Latest Bracket Math update

Wisconsin, Syracuse among teams with best résumés midway through season

Updated: January 18, 2014, 4:23 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi | ESPN Insider

Ben BrustAP Photo/Aaron FavilaBen Brust and Wisconsin already have beaten eight teams expected in the NCAA tournament field.

This edition of "Bracket Math" includes games through Friday, Jan. 17. Rankings reflect an up-to-date S-curve from yours truly, posing as one hypothetical member of the NCAA men's basketball committee.

We're approaching the point of the season at which counting matters. When the best teams not only have played multiple NCAA tournament contenders but also have beaten their share.

It's when we can comfortably say certain teams, barring major injuries or some other catastrophe, are stone-cold locks for the NCAA field. Just look at a few of the records already posted by selected teams against their fellow tournament contenders (quality wins in parenthesis with "N" meaning neutral court):

Wisconsin Badgers, 8-1 (N-West Virginia, N-St. John's, Florida, N-Saint Louis, at Virginia, Marquette, Iowa, Illinois)
Syracuse Orange, 7-0 (N-Minnesota, N-California, N-Baylor, Indiana, at St. John's, Villanova, North Carolina)
Kansas Jayhawks, 7-4 (N-Duke, N-New Mexico, Georgetown, Toledo, at Oklahoma, Kansas State, at Iowa State)
Michigan State Spartans, 6-1 (N-Kentucky, N-Oklahoma, at Texas, at Indiana, Ohio State, Minnesota)

On the flip side, we have quite a few presumed or hopeful NCAA teams that are more sizzle than steak at this point. Most, if not all, will need to bag at least a couple of tourney-level wins in league play to remain viable for an at-large bid (should they need one):

Maryland Terrapins, 0-5 (NCAA tournament-level wins: none*)
Boise State Broncos, 0-4 (NCAA tournament-level wins: none)
Marquette Golden Eagles, 1-7 (NCAA tournament-level wins: N-George Washington)
Virginia Cavaliers, 1-4 (NCAA tournament-level wins: at Florida State)
Virginia Commonwealth Rams, 1-4 (NCAA tournament-level wins: at Virginia)
Southern Methodist Mustangs, 1-4 (NCAA tournament-level wins: Connecticut)
Indiana Hoosiers, 1-4 (NCAA tournament-level wins: Wisconsin)
* Neither Providence nor Notre Dame, each a Maryland victim, is on the projected at-large board today.

The moral of the story never changes. The best way to get into the NCAA tournament is to play (and beat) teams that are also going. Failing to do so is at a team's own risk.

Joe Lunardi | email

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