2013 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: Dec. 24
Just five undefeated teams remain after Saturday, when Syracuse, New Mexico and Illinois each suffered its first loss of the season.
So that leaves Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Cincinnati and Wyoming among the unbeaten. They're in, but who else?
As always, I am not trying to guess how teams will finish the year. I am simply seeding them based on their current resumes.
I like to break teams down into three categories:
1. Wallflowers are bubble teams, because everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all have the guts to ask a girl out onto the dance floor.
2. An Elite team that is safely in the field is "Dancing with a Hottie."
3. A school in the middle is "Dancing with Its Sister."
For two of the past three years, my final bracket projections have been more accurate than those of ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and I had the most accurate projections in the country in 2011.
I'll begin with the two First Four at-large-bid games:
(12a) Kansas State vs. (12d) Stanford
(12b) Colorado State vs. (12c) Texas A&M
First 11 Teams Out
BYU, Xavier, La Salle, Iowa State, Arizona State, Iowa, UCLA, Charlotte, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Saint Louis
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.
First up is the ACC.
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Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: N.C. State (7), Miami (7)
Wallflowers: Maryland (10), North Carolina (10th team out)
Not only is North Carolina outside my field—it's not even close.
The Tar Heels' embarrassing 18-point loss at RPI No. 106 Texas on Wednesday was their third overall defeat of the season against just eight Division I wins.
UNC's best win is over No. 68 McNeese State, and its second-best victory is vs. No. 123 East Carolina (a game won at home by just six points). The Heels' RPI is medicore (49), their strength of schedule (101) is dreadful, and their record away from home (2-3) is bad.
They have a lot of work to do.
Big East (6)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Louisville (1), Cincinnati (2), Georgetown (3), Syracuse (5)
Wallflowers: Notre Dame (9), Pittsburgh (10)
All of the teams I had on the two-line last week lost (Illinois, Ohio State, Florida, New Mexico). That, along with Syracuse's setback, helps Louisville move up to the top line. The Cardinals have strong computer numbers (RPI 8, SOS 15), wins over Missouri and Illinois State, and their only loss was to Duke.
Michael Carter-Williams had the worst game of his career, but Jim Boeheim chose to stick with the sophomore as he slogged his way to a 3-for-17 shooting night from the field and a 7-for-15 effort from the line. The end result was an 83-79 loss to Temple at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, the Orange's first loss of the season.
Now that SU is no longer undefeated, it must be considered that the team's best two wins are over Canisius and San Diego State.
Syracuse has some work to do before climbing back up the S-curve.
Big Ten (6)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Michigan (1), Illinois (2), Ohio State (3), Minnesota (3), Indiana (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Michigan State (6)
Wallflowers: Iowa (sixth team out)
Ohio State missed an opportunity to pick up its first significant win of the season Saturday when the Buckeyes let Kansas run away from them late.
OSU's only two losses are to the Jayhawks and Duke, so you can't fault them for that, but the squad's only top-100 victory is over No. 96 Washington.
Big 12 (5)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (2)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oklahoma State (7)
Wallflowers: Oklahoma (9), Baylor (9), Kansas State (12a), Iowa State (fourth team out)
Kansas' resume can no longer be questioned after KU won at Ohio State on Saturday. The Jayhawks are ranked second in the RPI and third in strength of schedule. Their only loss came by three against Michigan State back on Nov. 13.
Oklahoma takes a step back after falling at home to Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday. The Sooners' computer numbers remain solid (RPI 24, SOS 13), but they lack a top-60 win.
Baylor, on the other hand, moves toward more solid ground after a big bubble win over BYU on Friday. The Bears are 2-1 against the top 50 and 4-1 vs. the top 100 but have sub-100 losses to Charleston and Northwestern.
It was difficult to evaluate Kansas State before Saturday's win over Florida. The Wildcats' only two losses are to great teams (Michigan and Gonzaga), but were blowouts, and their strength of schedule is a horrid 215. But the victory over the Gators puts KSU back in the field.
You just have to wonder how much the team's terrible nonconference strength of schedule will affect it come March.
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Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oregon (6), Colorado (6)
Wallflowers: California (11), Stanford (12d), Arizona State (fifth team out), UCLA (seventh team out)
It's hard to imagine that a win over the 104th-ranked team in the RPI could get a squad into the tournament, but that's exactly what happened when Stanford beat Northwestern.
The Cardinal still do not have a top-100 win, but they also don't have a loss to a team ranked outside the top 34, and with the bubble as weak as it always is, Stanford is my last team in.
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Dancing with a Hottie: Missouri (2), Florida (5)
Dancing with Its Sister: Kentucky (8)
Wallflowers: Tennessee (11), LSU (11), Texas A&M (12c), Ole Miss (9th Team Out)
Missouri's nine-point win over Illinois in Saint Louis on Saturday was the Tigers' biggest victory of the season, but it was not their first over a top-30 opponent (VCU). Mizzou appears to have finally done enough to overcome its weak nonconference schedule strength.
After a 7-0 start, Florida has now dropped two of three following its 67-61 setback to Kansas State on Saturday. The Gators have solid computer numbers (RPI 22, SOS 29), but they lack a top-50 win.
Texas A&M barely holds onto a spot after losing at home to Southern. That win over SFA is looking better following the Lumberjacks' victory at OU.
Ole Miss falls out of the field after losing to Indiana State. The Rebes' best win is over McNeese State, and their strength of schedule is a paltry 226.
Mountain West (5)
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Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (4), San Diego State (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Wyoming (5), UNLV (6), Boise State (8)
Wallflowers: Colorado State (12b)
New Mexico's first loss was a surprising 70-65 setback at home against South Dakota State.
However, the Lobos still have strong computer numbers (RPI 13, SOS 28) and a 3-0 mark against the top 50.
Atlantic 10 (5)
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Dancing with Its Sister: Butler (5), Temple (8), VCU (8)
Wallflowers: Massachusetts (10), Dayton (10), Xavier (second team out), La Salle (third team out), Charlotte (eighth team out)
Temple had an interesting week. Three days after losing at home to Canisius, the Owls overcame a 10-point first-half deficit to hand Syracuse its first loss of the season.
Dayton also had a week that included a better win than a bad loss. The Flyers fell by just one to Illinois State before defeating Murray State.
Xavier is out following back-to-back losses to Cincinnati and Wofford last week. The Musketeers have dropped three of four and have a trio of sub-100 setbacks.
Charlotte is out as well following a 79-76 loss at home to Florida State. The 49ers have no top-100 wins.
Other Conferences (5)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Gonzaga (3), Creighton (4)
Dancing with their Sister: Wichita State (7)
Wallflowers: Murray State (9), lllinois State (11), BYU (1st Team Out)
Murray State drops to a wallflower following a 77-68 loss at Dayton. The Racers don't have any signature wins, but they also don't have any bad losses, and their computer numbers are strong (RPI 20, SOS 37).
Let's welcome Illinois State to the field. The Redbirds have reeled off four in a row, including a big bubble win at Dayton.
BYU, meanwhile, slips just out after falling at Baylor on Friday.
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No. 12 Seeds: Stephen F. Austin, Canisius
No. 13 Seeds: Bucknell, George Mason, Illinois-Chicago, Cal State Northridge
No. 14 Seeds: Middle Tennessee, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Florida Gulf Coast
No. 15 Seeds: Weber State, Southern Miss, Utah State, Southern
No. 16 Seeds: Charleston, Albany, Robert Morris vs Norfolk State, Harvard vs Gardner-Webb