Arizona State did something that no unranked team has ever done: beat two top-five teams in consecutive games. With clutch play and a defense that never stops grinding, Arizona State knocked off second-ranked Oregon on Friday and then held off a fourth-quarter comeback by third-ranked Oregon State on Sunday.
Both the Ducks and Beavers had a chance to ascend to the top of the rankings as they entered their games in Tempe following UConn's loss to Baylor on Thursday. But in a season that has been anything but predictable, Arizona State's improbable 36-hour stretch resulted in a very different bracket than what was posted just Friday.
Most of the changes come on the top two lines, but the complexion of the entire season was altered. Here is the immediate impact on Bracketology after Arizona State's two stunners.
South Carolina and Baylor now sit atop the big board
The Gamecocks had moved to a No. 1 seed at the beginning of January, and the Lady Bears got there after winning in Storrs on Thursday. But now with the two Oregon schools cleared out of the way, South Carolina and Baylor are No. 1 and No. 2 overall, respectively.
The debate over that should be minimal. The sample size of the season is now big enough to begin discussing RPI and its related metrics, and South Carolina sits at No. 2 in the RPI and has more Quad 1 (top-50 RPI) wins than any team in the country. The Gamecocks also have a win over Baylor in St. Thomas just after Thanksgiving. South Carolina is a proven No. 1.
Since losing to the Gamecocks, the Lady Bears have been dominant. What they did to UConn in the final quarter on Thursday -- outscoring the Huskies 19-6 and holding them to 2-of-18 shooting from the field -- is just another example of what they have done to their opponents day in and day out in December and January. The RPI (16) is not as impressive, but that is the result of three sub-300 teams on Baylor's schedule to start the season. They pass the eye test, too: The Lady Bears check in as at least the second-best team in the country.
Upsets knock the Pac-12 off the top line
In the preseason, it seemed realistic that three Pac-12 teams could simultaneously end up No. 1 seeds. Now one of its own, Arizona State, might have spoiled the possibility. At least for this week, the Sun Devils are responsible for the conference now having zero No. 1 seeds. A case could still be made for Oregon State or Stanford, given that they each have only one loss and have played good schedules, but UConn's résumé is still better. The Huskies have more Quad 1 wins then either the Beavers (5) or the Cardinal (3) and have played against slightly better competition up to this point.
All four No. 2 seeds are now members of the Pac-12 -- but the long-term expectation is that at least one Pac-12 team will be back to No. 1 seed status by Selection Monday.
The reality that might be hardest to digest with regard to the Pac-12 is that Oregon, the preseason favorite to win it all, is eighth on the overall Bracketology board behind, in order, South Carolina, Baylor, Louisville, UConn, Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA. The Ducks are the only team in the group with two losses, and they have the worst RPI.
The good news for Oregon is there appears to be some separation between the top eight teams and that next level, teams 9-18. The bad news is that with Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA ahead of them, the Ducks' road to playing in the Portland Regional is nearly impossible. As the No. 5 overall team and the first No. 2 seed to be placed in the bracket, Oregon State earns that honor this week. From that perspective, losing to Arizona State didn't hurt the Beavers nearly as much as it did the Ducks.
Louisville moves to the top line, too
The Cardinals were here once before, after their win over Oregon at that same event in St. Thomas where Baylor suffered its lone loss. Then they promptly lost five days later to Ohio State and fell back to a No. 2 seed. Since that bad night in Columbus, Louisville has largely been under the radar. With games that were probably closer than they should have been against UT-Martin and Duke, the Cardinals fell again slightly on the overall board, from fifth to seventh after needing double overtime to beat the Skyhawks. They are back on the top line now, with a No. 3 RPI ranking, seven Quad 1 wins, and just that one loss. It might surprise some to see Louisville back as a No. 1 seed, but it shouldn't.
UConn also returns -- but where is notable
The Huskies' stay as a No. 2 seed lasted three days. The loss to Baylor might have been problematic, but the résumé is still No. 1 seed-worthy now that Oregon has lost a second game and Oregon State is no longer undefeated. The Huskies are fourth in RPI, have played the nation's third-most difficult nonconference schedule, and have six Quad 1 wins, which is better than any team not named South Carolina and Louisville.
The twist isn't so much that UConn is back as a No. 1 seed, it's that the Huskies are the No. 1 seed in Portland. As the fourth No. 1 they were placed last in the bracket among those four teams. Since the West Coast teams were no longer on that top line, Portland was the only region remaining as the teams were placed geographically. After years of earning the right to play near home in regionals in places like Albany, Bridgeport and Kingston, it would seem strange to see UConn playing out west. If none of the Pac-12 teams reemerges, this scenario could still exist come March. In that case, the Huskies might be better off as a No. 2 seed.
Arizona State makes a big jump
Until this week, the Sun Devils' season hadn't impressed much. Heading into Friday night they were just 53 in the RPI, with wins over Creighton and Middle Tennessee as the résumé highlights. They played a nonconference schedule ranked 221st in the country. A week ago, they were a No. 10 seed, which is bubble-watch territory. Through Sunday's games, Arizona State is a No. 5 seed. These two wins changed the season for Arizona State and the entire landscape of the sport for the next two months.