Projecting the Field of 65: Feb. 4
It's my 26th birthday and so my present to you is an updated Bracket Projection. Don't forget to check out the Schwach Indicator to see how this new evaluation tool is affecting my projections.
Remember, I am not trying to guess how teams will end up come Selection Sunday. I am simply seeding them based on their current résumé. To that end, teams currently leading their conference receive automatic bids, and everyone else is judged on their at-large profile.
As always, I like to break teams down into three categories. "Wallflowers" are bubble teams. Everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all have the guts to ask a girl out onto the dance floor. Elite teams are safely in the field, "Dancing with a hottie," and in the middle are the schools that are "Dancing with their sister."
Dancing with a hottie: Duke (1 seed), No. Carolina (1), Wake Forest (2), Clemson (3)
Dancing with their sister: Florida State (6)
Wallflowers: Boston College (10), Virginia Tech (12), Miami (out)
BC's one-point win over Va Tech on Saturday flip-flopped the two teams' seeds. The Eagles have now won four in a row to get to 5-3 in conference.
FSU's computer numbers are fabulous (RPI 26, SOS 31), and they don't have any terrible losses. That Cincinnati win is looking better to go along with victories over Cal and Florida.
Miami drops out of the field after suffering its third straight defeat (at Maryland). The 'Canes have become one of the biggest disappointments in the country this year and are now just 3-5 in the ACC.
Dancing with a hottie: UConn (1), Pittsburgh (2), Louisville (2), Marquette (2), Villanova (4)
Dancing with their sister: Syracuse (5), West Virginia (6)
Wallflowers: Georgetown (9), Notre Dame (out), Providence (out), Cincinnati (out)
Here's what's happening in the Big East right now: The top and bottom thirds of the conference are beating up on the middle third, which is putting some teams that were recently sure bets in danger of missing the tournament, while also giving hope to some schools that many thought were NIT-bound.
The 'Cuse lost its third straight game (at Providence) on Jan. 28, in large part because of injuries to Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins. After a week off, SU better be healthy for a near must-win Wednesday night at home against West Virginia.
The Friars, meanwhile, are now 6-3 in the toughest league in the nation after finally beating a top 50 team. They're currently my second team out, but if they can beat either 'Nova or WVU this week, it'll be hard to not include them in my next projections.
Three weeks ago, ND was a four seed, but now the Irish are my first team out. A five-game losing streak has dropped them to 3-6 in conference and 2-7 vs. the top 50. They play at Cincinnati Wednesday night, and if the Bearcats (4-5 in the Big East) can win that game, it'll be hard leaving them out next week.
Dancing with a hottie: Michigan State (3)
Dancing with their sister: Illinois (5), Purdue (5), Minnesota (6), Ohio State (7)
Wallflowers: Penn State (12), Northwestern (12), Michigan (out), Wisconsin (out)
Not a lot of movement among the top five teams in the league this week, but there was some flip-flopping at the bottom. Michigan is out after dropping back-to-back games at Ohio State and Purdue. The Wolverines have now lost five of six to fall to 4-6 in conference and 54th in the RPI.
Wisconsin is also out after losing its sixth in a row (at Northwestern) to fall to 3-6 in league and 1-7 against the top 50.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, along with the Nittany Lions, are both in this week after each of the teams picked up victories at Michigan State. PSU is 6-3 in conference, and while Northwestern is only 4-5, the 'Cats have a better RPI (60) and more wins against the top 50 (three).
Dancing with a hottie: Oklahoma (1), Texas (4)
Dancing with their sister: Kansas (5), Missouri (7)
Wallflowers: Texas A&M (10), Baylor (11), Oklahoma State (out)
Baylor is in trouble after losing its fourth straight, but all six of the Bears' defeats this season have come against probable NCAA teams. That being said, they have to win at Texas Tech on Saturday because OU is next on their schedule.
My buddy Brad Wachtel has A&M out, but I have the Aggies as a 10 seed because they've won two straight, including a critical bubble game against Oklahoma State, to get to 3-4 in the Big XII.
That was after a three-game losing streak, but all of those defeats came to high-caliber teams (OU, Kansas and Texas). In fact, the Aggies’ only bad loss of the season came way back on Nov. 28 against Tulsa. Meanwhile A&M has wins over LSU, Baylor, and Oklahoma St.
Dancing with a hottie: UCLA (3)
Dancing with their sister: Washington (6), California (8), Arizona State (8), USC (8)
Wallflowers: Stanford (out), Arizona (out)
Okay, I finally have to give UCLA some credit. Wins over Cal and Stanford not only put the Bruins at 7-2 in conference, but they also moved up five spots to 35 in the RPI and six spots to 77 in SOS.
Those aren't incredible numbers, but UCLA's good week, combined with losses by Butler, Texas, Purdue, and Syracuse, has the Bruins skyrocketing up the pecking order.
The other L.A. school also beat Cal and Stanford this week to get to 6-3 in league play.
ASU, meanwhile, is heading in the opposite direction after dropping back-to-back home games to the Washington schools.
Dancing with their sister: Florida (7)
Wallflowers: South Carolina (9), Tennessee (10), LSU (11), Kentucky (11), Mississippi State (out), Ole Miss (out)
Kentucky, which Joe Lunardi had as a 4 seed last week, is now hanging on by a thread after three straight losses to Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Miss State. UK has just three top 100 wins and is 79th in the RPI.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are headed in the right direction, but an 82 RPI and no wins against the top 50 overshadows their 5-2 conference mark.
LSU, however, is 5-1 in the SEC after good wins at Tennessee and home against Arkansas. The Tigers have cracked the RPI's top 50 and are in the field.
Dancing with a hottie: Xavier (3), Butler (4), Memphis (4)
Dancing with their sister: Dayton (7), Gonzaga (8)
Wallflowers: Utah (9), UNLV (9), Davidson (10), Siena (11), Saint Mary’s (out), BYU (out), San Diego State (out), Temple (out), Illinois State (out), Saint Joseph's (out)
Saint Mary's is out of the field after not only losing at Gonzaga and Portland, but also losing star guard Patty Mills.
Utah keeps improving its standing with a win over BYU. The Utes have also beaten LSU and Gonzaga to get to 16th in the RPI.
The Cougars, meanwhile, remain out despite a 5-3 Mountain West record. BYU only has one big win (Utah State), which really isn’t that big, and their loss at New Mexico is worse than anything fellow Wallflowers Texas A&M and Northwestern have done.
San Diego State, however, is inching closer after a huge win at UNLV got the Aztecs to 6-2 in the MWC. Still, with just one top 50 and three top 100 wins, a victory at Utah on Feb. 11 would go a long way to getting them in the field.
12 seeds: Utah State
13 seeds: Northern Iowa, Northeastern, Western Kentucky, Buffalo
14 seeds: Stephen F. Austin, Cornell, North Dakota State, Weber State
15 seeds: Vermont, Holy Cross, East Tennessee State, Robert Morris
16 seeds: Long Beach State, Morehead State, Morgan State, Radford, Alabama State
Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man" is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at email@example.com
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