2012 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: Feb. 13
The last remaining unbeaten went down last week, when Murray State fell to Tennessee State, but contrary to unpopular belief, the Racers are not in danger of missing the NCAA tournament.
When making blanket statements like that, you must realize that everything is relative, as in a team's chances are relative to the strength of teams on the bubble, and those teams—like always—are not very strong.
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) Xavier vs. (12d) Iowa State
(12b) Arizona vs. (12c) BYU
First 11 Teams Out: Arkansas, Colorado State, Texas, Ole Miss, NC State, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, South Florida, Colorado
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: Florida State (5), Virginia (8)
Wallflowers: Miami (10), North Carolina State (fifth team out)
I wrote in this space last week that following its home loss to Miami, Duke would have to win at Chapel Hill to have a chance of returning to the top line, and that's exactly what the Blue Devils did. Austin Rivers' three-pointer at the buzzer capped a late comeback from down double digits to shock North Carolina at the Dean Dome and returned Coach K's kids to a 1 seed. They have a top-two RPI and strength of schedule and are 4-2 against the RPI top 25, not to mention 12-4 versus the top 100 and 10-2 away from Cameron Indoor.
Florida State suffered a stunning loss at Boston College on Wednesday, but bounced back to beat Miami at home on Saturday. That was the Seminoles' fourth top-50 victory.
Virginia got blown out at UNC, and the Cavs' resume is looking more and more mediocre. Their 236th-ranked non-conference strength of schedule is dragging down their overall SOS and RPI, and they are 0-3 against the league's top three teams.
Miami missed a chance at Florida State on Saturday, but the Hurricanes make the field this week thanks to their respectable computer numbers (RPI 36, SOS 33) and the fact that their worst loss came at Purdue. And that win at Duke doesn't hurt.
Big East (9)
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), Georgetown (3), Marquette (3), Louisville (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Notre Dame (5)
Wallflowers: Seton Hall (8), West Virginia (9), Connecticut (10), Cincinnati (11), South Florida (10th team out)
Louisville embarrassed UConn on Monday before rallying late to score a big road win at West Virginia on Saturday. The Cardinals have reeled off six in a row and host Syracuse Monday night in what will be one of the toughest tests of the season for the Orange, who outlasted rival Georgetown in overtime last week thanks to the stellar play of Kris Joseph and Fab Melo.
Notre Dame leaped 14 spots in the RPI last week with wins over West Virginia (road) and DePaul (home), and the Irish are nearly a lock for the NCAAs at this point. The Irish started the season 11-8, but have won six straight, including three tough road games at top-50 competition, to climb into sole possession of third place in the Big East at 9-3.
Seton Hall snapped a six-game slide with a win at rival Rutgers and then squashed any last bit of hope Pitt had with a victory over the Panthers on Sunday. The Pirates have strong computer numbers (RPI 31, SOS 19), three top-50 wins and no losses to any teams ranked outside the top 100.
Things are falling apart for West Virginia. The 'Eers dropped back-to-back home games last week to Notre Dame and Louisville and have now lost five of six. On the plus side, though, they've played the sixth-toughest schedule in the country and have nine top-100 wins.
Speaking of falling apart, UConn has dropped six of seven and is still playing without head coach Jim Calhoun, who is on medical leave with a back problem. The Huskies remain in the field, however, behind the strength of five top-50 wins and the toughest schedule in the land.
I'm throwing South Florida in the mix again after the Bulls won both of their games last week to improve to 8-4 in conference. With games against Villanova and Pitt next week, they could be 10-4 before playing at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 22, but USF needs more than one top-50 victory before it gets any closer to the field.
Big Ten (9)
Dancing with a Hottie: Michigan State (2), Ohio State (3), Michigan (4), Indiana (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Wisconsin (5)
Wallflowers: Illinois (9), Purdue (10), Northwestern (11), Minnesota (11)
Ohio State's surprising 10-point loss at home to Michigan State on Saturday drops the Buckeyes all the way down to a 3 seed. Their record against the top 50 (6-4), top 100 (8-4) and road/neutral competition (4-3) just doesn't stack up against the eight teams ahead of them on the S-curve.
Michigan picked up its seventh top-50 win Sunday, when the Wolverines beat Illinois. They finally look ready to lock up a bid with their first winning streak since Jan. 11.
Indiana also beat the Illini last week to improve its position, but Illinois, meanwhile, has dropped three straight to fall into precarious territory. Illinois should be fine, though, with four top-50 wins, seven victories over the top 100 and the 13th-ranked strength of schedule.
Minnesota lost at home to Wisconsin on Thursday, and the Gophers are now squarely back on the bubble. The computer numbers are not good (RPI 60, SOS 63), but three wins over the top 50 and six against the top 100 keep them in the field for now.
Big 12 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: Missouri (1), Baylor (2), Kansas (2)
Wallflowers: Kansas State (11), Iowa State (12d), Texas (third team out)
Missouri completed its season sweep of Baylor with a 15-point beatdown Saturday. The Tigers' 9-0 mark against the top 50 is the best in the country.
Kansas also moves up a line thanks to a win over Baylor, but if you're wondering why the Bears remain seeded ahead of Ohio State, look no further than their records away from home. Baylor is 10-2; the Buckeyes are 4-3.
