2013 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: Jan. 14
At the start of last week, there were four undefeated teams in the country. Now there are none.
Wyoming, Arizona, Duke and Michigan all suffered their first loss of the season, which resulted in a bit of a shakeup among the top three lines in my latest projections.
As always, I am not trying to guess how teams will finish the year. Rather, 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 of them 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) Florida State vs. (12d) Indiana State
(12b) Charlotte vs. (12c) Texas A&M
First 9 Teams Out: UMass, Colorado State, Arkansas, Iowa State, Arizona State, Wisconsin, Saint Joseph's, Maryland, La Salle
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.
First up is the ACC.
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (1), NC State (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: Miami (6)
Wallflowers: North Carolina (11), Florida State (12a), Maryland (eighth team out)
Despite suffering its first loss of the season at NC State on Saturday, Duke remains not only a one seed, but also the top overall seed in my projections. The Blue Devils are still No. 1 in RPI and strength of schedule, and no one comes close to their top five wins: Minnesota, Louisville, Ohio State, VCU and Temple. A conference road loss against their stiffest competition in the ACC isn't going to change that.
Miami has opened league play at 3-0 and continues to move up the S-curve with wins over North Carolina and Maryland last week.
UNC's home win streak came to an end with that loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday. The Tar Heels bounced back, though, with a 77-72 victory at Florida State.
There was a big shakeup along the cut line, so FSU actually moves into the field, despite a 1-1 week. The Seminoles' win over BYU on Nov. 16 is looking better, and last week's triumph at Maryland improves their road/neutral record to a sparkling 5-1.
The Terps, however, whiffed on both of their chances to pick up a significant win last week, losing to both Florida State and Miami. Maryland's best victory remains No. 93 Stony Brook. Yikes.
Big East (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Louisville (1), Syracuse (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: Notre Dame (7), Georgetown (7), Cincinnati (7), Marquette (8)
With last week's carnage, a lot of people are proclaiming Louisville the top team in the country—as if the Cardinals needed even more of a target on their backs this week. Louisville travels to UConn on Monday night before hosting Syracuse on Saturday in what could be a preview of the Big East championship game.
Georgetown played one of the worst games of any team in the country last week in a 73-45 blowout home loss to Pittsburgh. The Hoyas bounced back with a romp over St. John's, but are averaging just 53.3 points per game in Big East play.
Watch out for Marquette. The Golden Eagles have won five straight and are 3-0 in league play with victories over UConn, Georgetown and Pitt.
All of the Big East bubble teams lost last week and have been removed from consideration: St. John's (RU, G'town), Seton Hall (L'ville, Prov), Pittsburgh (Marq), Villanova (SU), Rutgers (Cincy).
Pitt did win at Georgetown, but squandered what it had gained with a home loss to Marquette. The Panthers are tied for 11th in the conference at 1-3, own poor computer numbers (RPI 71, SOS 102) and don't own a single top 50 victory.
Big Ten (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Michigan (2), Minnesota (2), Indiana (2), Ohio State (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Illinois (5), Michigan State (5)
Wallflowers: Wisconsin (sixth team out)
The Big Ten is the best conference in the country, and nearly every week this season will provide at least one clash of titans.
Michigan nearly rallied from a 21-point deficit before falling, 56-53, at Ohio State on Sunday for the Wolverines' first loss.
Minnesota picked up an impressive 17-point victory at Illinois, but couldn't keep the momentum going in a loss at Indiana.
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, are quietly climbing back toward the top. Since losing their first game of the season to Butler back on Dec. 15, they have reeled off six straight victories.
Before Sunday, it was hard to know just how good Ohio State really was. All three of the Buckeyes' losses were to top 20 schools, but none of their victories came against the top 50. That changed with the triumph over Michigan.
Illinois, meanwhile, is plummeting back to earth. After starting the season 11-0 against D-I competition, the Illini have dropped four of six and are now 1-3 in the Big Ten following consecutive losses to Minnesota and Wisconsin last week.
The Badgers are closer to the field thanks to that victory. They've won six in a row, but remain on the outside due to poor computer numbers (RPI 63, SOS 100), just a 1-3 mark against the top 50 and a bad home loss to Virginia.
Big 12 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Kansas State (5), Oklahoma (6)
Wallflowers: Baylor (10), Oklahoma State (10), Iowa State (fourth team out)
Duke and Arizona remain on the top line even after their losses, but Michigan dropped down, opening up a spot for Kansas. The Jayhawks lost their second game of the year to Michigan State, but have since reeled off 13 straight wins. They are 6-1 against the top 50 and rank among the top five in both RPI and strength of schedule.
