2012 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: Jan. 9
Syracuse has the most wins, the fewest losses, the best RPI and the top strength of schedule in the country. I think it's pretty safe to say the Orange are the overall No. 1 seed in my latest projections. But which other 67 teams fill out my bracket?
As always, I am not trying to guess how teams will finish the year. I am simply seeding them based on their current résumés.
I like to break teams down into three categories:
1. Wallflowers are bubble teams because everyone wants to go to the Big Dance, but not all have the guts to ask a girl out on the dance floor.
2. Elite teams that are safely in the field are dancing with a hottie.
3. In the middle are the schools that are dancing with their sister.
Last year, I had the most accurate bracket projections in the country, correctly predicting 67 of 68 teams and once again finishing way ahead of ESPN's Joe Lunardi.
I'll begin with the two First Four at-large bid games:
(12a) Missouri State vs. (12d) Ole Miss
(12b) Florida vs. (12c) California
First 15 Teams Out: BYU, Marshall, Saint Joseph's, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Texas, Virginia Tech, New Mexico, Saint Louis, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Florida State, Arkansas, Oregon, Arizona
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with slides consisting of the major conferences. First up is the ACC...
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Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (2 seed), North Carolina (2)
Dancing with their Sister: Virginia (7)
Wallflowers: North Carolina State (10), Virginia Tech (seventh team out), Florida State (12th team out)
Duke's loss at Temple knocks the Blue Devils off the top line, but their resume is still very impressive. Duke is second in the RPI, has the third-ranked strength of schedule and is 5-2 against the top 50.
Virginia has reeled off 12 in a row, but that streak will be put to the test Thursday when the Cavs travel to Cameron Indoor to take on the Blue Devils and their 43-game home winning streak.
Virginia Tech falls out of the field with a loss at Wake Forest. The Hokies are just 1-4 against the top 100.
Count Florida State among those that are no longer tournament worthy. The Seminoles' 20-point loss at Clemson on Saturday was their third defeat in four games, and they are down to 86th in the RPI.
Big East (7)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), Georgetown (3), Seton Hall (3), West Virginia (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Louisville (5), Connecticut (5), Marquette (6)
Wallflowers: Pittsburgh (fifth team out)
I was probably the only one to have Seton Hall slated as a 5-seed last week, so I'm not ashamed to be the only one placing them on the 3 line after the Pirates' 75-63 win over UConn. That was SHU's third RPI top-17 victory, following triumphs at Dayton and at home against West Virginia. The Pirates are third in the RPI and have the second-best strength of schedule in the country.
West Virginia also experienced a bump after taking down Georgetown on Saturday and will have another chance to impress, when the Mountaineers travel to Connecticut on Monday night. WVU has excellent computer numbers (RPI 14, SOS 4) and another great win at Kansas State on its resume.
Things are not going as well for Louisville, UConn and Marquette. The Cardinals' shocking home loss to Notre Dame was its third setback in four contests, and they haven't beaten a top-100 team since Dec. 20.
The Huskies, meanwhile, got Jim Calhoun back Saturday, but that didn't seem to help any as they dropped their second straight game in New Jersey—a 67-60 loss at Mike Rice's Rutgers squad. UConn has as many sub-100 defeats as they do top-50 wins.
As for the Golden Eagles, they lost consecutive difficult road games last week, falling at both Georgetown and Syracuse. Marquette has now dropped four of six and is 1-3 versus the top 50.
Things just keep getting worse for Pitt, which ran its losing streak to four after falling at DePaul. The Panthers are in 15th place in the Big East.
Big Ten (8)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Indiana (1), Michigan State (2), Ohio State (2)
Dancing with Their Sister: Illinois (6), Michigan (7), Purdue (8)
Wallflowers: Northwestern (9), Wisconsin (9), Minnesota (fourth team out)
Indiana continues to be underrated despite having one of the four best resumes in the country. The Hoosiers' victory over Michigan on Thursday was their third over a team ranked in the top 26 of the RPI. Some like to say they haven't proven themselves away from home, but Indiana is 3-1 in true road games, while Duke and Kentucky are a combined 1-3 in those situations. It's time to give the Hoosiers credit for what they've accomplished so far.
Despite what the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings indicate, Wisconsin is not the second-best team in the country. The Badgers have dropped three in a row, falling to 62nd in the RPI and ninth in the Big Ten.
After an encouraging 12-1 non-conference slate, reality has set in for Minnesota, which opened league play at 0-4. The Gophers lost at home to Iowa and Purdue last week, and things don't get any easier as they travel to Assembly Hall on Thursday.
Big 12 (4)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Baylor (1), Kansas (3), Kansas State (4)
Dancing with their Sister: Missouri (5)
Wallflowers: Texas (sixth team out), Iowa State (10th team out), Oklahoma (11th team out)
Kansas State rebounded from a thrashing at Kansas to hand Missouri its first loss of the season in convincing fashion. The Wildcats are 4-2 against the top 50 and are ranked 23rd in the RPI.