Kansas State's 75-64 loss at Texas on Saturday both damaged the Wildcats' chances and improved the Longhorns' hopes. KSU remains in the field, though, thanks to a huge win over Missouri, three slightly smaller victories over Alabama, Texas and Long Beach State and a 6-5 road/neutral mark.
Texas, meanwhile, moves closer to the field because of that win. The Longhorns have a top-20 strength of schedule and just one really bad loss (Oregon State), which is better than can be said for other Wallflowers. But 2-7 records against the top 50 and away from home are troubling.
Some were quick to insert Iowa State as high as a 9 seed after its recent wins over Kansas and K-State, but with a loss at Oklahoma State last week, the Cyclones are barely in my field. Working against ISU are its 63rd-ranked strength of schedule and now two sub-100 losses.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (1)
Dancing with Their Sister: Vanderbilt (6), Florida (7), Mississippi State (8)
Wallflowers: Alabama (10), Arkansas (first team out), Ole Miss (fourth team out)
Florida reverted back to its former self last week, getting run out of the gym at Kentucky and then losing at home to Tennessee for its second loss to the Vols and third setback versus sub-100 competition. Most bubble teams don't even have that many bad losses.
Mississippi State lost at home to Georgia, knocking the Bulldogs down a couple notches.
Mountain West (3)
Dancing with a Hottie: UNLV (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: San Diego State (6)
Wallflowers: New Mexico (9), Colorado State (second team out), Wyoming (sixth team out)
UNLV moves up to a 3 seed after beating San Diego State at home, 65-63, on Saturday. The Rebels are ninth in the RPI and 6-3 against the top 50.
But, both teams were winners in that game, as the Aztecs proved impressive in a tough environment. They are 22nd in the RPI, have four top-50 wins and have not lost to a team outside the top 30 in the RPI.
New Mexico ran its win streak to five with a 48-38 victory over Wyoming. No, that was not the halftime score. And that doesn't help the Cowboys' chances, as they drop to 64th in the RPI with a 117 SOS.
Colorado State falls out of the field after a loss at TCU, but the Rams are still close thanks to their impressive computer numbers (RPI 30, SOS 11).
Atlantic 10 (3)
Dancing with a Hottie: Temple (4)
Wallflowers: Saint Louis (9), Xavier (12a), UMass (ninth team out)
Temple is up to eight wins in a row, and so, the Owls have upgraded from sister to hottie status.
Saint Louis made a major jump last week with consecutive road wins at Saint Joseph's and La Salle, ending the Hawks' hopes for the time being. The Billikens have reeled off four in a row and seven of eight, climbing to 23rd in the RPI and 8-4 against the top 100.
Dayton will be an interesting case come Selection Sunday. The Flyers barely beat Fordham on Saturday, avoiding what would have been their third sub-200 loss. Yes, sub-200. That performance made me drop them from consideration, especially since they are tied for eighth at 5-5 in the A-10 and 72nd in the RPI, and yet, Dayton has three top-50 wins. My suggestion to the Flyers would be to finish in the top five of the league.
Wallflowers: California (12), Arizona (12b), Washington (seventh team out), Oregon (eighth team out), Colorado (11th team out)
The Pac 12 gets its own slide back this week with five teams in the hunt for one of the last spots in the field.
California gets the automatic bid this week after reeling off three straight wins.
Arizona jumps into a First Four game thanks to a four-game winning streak and the fact that we unfortunately must select 68 teams. The Wildcats are one of the rare Pac-12 squads with a top-50 victory, and they are 6-3 in true road games.
Washington lost its hold on first place after a 25-point shellacking at Oregon.
Other Conferences (9)
Dancing with Their Sister: Wichita State (5), Murray State (6), Creighton (6), Southern Miss (7), Saint Mary's (7), Gonzaga (7), Memphis (8)
Wallflowers: Harvard (12), BYU (12c)
Wichita State earns a major upgrade after demolishing Creighton by 21 points on the road to run its win streak to four. The Shockers have won 12 of 13.
Murray State dropped 15 spots in the RPI after its first loss to Tennessee State, settling at the dangerous position of 54th. But with a pair of RPI top-20 wins away from home over Southern Miss and Memphis, the Racers are nowhere near the bubble. Another RPI top-25 victory over Saint Mary's in a Bracket Busters game on Saturday would lock things up.
Gonzaga moves up and Saint Mary's drops down following the Bulldogs' 73-59 triumph in the rematch against the Gaels.
Harvard has once again reached that point in the season where its virtually impossible for the Crimson to earn an at-large bid. That's not to say they won't make the field, but after their loss at Princeton on Saturday, if Harvard doesn't earn the auto bid by winning the Ivy regular-season title, it won't have an at-large worthy resume.
No. 13 seeds: Nevada, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts
No. 14 seeds: Akron, Bucknell, Davidson, Iona
No. 15 seeds: Drexel, Valparaiso, Mercer, Weber State
No. 16 seeds: Long Island, Texas-Arlington, Mississippi Valley State vs. Norfolk State, Stony Brook vs. UNC Asheville
Jordan is one of Bleacher Report's College Basketball Featured Columnists. Follow him on Twitter @JordanHarrison.
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