2013 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: Feb. 5
As we enter February, the top eight teams in the country are pretty clear cut, but one person could have a completely different top four from another person, which leaves the No. 1 seed line completely up for grabs this late in the season.
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) BYU vs. (12d) Charlotte
(12b) St. Louis vs. (12c) Southern Miss
First 7 Teams Out: UMass, Arizona State, Alabama, Boise State, Kentucky, St. Mary's, Air Force
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.
First up is the ACC.
Dancing with a Hottie: Miami (1 seed), Duke (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: NC State (7)
Wallflowers: North Carolina (9)
Miami was underrated before it dominated Duke, 90-63, and the Hurricanes remain underrated after winning at NC State. In fact, in my opinion, the U currently has the best resume in the country. The 'Canes are ranked second in RPI, first in overall strength of schedule and second in nonconference SOS.
In addition to beating the Blue Devils and Wolfpack, they have a third RPI top-20 victory over Michigan State. Furthermore, their six top-50 wins are second only to Kansas and their 11 top-100 triumphs are only exceeded by Minnesota's 12. Finally, Miami has won nine straight and is 8-0 in the ACC.
Meanwhile, Duke is heading in the right direction again after winning consecutive road games last week. That, in combination with Michigan's recent loss, has the Devils back on the top line. They are top two in the country in RPI, overal SOS and nonconference SOS, as well as 10-2 against the top 100 and 8-2 away from home.
NC State drops all the way down to a No. 7 seed following back-to-back losses to Virginia and Miami. The Wolfpack have lost four of six, but have a major opportunity at Cameron Indoor on Thursday.
There's no shame in losing to Duke, but Florida State was run out of its own gym by Coack K's team on Saturday. The Seminoles have lost four of six to drop to 12-9 and have been removed from consideration, along with Maryland, which lost at FSU last week.
Big East (8)
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (3), Louisville (3), Cincinnati (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Pittsburgh (5), Marquette (5), Georgetown (6)
Wallflowers: Notre Dame (9), St. John's (11)
Syracuse's loss at Pitt on Saturday was its second in a row. Sophomore point guard Michael-Carter Williams was once again dreadful from the field, going 3-of-12, but thankfully, he took only three shots when the Orange bounced back to beat Notre Dame on Monday. It should come as no surprise that SU is 12-0 when MCW takes fewer than a dozen shots, but just 7-3 when he jacks up at least 12 attempts.
It was hard to take Pittsburgh seriously early this season when it was beating up on the likes of Kennesaw State and Howard en route to the 268th-ranked nonconference strength of schedule. But the Panthers took down Syracuse on Saturday and have now won six of seven to climb all the way up to a No. 5 seed.
Georgetown is also trending upward. The Hoyas beat Seton Hall and St. John's last week to improve their win streak to four.
Despite the loss in D.C., St. John's has done enough to be in the field this week. The Red Storm had won five straight before that setback and is tied for seventh place in the Big East at 6-4. But more importantly, the Johnnies' strength of schedule is up to 33rd and that win at Cincinnati back on Jan. 5 is looking better and better. They also have a good win over Notre Dame.
It's beginning to look like that magical week during which Villanova defeated both Louisville and Syracuse was a fluke. Those are the Wildcats' only two wins in their last seven games after falling to Notre Dame and Providence last week, and they have now been removed from consideration.
Big Ten (7)
Dancing with a Hottie: Indiana (2), Michigan (2), Michigan State (3), Minnesota (4), Ohio State (4)
Wallflowers: Wisconsin (9), Illinois (10)
Indiana is the consensus No. 1 team in the national polls after beating Michigan, but the Hoosiers' resume is not worthy of a 1 seed right now. Among the top eight teams in the AP poll, IU ranks last in RPI (12), top-100 wins (8) and road/neutral victories (6). In addition, the squad's 24th-ranked schedule strength is only ahead of Gonzaga's and its 67th-ranked nonconference SOS is only better than that of the Wolverines.
Michigan State is up to a No. 3 seed after becoming the latest team to beat Illinois.
Ohio State is also moving up the S-curve, thanks to victories over Wisconsin and Nebraska last week that ran the Buckeyes' win streak to four.
Big 12 (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Kansas State (5), Oklahoma State (6), Iowa State (8)
Wallflowers: Oklahoma (10), Baylor (10)
Kansas remains a top seed despite its shocking home loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Jayhawks still have five RPI top-25 wins (the most in the country), seven top-50 wins (also the most in the country) and 11 top-100 wins (the second-most in the country).
The Cowboys, meanwhile, took an enormous leap up from a No. 10 to a No. 6 seed thanks to that upset.