Texas lost its spot in the field with a 77-71 setback at Iowa State on Wednesday. The Longhorns have just the 117th strength of schedule in the country and possess only one top-100 win.
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Wallflowers: Colorado (11), Stanford (11), California (12c), Oregon (14th team out), Arizona (15th team out)
It's getting harder and harder to write about the Pac-12. The conference is a combined 4-26 against the top 50 and doesn't have a single team ranked in the RPI top 35.
Colorado gets the automatic bid this week because it's the only undefeated team in league play, but the Buffaloes' next loss will probably bounce them from the field.
Stanford barely holds onto a spot after losing at Oregon. The Cardinal's computer numbers are bad (RPI 76, SOS 192), but at least they have two top-50 wins.
The situation is even more dire for Cal, which lost at Oregon State on Thursday. The Bears are 1-3 against the top 50.
Arizona's 65-58 loss to UCLA at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim sends the Wildcats packing. Arizona is 1-4 versus the top 100.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (1)
Dancing with Their Sister: Alabama (5), Vanderbilt (6)
Wallflowers: Mississippi State (10), LSU (12), Florida (12b), Ole Miss (12d), Arkansas (13th team out)
Mississippi State suffered a setback with its 98-88 loss at Arkansas on Saturday. It'll be interesting to see if the Bulldogs remain in the polls this week despite just two top-100 victories.
LSU has come out of nowhere to claim a spot in the field. The Tigers crushed Ole Miss by 26 points on Saturday for their second top-50 win (they also beat Marquette) and have lost just once in their last nine games.
The pollsters seem to be on a one-week delay this season. They finally booted Pitt from the top 25 last week—maybe this will be the week they mercifully let Florida drift away from the rankings. The Gators lost at No. 218 Tennessee on Saturday for their second setback to a sub-150 team in two weeks. It should also be noted that Florida's best win is over Arizona, which is not in my field.
Mountain West (3)
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Dancing with a Hottie: UNLV (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: San Diego State (8)
Wallflowers: Colorado State (12), New Mexico (eighth team out)
Colorado State moves into the field after picking up its fifth straight win. The Rams have good computer numbers (RPI 27, SOS 19), no bad losses and a victory over Colorado that is increasing in value, but they will have to do a lot more to hold onto this spot in the coming weeks.
Missouri Valley (4)
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Dancing with Their Sister: Creighton (7), Wichita State (8)
Wallflowers: Northern Iowa (11), Missouri State (12a)
Northern Iowa moves back into the field after wins over Indiana State and Drake last week. The Panthers have excellent computer numbers (RPI 22, SOS 10) and victories over Iowa State and Colorado State, which are both increasing in value.
The Sycamores, meanwhile, have been removed from consideration after losing to UNI and Missouri State. Indiana State is 94th in the RPI and eighth in the MVC.
Atlantic 10 (3)
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Dancing with Their Sister: Dayton (6), Temple (7)
Wallflowers: Xavier (10), Saint Joseph's (third team out), Saint Louis (ninth team out)
Dayton is the biggest riser of the week after taking down Saint Louis and then Temple on the road after the Owls had knocked off Duke. The Flyers have won four in a row and seven of eight to climb to 17th in the RPI, despite owning the sixth-toughest schedule in the country.
Temple also experienced a surge after that aforementioned victory over the Blue Devils. Despite the loss to Dayton, the Owls have very good computer numbers (RPI 25, SOS 17) and another win over Wichita State on their resume.
Yet another bad loss for Xavier drops the Musketeers to a 10-seed. The X dropped a 10-point decision at La Salle on Wednesday, marking the second time in the past two weeks that the school has lost to a team ranked 100th or below in the RPI.
Other Conferences (7)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Murray State (4), Gonzaga (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Memphis (8)
Wallflowers: Harvard (9), UCF (9), Saint Mary's (10), Southern Miss (11), BYU (first team out), Marshall (second team out)
Harvard suffered a major blow with a loss at Fordham on Tuesday. With not much left on its schedule, the Crimson cannot afford another setback like this one, especially since earlier wins over Florida State, UCF and Saint Joseph's are decreasing in value.
BYU enters the discussion with three straight wins, five victories over the top 100, a top-50 RPI and nary a bad loss since early November.
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No. 13 seeds: Iona, Long Beach State, Davidson, Oral Roberts
No. 14 seeds: Lamar, Nevada, Norfolk State, Cleveland State
No. 15 seeds: Weber State, Middle Tennessee, Bucknell, Buffalo
No. 16 seeds: Belmont, George Mason, Stony Brook vs. UNC Asheville, Texas Southern vs. Long Island
Jordan is one of Bleacher Report's College Basketball Featured Columnists. Follow him on Twitter @JordanHarrison.