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Bracket 101: Oh, how the mighty have fallen

02.15.10 at 1:04 pm ET
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Bracket 101 examines the week that was in college basketball and gives you a list of 16 teams that are poised to dance their way into the Round of 16 in the 2010 NCAA tournament.

Rapid Rewind

“I’m embarrassed.” – Jim Calhoun

Jim Calhoun suffer another tough loss to Cincinatti in the Big East. (AP)

Jim Calhoun and UConn suffered another tough loss, to Cincinnati in the Big East. (AP)

UConn postgame press conferences can be filled with emotion from 67-year-old, two-time national championship winner and Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun. However, they rarely are somber and apologetic. Calhoun, who returned to the sidelines this past Saturday after a 3½-week medical leave of absence, watched his team give what he described as “one of the worst performances I’ve had here at UConn in 24 years.” UConn suffered a controversial loss to Syracuse earlier in the week, but the 60-48 home loss to Cincinnati on Saturday may be the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Huskies.

UConn is not alone. North Carolina, Oklahoma, UCLA and Indiana all have struggled this season. UCLA is the only one in the bunch to even manage a conference record over .500 (6-5 in the Pac-10), but the Bruins have a losing record overall (11-12). Each year, it seems that the mid-majors seem to improve enough to increase parity across the national scene. That being said, don’t expect these historic programs to dwell near the bottom of their respective conferences for long. UConn and UNC simply will reload like they do every signing period, Tom Crean still is rebuilding an Indiana program that Kelvin Sampson brought down, and UCLA is, well, UCLA.

Even if some of Calhoun’s players have written this year off, their coach certainly has not. Calhoun made that crystal clear after the game on Saturday by saying, “I came back because I had a job to finish.”

Stock Up: Illinois

Despite getting drubbed at home against a very good Ohio State team on Sunday, Illinois did the most to improve its tournament hopes. The Fighting Illini faced the class of the Big Ten in their last three games and came away with two wins against top-15 teams. The Illini capitalized on the absence of former Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas by beating Michigan State at home, 78-73. Even more impressive was their win against Wisconsin on the road. Bruce Weber’s club snapped the Badgers’ 51-0 home record against unranked Big Ten opponents under coach Bo Ryan. The Badgers had won 18 straight games at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., before Illinois knocked them off. The Illini have now won five of their last six, but three of their last five will be played against highly ranked opponents (at Purdue, at Ohio State and home against Wisconsin).

The Hangover (Warner Bros. Pictures)

"The Hangover" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Stock Down: UNLV

UNLV was on a heater. The Runnin’ Rebels had just won five in a row, including a convincing win against then-conference leader BYU. UNLV has been hanging around the “receiving votes” area of the polls for much of the season, making two brief appearances in the top 25 only to fall out the next week. This past week, the Rebels suffered back-to-back double-digit losses to New Mexico and San Diego State. The latter of the two losses will toss them from the Top 25 and put them back on the bubble. The good news for the Rebels, other than the fact that they go to school in Vegas, is that they only face one team with a record over .500 the rest of the way. The bad news is that they won’t get many more opportunities for quality wins, so they need to take care of business down the stretch and cannot afford an extended hangover from their recent two-game skid.

Heat Check: Battle Stations

Penn State has not had a lot to cheer about lately. The Nittany Lions have not won a game in 2010 and now have dropped 12 straight. However, one Penn State player in particular has continued to battle. Taylor Battle exudes grittiness and toughness. Battle is not considered a NBA prospect, but he certainly plays bigger than his 5-foot-11 frame. He has scored 20 or more points in seven of his last eight games, including a 30-point barrage against Michigan State on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if Battle can hold off Ohio State superstar Evan Turner for the Big Ten scoring title.

The Dean’s 16

These 16 teams are the ones that have proved they have the talent to win two games in the NCAA tournament. Check out a complete look at the national polls by clicking here.

