South Carolina climbs while Tennessee tumbles in bracketology

Te'a Cooper and South Carolina are up to a No. 5 seed in Charlie Creme's latest bracketology. David Allio/Icon Sportswire

A frenzy of losses this past week made an already difficult bracketology field even cloudier to evaluate.

The teams that were at-large selections in last week's bracket lost a combined 21 games. Twelve of the teams slotted 10-25 on last week's S-curve lost at least one game.

Stability did reign at the very top, with the top nine teams on the S-curve getting through the week unscathed. The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in each region remain the same.

With all of these upsets and losing among teams considered to be the second-tier best in the country, let's take a look at which teams stumbled and which teams came out ahead.


South Carolina: Yes, the Gamecocks lost at Mississippi State in their only game of the week, but they acquitted themselves well in Starkville and proved the eight-game winning streak that preceded their first SEC loss was for real. As a result, South Carolina jumped from a No. 6 seed to a No. 5 despite the 0-1 record for the week. The Gamecocks head into Monday's matchup with Missouri much improved. A month ago South Carolina looked like it could struggle to make the NCAA tournament. Now the Gamecocks are back in position to fight for a top-four seed. The Tigers also made a big move simply by blowing out Georgia, jumping two seed lines from a No. 9 to a No. 7, making Big Monday in Columbia, South Carolina, even bigger.

Rutgers: Who could have imagined around Thanksgiving that come the third week in January that the Scarlet Knights would lead the Big Ten by two games and have a top-20 RPI? Rutgers has won 10 in a row, is off to its best Big Ten start (7-0) and, in the past two weeks, has jumped from No. 24 overall on the S-curve to No. 13. The Scarlet Knights are beneficiaries of being able to avoid the stumbles the teams around them didn't.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils lost at Oregon and then beat Oregon State in Corvallis. Like South Carolina, losing wasn't so bad when it was accompanied by a good performance against a high-level opponent. Not all losses are created equal. Arizona State followed up a good performance in Eugene with a double-overtime win against the Beavers to move up a seed line.

Oregon State and Syracuse: Most weeks a loss like each suffered on Sunday would have resulted in some kind of fall. But not if there's no one to jump up and take your place. All the losing elsewhere prevented the Orange and the Beavers from dropping even a little bit.

Utah and Clemson: These were the two biggest upward movers this week. Utah is riding a four-game winning streak; Clemson has won five in a row. And with all the losing by teams 10-25, the path was cleared for some major jumps. Both are also now more securely in the field. That said, both résumés are a little light on big wins, especially the Utes with just one top-50 victory. Still, wins of any kind carry plenty of weight right now.


Tennessee: Yes, the Lady Vols are still in the field despite their first four-game losing streak since 1970, but their place is as tenuous as it has ever been. Tennessee still has three top-50 wins and five against top-100 competition. That's more than some others in this week's bracket (not to mention some teams that aren't). But the loss to Alabama was the most stunning in its margin (21 points), timing (coming off three close losses) and quality of competition (the Crimson Tide entered the game at 9-8 and followed the Thursday upset with a Sunday loss to LSU). Tennessee tumbled from a No. 6 seed to a No. 10, the biggest drop of any team. Arkansas, Notre Dame and LSU loom for the Lady Vols, and anything short of 2-1 record in those games means they will need plenty of help to stay in the field.

Texas: The Longhorns' 18-point defeat at Kansas State on Wednesday only shined a brighter light on the fact that they only have one top-50 RPI win. They fell from a No. 4 seed to a No. 6 and simply aren't good enough right now to warrant a top-16 overall spot.

Michigan State and Indiana: No one had a crazier week than the Spartans. They followed a head-scratching loss to sub-.500 Ohio State on Monday in which they only scored 55 points with a dominating win over surefire tournament team Maryland three nights later. Then Rutgers completed handled the Spartans on Sunday, leaving plenty of doubt as to who Michigan State truly is. Much of the same could be said for Indiana. The Hoosiers were climbing and then, like the Spartans, lost twice this week. The Big Ten has been a bit wacky of late, but Indiana can't afford too many two-loss weeks and stay in the race.

Gonzaga: The Zags' loss at BYU not only knocked them out of first place in the West Coast Conference, but also out of the top 16 for a shot at hosting first- and second-round games. It wasn't a big fall for Gonzaga, but it's just enough to drop it out of a top-four seed. The return engagement with the Cougars is the only significant game left on the schedule, so the Zags might not be in great position to move back in without some help.