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Bracket Breakdown: Which Teams Rose and Fell?

March 14, 2010 Columns No Comments

When Texas reached No. 1 in the polls in mid-January, the Longhorns looked like a lock to cruise to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Fans and experts were eagerly awaiting Texas’ clash with Kansas in Austin, which many figured could determine the overall No. 1 seed.

However, the Longhorns fell into a tailspin and finished the season by losing nine of 16 games. Instead of receiving a No. 1 seed, Texas will have to face a No. 1 seed in the second round. The selection committee gave the disintegrating Longhorns a No. 8 seed in the East region. The Longhorns will face No. 9 Wake Forest in New Orleans with a possible second-round match up against No. 1 Kentucky. That’s a dramatic fall in less than two months.

A few other teams appeared on pace for great seeds before faltering down the stretch.

  • Purdue fell to No. 4 after remaining in consideration for a No. 1 seed as recently as two weeks ago. The loss of forward Robbie Hummel might derail the Boilermakers’ Final Four aspirations.
  • Wake Forest lost five of its final six games, including an opening-round ACC tournament game to No. 12-seed Miami. As a result, the selection committee dropped the Demon Deacons to a No. 9 seed, which could be considered generous.
  • Utah State looked to be in contention for a No. 8 or 9 seed before losing the WAC championship game to New Mexico State. The selection committee gave Utah State a No. 12 seed as a result.
  • Tennessee has wins against Kansas and Kentucky this season, but the Volunteers’ last game was a 30-point drubbing to the Wildcats in the SEC tournament. A lack of other quality wins and that blowout led to the Volunteers falling to a No. 6 seed.

While some teams played their way down to worse seeds, a few other stormed through February and early March to rise in seeding. Notre Dame is the most notable ascender because the Fighting Irish were barely in bubble contention when superstar Luke Harangody went down to injury. But the Irish found a way to rattle off six straight wins before falling to West Virginia in the Big East tournament semifinals. That win streak included upsets of Pittsburgh — twice — Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette. The streak added several great wins to a profile that already featured a marquee win in South Bend against West Virginia. The late season resurgence delivered Notre Dame an invitation to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed, one of the most remarkable late-season charges in recent years.

Here are some of the other late bloomers.

  • En route to a No. 3 seed, Georgetown also had a late run in the Big East with wins against Cincinnati, Syracuse and Marquette.
  • Before losing to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, Maryland had won nine of 10 games, including a huge victory against Duke in College Park and road wins at Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Florida State. The selection committee gave the ACC co-champion a No. 4 seed.
  • Ohio State enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed thanks to a sensational finish in which the Buckeyes won 13 of their last 14 games, including three wins against Illinois and solid victories against Minnesota and Michigan State.

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