Welcome to March: What to Make of the Madness on an Upset-Filled CBB Saturday

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 2, 2014

USA Today

The NCAA tournament doesn't start for another two-and-a-half weeks, but the madness is well under way with ranked teams dropping left and right.

After five ranked teams fell on Thursday night, another 10 AP Top 25 squads suffered a loss on Saturday.

What does all this chaos means for the projected brackets?

I'm glad you asked.

One thing is for surenot all losses are created equal.

Weren't Even Favored in Vegas

Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Texas

Many of us expected Saint Louis to bounce back from a tough loss to Duquesne with a road win over VCU. Others thought that Cincinnati and Texas would be able to win on the road against struggling Connecticut and Oklahoma.

But not Vegas.

Saint Louis opened as a 4.5-point dog against the Rams. Cincinnati was expected to lose by five pointsas was Texas.

Mar 1, 2014; Hartford, CT, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Sean Kilpatrick (23) shoots against Connecticut Huskies center Amida Brimah (35) in the second half at XL Center. UConn defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 51-45. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After the loss to Connecticut, Cincinnati's head coach Mick Cronin told reporters, "We were awful from pillar to post. We weren't connected. We want things to be easy. Well, welcome to March."

The major-conference losses won't mean much in the grand scheme of thingsespecially considering all the other teams that lost on Saturday. At most, Cincinnati and Texas will each drop by one seed line in the next round of projected brackets.

Saint Louis might not have that luxury, though.

The loss to VCU certainly won't damage the Billikens' computer profile, but it was another blemish on the eye test. In their last eight games, they have lost twice, been pushed to overtime twice by George Mason and won another two games by just one possession.

Eking your way through an entire month of A-10 play isn't the best way to improve your standing with the selection committee.

Before the loss to Duquesne, I was prepared to project Saint Louis for a No. 3 seed. Now, the Billikens will be teetering between a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Could Have Been Worse

Creighton, Iowa State and Kansas

Both Creighton and Iowa State lost on the road to unranked teams that are very likely headed to the tournament.

In and of themselves, those losses weren't bad. Creighton will probably drop from a No. 2 seed to a No. 3 seed, and Iowa State went from somewhere between a No. 4 seed and a No. 5 seed to simply a solid No. 5 seed.

However, the losses were a bit disturbing in a way that won't affect their seeding.

CINCINNATI, OH - MARCH 1: Jahenns Manigat #12, Ethan Wragge #34 and Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays react during the game against the Xavier Musketeers at Cintas Center on March 1, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Xavier won the game 75-69. (Photo by
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Creighton's Doug McDermott shot 50 percent from the floor and finished the night with 27 points and 10 rebounds, but the rest of the team shot just 34.1 percent. During one 10-minute stretch spanning halftime, McDermott was the only Bluejay to score a point.

Meanwhile, Melvin Ejim went off for 30 points and 16 rebounds for Iowa State, while DeAndre Kane added 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Cyclones. The dynamic duo shot 54.8 percent from the field. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was 6-of-35 and scored a total of 19 points.

All three of those guys belong in any and all discussions about the Wooden Award, but with the likely exception of Georges Niang for Iowa State, no one else on either roster is worthy of making third team in their respective all-conference squads.

Their seeds won't be negatively impacted, but there may be an increasing perception that Creighton and Iowa State are overly reliant on too few players.

After the game, Doug McDermott told reporters"We had a couple of forced ones. That's not who we are. We are a team that historically shares the ball. We'll get back to that. Nothing to worry about here."

For Kansas, it not only could have been worse, but it very well might have been worse than just the loss to Oklahoma State.

Joel Embiid appeared to have re-aggravated a back injury that caused him to miss an earlier game against TCU. He returned to the game after trainers stretched him out on the sideline, but he sure was hobbling up and down the court like a man in a lot of pain. I'm no stranger to lower back injuries and hope the big man is alright, but Kansas would be in a world of hurt if he's not fully healthy for the tournament.

We'll see how his status plays out in the next two weeks, but a less-than-100-percent Embiid might be a detriment to Kansas' seed on Selection Sunday.


Louisville and Syracuse

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - MARCH 01:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange reacts to a play against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half at John Paul Jones Arena on March 1, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Virginia defeated Syracuse 75-56
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Louisville's loss was ill-advised because we were finally starting to believe in the Cardinals. Despite an RPI that would normally have a ceiling of a No. 5 seed, many were slotting Louisville as a No. 3 seed after the road win over Cincinnati and subsequent destruction of Temple.

But nowafter losing to a Memphis team that hadn't looked good in nearly a monththe Cardinals are back to being a team with a sub-.500 record against the RPI Top 100. No matter how dominant you look against bad teams, it's rather imperative that you win more often than not against quality teams in order to earn a spot on the top four lines.

Rick Pitino wasn't too pleased after the game. "I knew we were in trouble when we went up seven, and our guys acted like junior high kids," he told reporters. "I knew they weren't focused to put the team away...That was very disappointing that our guys lost focus like that."

Then there's Syracuse.

Yes, the Orange were an underdog on the road against an extremely good Virginia team, but that's no excuse for them to get blown out down the stretch.

During the first two months of the season, Syracuse was the team frequently going on 20-0 runs and demoralizing teams. On Saturday, though, the Orange were on the receiving end of a 33-16 run over the final 12 minutes.

Syracuse is now 1-3 in its past four games, and just barely hung on for that one win against Maryland. Once the projected No. 1 overall seed for nearly a month, Syracuse is now flirting with a No. 3 seed.

Absolute Disaster

Kentucky and Michigan State

Mar 1, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) and Michigan State Spartans guard Gary Harris (14) and Michigan State Spartans forward Matt Costello (10) and Michigan State Spartans guard/forward Branden Dawson (22)
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since they played each other in the Champions Classic in November, it feels like we've been making excuses for both Kentucky and Michigan State.

"Kentucky is young and inexperienced, but will inevitably improve as the season progresses."

"Michigan State has dealt with injuries, but they'll be the best in the country when healthy."

Um, guys? It's March now. When do those promises start paying dividends?

Kentucky lost on the road against a South Carolina team that entered the game 10-18 without an RPI Top 50 win. Michigan State lost at home to an Illinois team that was in dead last in the B1G standings two weeks ago.

After the game, Coach Calipari told reporters nothing about his ejection from the game, as he elected to skip the post-game press conference.

Remember when these were the top two teams in the preseason AP Top 25? Neither is remotely close to the bubble, but they might both be lucky to get a No. 6 seed at this point.

Still think you'll be able to build a billion-dollar bracket?

Welcome back to the madness of March.

Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.


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