Duke barely won at Boston College on Sunday, avoiding the first week in which all top 5 AP teams lost since 1992. The field is wide open and so is the top line of the bracket.
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) St. John's vs. (12d) Stanford
(12b) Temple vs. (12c) North Carolina
First 12 Teams Out: Arizona State, Virginia, Southern Miss, Kentucky, Baylor, Charlotte, Xavier, St. Mary's, Alabama, Boise State, Villanova, BYU
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 (6)
Wallflowers: North Carolina (12c), Virginia (second team out)
Miami and Duke are the top two teams in the country. They are top-two in RPI, overall strength of schedule and nonconference SOS. In all, the Blue Devils have a slightly better resume with one more RPI top-25, top-50 and road/neutral win, but the Hurricanes do have that 27-point shellacking of Duke on their ledger.
North Carolina was bulldozed by 26 points at Miami and now finds itself in a First Four game. The Tar Heels have solid computer numbers (RPI 36, SOS 29), but they are just 1-5 against the top 50 and 4-6 vs. the top 100. Things don't get any easier as they travel to Cameron Indoor on Wednesday.
Virginia is 7-3 in the ACC, so why is this the first time the Cavaliers are getting mentioned in this article? Because their nonconference strength of schedule ranked 320th, pulling their RPI below 100 for most of the season. Six wins in their last seven games has improved the Wahoos' mark to 81st, which is high enough for discussion, but still too low for inclusion.
UVa is 3-0 against the top 50 and 6-0 vs. the top 100, but has an incredible six losses to teams ranked outside the top 100, including a defeat at the hands of 3-21 Old Dominion. Yikes. This is one of the oddest resumes in recent memory.
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (2), Louisville (3), Marquette (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Pittsburgh (5), Cincinnati (5), Georgetown (6), Notre Dame (7)
Wallflowers: St. John's (12a), Villanova (11th team out)
Cincinnati drops a line after consecutive losses to Providence and Pittsburgh last week.
Notre Dame moves up following an incredible 5-OT win over Louisville on Saturday night. The Irish were down by seven points in the final minute of regulation, but managed to rally and outlast the Cardinals in maybe the best game of the year.
St. John's lost at Syracuse on Sunday, but the Red Storm's win over UConn earlier in the week was far more important, and Coach Lavin's crew finds themselves in the field for another week. They have three wins over the top 50 and six against the top 100.
Dancing with a Hottie: Indiana (2), Michigan (2), Michigan State (3), Minnesota (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Ohio State (5), Wisconsin (7)
Wallflowers: Illinois (9)
I had Indiana as a No. 2 seed entering last week, and after one disappointing loss (at Illinois) and one impressive win (at Ohio State), the Hoosiers remain on the second line. IU's 5-1 record against the RPI top 25 is incredible, but it is just 8-3 vs. the top 100, and the team's computer numbers (RPI 12, SOS 24) do not stack up against other teams battling for a top seed.
The Buckeyes also lost at Michigan last week and have dropped to a No. 5 seed.
Wisconsin has won three straight and is up to a No. 7 seed after edging Michigan in what was the best game not played in South Bend this weekend.
Illinois may be 4-7 in conference, but the Illini's five RPI top-25 wins are tied with Indiana and Kansas for the most in the country. Two of those came last week with victories over Indiana and Minnesota.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (3), Kansas State (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oklahoma State (6), Oklahoma (8)
Wallflowers: Iowa State (9), Baylor (fifth team out)
Kansas has lost three straight for the first time in eight years, and the setback at 9-13 TCU on Wednesday was about the worst the program has ever seen.
That sets up a rivalry meeting with Kansas State on Monday night, in which the Wildcats are the team in first place. KSU has won four straight to climb to 8-2 in the conference.
Oklahoma was the latest team to beat KU, propelling the Sooners all the way up to a No. 8 seed.
Baylor's loss at Oklahoma State on Wednesday was its third straight setback. The Bears did bounce back to beat lowly Texas Tech three days later, but that wasn't enough to get them back in the field. Baylor is just 2-6 against the top 50, it has a pair of sub-100 losses and its resume just doesn't stack up against fellow bubble teams right now.
Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oregon (6), UCLA (8)
Wallflowers: Colorado (10), California (11), Stanford (12d), Arizona State (first team out)
Arizona lost at home to Cal on Sunday night, but the Wildcats certainly weren't the only top 10 team to suffer a questionable setback last week, and their resume is strong enough to keep them on the top line. Arizona is the only team in the country outside of Butler to have at least three RPI top-25 wins without a loss (Florida, Miami, Colorado). The Wildcats are also 10-3 against the top 100 and 9-1 away from home.
Oregon continues to slide down the S-curve following its home loss to Colorado on Thursday, when it only put up 47 points.
This is how valuable it is to beat a top 10 team on the road. Cal is a paltry 2-9 against the top 100, but the Bears jumped into the field after defeating Arizona on Sunday. Their 33rd-ranked strength of schedule is solid, they are 7-5 away from home and they don't have any sub-100 losses. Oh, and the bubble is extremely weak like always.
Stanford finds itself as the last team in the field this week following a win at Arizona State that has the Sun Devils one spot behind and therefore out of the bracket. The Cardinal is just 1-7 against the top 50, but has won four of five, and its strength of schedule numbers are good enough (31 overall, 62 nonconference).
Dancing with a Hottie: Florida (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Missouri (7)
Wallflowers: Ole Miss (11), Kentucky (fourth team out), Alabama (ninth team out),
Florida lost at Arkansas on Tuesday, but with all the carnage that followed last week, the Gators find themselves back on the top line. They are fourth in the RPI, 11th in overall schedule strength and fourth in nonconference SOS. They are also 8-3 in road/neutral games.
Ole Miss is down to an 11 seed this week following a loss at Missouri. The Rebels have dropped three of four.
Kentucky has won five straight, and all of a sudden, people are just penciling the Wildcats into the field. Not so fast. They are still just 1-3 against the top 50 and 4-6 vs the top 100. Win at Florida on Tuesday and we'll talk.
Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: San Diego State (5), Colorado State (7), UNLV (8)
Wallflowers: Boise State (10th team out)
San Diego State moves up to a fifth seed following wins over Boise State and Fresno State. The Aztecs have won four of five and are 5-3 against the top 50.
Meanwhile, things are getting dire for the Broncos. They at least kept their name in the conversation with a win over Wyoming on Saturday, but have lost five of eight.
Air Force, on the other hand, has been removed from consideration after losses at New Mexico and Nevada last week.
Dancing with a Hottie: Butler (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: VCU (8)
Wallflowers: La Salle (10), St. Louis (11), UMass (11), Temple (12b), Charlotte (sixth team out), Xavier (seventh team out)
St. Louis keeps winning and keeps moving up. The Billikens have reeled off six in a row, are 2-1 against the RPI top 25 and are 6-4 vs. the top 100.
UMass is back in the field this week following victories over Rhode Island and St. Joe's. The Minutemen are 5-5 against the top 100 and 8-4 away from home. In addition, they have just one sub-100 loss and the 60th-ranked nonconference schedule.
Temple is in as well after beating Charlotte and Dayton. The Owls have solid computer numbers (RPI 40, SOS 45), a 5-5 mark against the top 100 and that neutral court win over Syracuse.
Charlotte moves out of the field following losses to Temple and VCU last week.
Dancing with a Hottie: Gonzaga (2)
Dancing with their Sister: Wichita State (9), Creighton (9)
Wallflowers: Indiana State (10), Memphis (10), Belmont (12), Middle Tennessee (12), Southern Miss (third team out), Saint Mary's (eighth team out), BYU (12th team out),
Wichita State and Creighton both had rough weeks. The Shockers lost at Southern Illinois on Tuesday, and the Bluejays fell to Indiana State and Illinois State last week.
That was a huge win for the Sycamores, who picked up their fourth top-50 triumph and then barely avoided the letdown loss to Southern Illinois on Saturday.
Memphis pretty much wrapped up the Conference USA regular-season crown with an 89-76 victory at Southern Miss on Saturday. The Tigers' 14-game winning streak is only one shy of Akron's 15 for longest in the country.
The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, not only lost to Memphis, but also fell at UCF last week, which was a crushing blow to their at-large hopes.
BYU pretty much put an end to its at-large chances with losses to San Diego and San Francisco last week.
No. 13 Seeds: Bucknell, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Akron
No. 14 Seeds: Harvard, Valparaiso, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Beach State
No. 15 Seeds: Northeastern, Vermont, Davidson, Montana
No. 16 Seeds: Bryant, Western Illinois, Southern vs. Niagara, Norfolk State vs. UNC Asheville
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