier can challenge Villanova. The Musketeers are positioning themselves as a legitimate challenger to Villanova in the Big East. A No. 5 seed to start the season, the Musketeers are a No. 3 now with only a neutral court and no-longer-damaging loss to Arizona State. If they survive a Dec. 22 trip to Northern Iowa, the Muskies should enter Big East play at 12-1 with circles around a pair of dates with the Wildcats (Jan. 10 in Philly and Feb. 17 in Cincy).
Projection: No. 4 seed, but with a regular-season split against Villanova
A mid-major checkup. Middle Tennessee (at Vanderbilt), Loyola Chicago (at Florida), Ball State (at Notre Dame), Idaho (Washington State) and Stephen F. Austin (at Louisiana Tech) all scored significant victories. An especially good race is brewing in the Missouri Valley Conference, with Loyola, Northern Iowa, Missouri State and new arrival Valparaiso projected to end up with identical 11-7 conference records.
Rising: West Virginia, Arizona State, Florida State, Tennessee, Syracuse, Clemson
Falling: Notre Dame, Florida, Cincinnati, Southern California, UCLA, Saint Mary’s, Butler, Oregon