The contenders
KansasKansas (24-1)

KentuckyKentucky (24-1)

VillanovaVillanova (22-2) — moved up

PurduePurdue (21-3) — moved up


The Rest of the Elite Eight

SyracuseSyracuse (24-2) — moved down

MichiganStateMichigan State (20-6) — moved down

GeorgetownGeorgetown (18-6)

DukeDuke (19-4) — moved up


Sweet for sure

KansasStateKansas State (20-4)

westviginiaWest Virginia (19-5) — moved down

WisconsinWisconsin (19-6)

OhioStateOhio State (20-6)


Sweet for now

TexasTexas (20-5)

GonzagaGonzaga (21-4)

ButlerButler (23-4)

NewMexicoNew Mexico (23-3)


Eagles Watch

BC's Reggie Jackson shows his eye-popping athleticism against Miami. (AP)

BC's Reggie Jackson shows his eye-popping athleticism against Miami. (AP)

Boston College has now lost eight of its last 10. The Eagles currently sit below .500 (12-13 overall) and are in danger of their second losing season in the last three years.  The good news is that the Heights hoopsters don’t face a ranked opponent the rest of the way. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they had to face a good Wake Forest squad without Joe Trapani, their leading scorer, due to illness. BC put up a good fight in Winston-Salem against the Demon Deacons, but their late rally fell short. This Saturday, the Eagles will host North Carolina at Conte Forum. The Tar Heels still will create buzz and draw a crowd regardless of their struggles this season. BC fans should take notice of the development of sophomore guard Reggie Jackson, who is BC’s second-leading scorer despite coming off the bench. Jackson boasts impressive season averages (13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game) and is developing into a stat sheet stuffer. He has clearly showed that he is the most dynamic offensive option the Eagles have, whether he’s driving to the hole or pulling up for a 3-pointer. Jackson is earning respect in the ACC — just ask Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We didn’t want Jackson to take the last shot. Let’s put it that way,” Coach K said after the Blue Devils narrowly escaped Conte Forum with a win by dodging a last-second, game-tying attempt by BC at the buzzer on Feb. 6.

Couch Potato Fixings (Nationally televised games to watch this week)

Monday
7:00 PM ET Connecticut at (5) Villanova (ESPN)

(AP)

(AP)

9:00 PM ET (1) Kansas at Texas A&M (ESPN)

Tuesday
7:00 PM ET (10) Michigan State at Indiana (ESPN)
9:00 PM ET (2) Kentucky at Mississippi State (ESPN)

Wednesday
7:00 PM ET (7) Duke at Miami (FL) (ESPN)
9:00 PM ET (14) Texas at Missouri (ESPN 2)

Thursday
7:00 PM ET (3) Syracuse at (8) Georgetown (ESPN 2)
9:00 PM ET (13) Wisconsin at Minnesota (ESPN)
9:00 PM ET (23) Pittsburgh at Marquette (ESPN 2)
11:00 PM ET Saint Mary’s at San Diego (ESPN 2)

Friday
7:00 PM ET Old Dominion at (18) Northern Iowa (ESPN 2)

Saturday

11:00 AM ET Siena at (15) Butler (ESPN 2)
12:00 PM ET North Carolina at Boston College (CBS)
12:00 PM ET Seton Hall at (4) West Virginia (ESPN)
2:00 PM ET (14) Texas at Texas Tech (ESPN)
4:00 PM ET Illinois at (6) Purdue (ESPN)
6:00 PM ET (2) Kentucky at (24) Vanderbilt (ESPN)
6:00 PM ET (9) Kansas State at Oklahoma (ESPN U)

Sunday
12:00 PM ET (5) Villanova at (23) Pittsburgh (CBS)

Back Door Cuts (recommended reading for Hoopsters)
Expand the NCAA tourney? Heresy! by Gene Wojciechowski
NCAA Mock Selection Day One: Live Blog
NCAA Mock Selection Day Two: Live Blog
NCAA Mock Selection: Videos

Did you know …
There are seven independent teams nationally, and not one has a winning record. Cal State Bakersfield, Longwood, North Carolina Central, Savannah State, Seattle, SIU-Edwardsville and Winston-Salem have a combined overall record of 55-117.

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