2012 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: Jan. 30
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) Alabama vs. (12d) Saint Joseph's
(12b) Saint Louis vs. (12c) Cincinnati
First 14 Teams Out: Washington, Ole Miss, BYU, Arkansas, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, UCF, Stanford, NC State, Colorado, South Florida
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with slides consisting of the major conferences. First up is the ACC...
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (1 seed), North Carolina (2)
Dancing with their Sister: Virginia (5), Florida State (8)
Wallflowers: North Carolina State (10th team out)
With Kansas and Missouri each going down to defeat last week, Duke once again finds itself on the top line. The Blue Devils aren't blowing teams out like we're used to seeing them do, but they're picking up wins and padding a resume that is among the top four in the country. Duke is ranked second in the RPI and first in strength of schedule. Coach K's bunch also has an impressive four RPI top-25 wins and nine over the top 100. They have no losses to teams outside the top 23 in the RPI and are 8-2 away from Cameron Indoor.
NC State falls out of the field with back-to-back losses to UNC and Virginia. The Wolfpack is 0-5 against the top 50.
Big East (9)
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), Marquette (3), Georgetown (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Connecticut (6), Louisville (6), Seton Hall (8), West Virginia (8)
Wallflowers: Notre Dame (11), Cincinnati (12c), South Florida (12th team out)
Georgetown drops down a line after falling at Pitt on Saturday, but UConn is in even more trouble after losing at home to surging Notre Dame. The Huskies have now lost three games in a row that they should have won.
West Virginia had a rough week, first getting crushed by 16 points at St. John's and then dropping a two-point contest at the Carrier Dome on a controversial no-call on what should have been a goaltending violation by Syracuse's Baye Moussa Keita.
Another Big East team in a downward spiral is Seton Hall, who dropped consecutive home games to Notre Dame and Louisville last week, running its losing streak to four.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Irish, who have come out of nowhere to claim a spot in the field. Despite the absence of Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame has won three straight over RPI top-31 teams, the last two on the road at Seton Hall and Connecticut. Less than two months ago, the Irish were 226th in the RPI. They are now ranked 67th.
It seems ridiculous to put a team in the field that is ranked 100th in the RPI, but that's what you get when you expand to 68 teams. After a strong start to Big East play, Cincinnati has lost three in a row, the last of which was the most damaging—a seven-point setback at the RAC. The Bearcats still hang onto a spot, though, thanks to a 6-4 record against the top 100 and a 5-3 mark in true road games.
South Florida enters the discussion thanks to a 6-3 league record, which is good enough for third place. The Bulls are just 1-4 against the top 50, though, so they'll need a couple big wins before getting any closer to a bid.
Big Ten (8)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (2), Michigan State (2), Wisconsin (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Indiana (5), Michigan (5)
Wallflowers: Illinois (9), Purdue (9), Minnesota (10)
Michigan State slides back up to a No. 2 seed after a solid week that included dominant wins over Purdue and Minnesota.
Wisconsin is also headed in the right direction after beating Indiana for the Badgers' fifth straight victory.
Illinois, meanwhile, is going the other way, falling at Minnesota for the Illini's third consecutive loss.
Northwestern's flirtation with making its first NCAA Tournament appears to be disappearing. The Wildcats lost at home to Purdue on Saturday and have now dropped seven of nine.
Big 12 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: Baylor (1), Kansas (2), Missouri (3)
Dancing with their Sister: Kansas State (6)
Wallflowers: Iowa State (11), Texas (sixth team out), Oklahoma (seventh team out)
Kansas' ascension to the top line was short lived, as the Jayhawks were swept away by the Cyclones of Iowa State on Saturday.
The same can be said for Missouri, who lost at Oklahoma State three days earlier, and so Baylor returns to a No. 1 seed with wins over Oklahoma and Texas last week, propelling the Bears to a 9-2 mark against the top 100.
ISU, meanwhile, moves out of a First Four game and onto more solid ground after beating KU. The Cyclones don't have a single loss to a team ranked outside the top 100.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (1)
Dancing with Their Sister: Vanderbilt (4), Florida (7), Mississippi State (7)
Wallflowers: Alabama (12a), Ole Miss (second team out), Arkansas (fourth team out)
A win over Middle Tennessee doesn't sound like much, but the Blue Raiders are having a strong season, so Vandy's victory on Saturday counts as a top-50 win and is the Commodores' 10th overall triumph in their last 11 games.
Despite its ranking, Florida has been forced to work out of a hole it dug for itself with losses to Rutgers and Tennessee earlier in the season. For most of the year, the Gators have had more sub-100 losses than top-50 wins, but that all changed with victories over Ole Miss and Mississippi State last week.
Alabama slips into a First Four game with a loss at lowly South Carolina on Wednesday. That was the Tide's fourth straight loss and they are now 1-5 against the top 50. 'Bama hangs onto a bid thanks to strong computer numbers (RPI 36, SOS 13) and six top-100 wins.
Other Conferences (19)
Dancing with a Hottie: Creighton (3), Murray State (4), UNLV (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Saint Mary's (5), Temple (6), Gonzaga (7), San Diego State (7), Southern Miss (8)
Wallflowers: Dayton (9), Wichita State (9), Memphis (10), Harvard (10), Colorado State (10), New Mexico (11), Xavier (11), UMass (12), California (12), Saint Louis (12b), Saint Joseph's (12d), Washington (first team out), BYU (third team out), Oregon (fifth team out), UCF (eighth team out), Stanford (ninth team out), Colorado (11th team out)
Saint Mary's ran its winning streak to 11 with an impressive 80-66 victory at BYU. The Gaels are 19th in the RPI and 3-1 against the top 50.
Colorado State bounced back from a blowout loss at New Mexico to score its biggest win of the season—a 77-60 decision over San Diego State. The Rams' computer numbers are outstanding (RPI 18, SOS 9) and they have no sub-100 losses. With a bubble as weak as it is right now, that seems to be enough.
The Mountain West could wind up getting four bids because the Lobos are also in the field this week thanks to that recent stomping of Colorado State. UNM has another top-50 win over Saint Louis and a 7-2 record away from home.
Xavier took another step backward with a home loss to Saint Louis on Wednesday. The Musketeers are just 1-4 versus the top 50.
UMass is very much on the fence as far as its at-large credentials go, but at 5-2 in the Atlantic 10, the Minutemen receive the conference's automatic bid this week.
St. Joe's ended a three-game losing streak with a big win over Dayton on Wednesday to get itself back in the field as the last team in.
No. 13 seeds: Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts
No. 14 seeds: Nevada, Cleveland State, Bucknell, Akron
No. 15 seeds: Norfolk State, Davidson, Belmont, Weber State
No. 16 seeds: Long Island, George Mason, UNC Asheville vs. Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley State vs. Texas-Arlington
Jordan is one of Bleacher Report's College Basketball Featured Columnists. Follow him on Twitter @JordanHarrison.