Iowa State is moving in the same direction due to top-50 victories over Baylor and Oklahoma that have increased the Cyclones' home win streak to 20.
The Sooners trade places with ISU. They also lost to Kansas State last week.
And Baylor is sliding, too, after setbacks against OU and Iowa State.
Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oregon (5), UCLA (7)
Wallflowers: Colorado (10), Arizona State (second team out)
Oregon lost at Stanford and Cal last week, playing both games without starting point guard Dominic Artis.
Washington beat Arizona State, 96-92, on Saturday, but that win wasn't enough to get the Huskies back into consideration after dropping their previous four games. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, really needed that game to get into the field, but as things currently stand, they are just outside. ASU's computer numbers (RPI 65, SOS 112) are weak and they are just 2-4 against the top 100.
Dancing with a Hottie: Florida (2)
Dancing with Its Sister: Missouri (7)
Wallflowers: Ole Miss (9), Alabama (third team out), Kentucky (fifth team out)
Florida won another conference game by double digits on Saturday, beating a good Ole Miss team, 78-64, to run its win streak to 10. So how could I keep the Gators off the top line? Their resume just doesn't stack up against the likes of Miami, Duke and Kansas. While all of those teams have three RPI top-25 victories, Florida is just 1-2 against that class of competition, beating Marquette, but losing to Arizona and Kansas State. Even Gonzaga is 2-1 vs the top 25.
The Gators' nine top-100 wins are also behind Duke, Miami, Michigan and Kansas. Playing in the eighth-ranked conference in America could hurt Florida on Selection Sunday.
Mississippi also lost to Kentucky last week, dropping the Rebels all the way down into Wallflowers territory.
But it was a good week for the true SEC bubble teams. Alabama beat Arkansas and Vandy to climb closer to the field. The Tide has won six of seven.
And Kentucky is back in contention with triumphs at Ole Miss and Texas A&M. The Wildcats doubled their season win total in true road games last week, but their resume is still not tournament-worthy. They have losing records against the RPI top 25 (0-2), top 50 (1-4) and top 100 (4-6).
Mountain West (4)
Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: Colorado State (7), UNLV (8), San Diego State (8)
Wallflowers: Boise State (fourth team out), Air Force (seventh team out)
Colorado State keeps moving up the S-curve. The Rams beat Boise State and Wyoming last week to run its home win streak to 26, the third-best mark in the nation behind only Syracuse and South Dakota State.
UNLV and San Diego State both drop down after losing to Boise State and Air Force, respectively. Those wins helped the Broncos and Falcons move closer to the field.
Wyoming, on the other hand, has been removed from consideration following its fourth straight loss. The Cowboys started 13-0, but have dropped six of eight since.
Atlantic 10 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: Butler (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: VCU (8)
Wallflowers: La Salle (11), St. Louis (12b), Charlotte (12d), UMass (first team out)
Butler lost again last week, getting blown out by 17 at St. Louis. That win gets the Billikens into the field. They have run off four in a row and have solid records against the RPI top-25 (2-1), top 50 (3-1) and top 100 (5-4).
Charlotte takes UMass' spot after beating the Minutemen by one on Saturday.
Overall, the picture is getting a bit clearer in the A-10 after losses by Xavier (at Richmond), Temple (at St. Joe's) and Richmond (at Temple) have removed those three bubble teams from consideration.
Other Conferences (9)
Dancing with a Hottie: Gonzaga (2)
Dancing with their Sister: Wichita State (6), Creighton (6)
Wallflowers: Belmont (11), Indiana State (11), Memphis (12), BYU (12a), Southern Miss (12c), Middle Tennessee (12), Saint Mary's (sixth team out)
Wichita State is down to a No. 6 seed following losses to Indiana State and Northern Iowa.
Creighton, on the other hand, is up to a No. 6 seed after wins over Missouri State and Bradley last week.
Indiana State experienced a letdown after upsetting the Shockers on the road. The Sycamores lost at Drake on Saturday. Last week typified ISU's season; they have three top-50 wins, but also four sub-100 losses. The ace in the hole, however, remains the victory over Miami on Christmas.
Memphis gets the nod over Southern Miss as the automatic bid from Conference USA this week, but both teams are in the field. Only one will be left standing after Saturday, though, when the two squads clash in Mississippi.
No. 13 Seeds: Bucknell, North Dakota State, Louisiana Tech, Akron
No. 14 Seeds: Harvard, Valparaiso, Stephen F. Austin, Stony Brook
No. 15 Seeds: Long Beach State, Florida Gulf Coast, Davidson, Montana
No. 16 Seeds: Northeastern, Niagara, Southern vs Charleston Southern, Norfolk State vs. Bryant
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