Oklahoma takes a major leap this week following its 77-68 victory over Oklahoma State. The Sooners have won four straight, own great computer numbers (RPI 14, SOS 9), are 2-1 against the top 50, 7-3 vs the top 100, don't have a bad loss and are 6-2 away from home.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, are trending downward, having lost three of four.
Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oregon (7)
Wallflowers: Colorado (9), UCLA (9), Washington (11), Arizona State (fifth team out)
A loss doesn't always mean a seed demotion. Arizona dropped its first game of the year at Oregon on Thursday but remains on the top line thanks to its strong resume. The Wildcats' computer numbers are stellar (RPI 3, SOS 6), as are their records against the top 50 (4-1), against the top 100 (7-1) and away from home (6-1).
Colorado looks like it still hasn't gotten over that controversial loss at Arizona back on Jan. 3. Since then, the Buffs have dropped two more games, including a 78-75 setback at home to UCLA on Saturday.
The Bruins, on the other hand, are surging. They've won nine straight and are 3-1 against the top 50. We're still trying to figure out how they lost at home to Cal Poly.
Let's welcome Washington to the field. The Huskies were forced to open their conference schedule with three straight road games. No problem, all they did was win at Washington State, Cal and Stanford in a span of eight days.
Meanwhile, Arizona State drops out of the field. There's no shame in losing at Oregon, but it is another loss, and ASU can't afford too many of those due to its very weak non-conference schedule.
Dancing with a Hottie: Missouri (3), Florida (4)
Wallflowers: Ole Miss (9), Kentucky (11), Texas A&M (12c), Arkansas (third team out)
How do you go from out of the field to a 9 seed? Throttle Tennessee on the road and then pummel Missouri at home. The Rebels have won five straight and don't have a single loss to a team ranked outside the top 46.
Kentucky nearly blew a big lead at Vandy on Thursday before losing its second home game of the season on Saturday, a 12-point setback vs Texas A&M. All of the Wildcats' losses have come against teams ranked in the top 45, but they only have one win over the top 155 and just two victories over the top 218 in the RPI!
Tennessee and LSU have both been removed from consideration thanks to losing streaks that have dropped them out of the RPI top 95.
Mountain West (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: UNLV (6), San Diego State (6)
Wallflowers: Boise State (9), Wyoming (10), Colorado State (second team out)
Wyoming suffered an excruciating buzzer-beater loss at home to Boise State on Wednesday for its first setback of the season. The defeat, combined with the decreasing value of its only top-100 win (Colorado), has sent the Cowboys sliding down the S-curve.
Colorado State is out of the field after losing at San Diego State. The Rams are 0-2 against the top 50.
Atlantic 10 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: Butler (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: VCU (5), Temple (8)
Wallflowers: Saint Louis (11), Charlotte (12b), UMass (first team out), Saint Joseph's (seventh team out), La Salle (ninth team out)
Butler is back up to a three seed following consecutive road wins at St. Joe's and at Dayton. The Bulldogs have won 11 straight.
Also winners of 11 in a row? VCU.
Charlotte beat La Salle and Rhode Island last week, and the 49ers' RPI is now high enough (60) for them to be considered for inclusion. Charlotte is in the field at 14-2, but the squad will have to continue to work to overcome its dreadful non-conference strength of schedule that included three games against teams ranked outside the top 300.
UMass is out after a loss at Saint Louis.
Other Conferences (8)
Dancing with a Hottie: Gonzaga (2), Creighton (4)
Dancing with their Sister: Wichita State (8)
Wallflowers: Belmont (9), BYU (10), Bucknell (12), Memphis (12), Indiana State (12d)
Wichita State slips a bit following a 71-67 loss at Evansville on Sunday.
Yes, Indiana State is still in my field at 9-6, following a loss at Southern Illinois on Saturday. The Sycamores' wins over Miami and Ole Miss are only getting better, their computer numbers remain solid (RPI 42, SOS 17) and their non-conference schedule is ranked 23rd in the country. ISU challenged itself before league play, and the Selection Committee has shown in recent years that it favors teams that do so.
No. 13 Seeds: Middle Tennessee, North Dakota State, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin
No. 14 Seeds: Akron, Harvard, Stony Brook, Florida Gulf Coast
No. 15 Seeds: Long Beach State, Davidson, Iona, Bryant
No. 16 Seeds: Wright State, Montana, Southern vs Charleston Southern, Norfolk State vs Northeastern
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