February basketball is here and March basketball is in sight. With that, Hall Pass’ first edition of college basketball bracketology has arrived, and the discussion centers on what teams have résumés that are being overlooked. Does anyone even remember that Butler beat Villanova back in December?
Here are the breakdowns of some under-the-radar teams.
Who would have thought that the Huskies would have this strong of a résumé back in the summer? Lorenzo Romar was fired after multiple disappointing seasons and Mike Hopkins was hired to take his place. Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2017, flipped from the Huskies to Missouri. And yet, Hopkins has this team safely in the tournament at the moment with a 2-0 record over the RPI Top 25. The Huskies are 7-3 in the PAC-12 and have no losses outside of the top 80 schools in the RPI. Beating Kansas on the road is going to do wonders for their seeding, even if they stumble down the stretch. Washington is a 9-seed right now.
With the win over Villanova on their resume, the Bulldogs are 7-6 in a strong Big East conference. Digging into the RPI once again, Butler is in the top 45 and holds wins over Villanova and Ohio State. The Bulldogs don’t have many bad losses, which will help offset its 2-7 record against the RPI top 50. Butler is on the 8-seed line.
After a spiral that left Arizona with three losses seemingly before the season even began, the Wildcats have picked it up and raced toward a 9-2 record in the PAC-12. They are 8-5 inside of the RPI top 100 and own no losses outside of that range. They could use one more signature win, and if that happens, Arizona could be looking at a top 3 seed after a poor start to the college basketball season. As it is, the big win is the only component that is missing, and Arizona would probably earn a 5 seed if the tournament started tomorrow.
How could a team in the RPI top 15 have an underrated résumé? Well, the Red Raiders are 20-4 overall with an 8-3 mark in the stellar Big 12, which is good for a tie with Kansas for first place. Tech has already beaten Kansas once on the road to go along with marquee wins over Nevada (14th in the RPI), West Virginia (25th in the RPI), and solid wins over TCU and Texas. Their only non-conference loss came at the hands of Seton Hall, who are 24th in the RPI, and the Red Raiders only have one loss outside of the RPI top 50, on the road to Iowa State. Texas Tech has a résumé that checks a lot of boxes, which is why I place them as a 3 seed.
Looking back on preseason expectations now, what the Buckeyes have been able to achieve is nothing short of remarkable. Projected by most to finish near the bottom of the Big 10, Ohio State has come out of nowhere and dominated the conference with a 12-1 record to date. They had four losses prior to conference play, but the teams they lost to were very strong, including Clemson and North Carolina, both inside the top 20. With a signature win over Michigan State and a win at Purdue on Feb. 7, the Buckeyes are a lock for the NCAA tournament, and will aim to secure a high seed. At this moment, I place them as a 3 seed.
Griffin Connolly can be reached at email@example.com.