2013 March Madness Field of 68 Projections for Feb. 25
With less than three weeks until Selection Sunday, by my estimation 22 teams are fighting for the final 11 spots in the tournament.
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) Tennessee vs. (12d) Iowa State
(12b) Kentucky vs. (12c) UMass
First 11 Teams Out: Southern Miss, Charlotte, Virginia, Maryland, St. Mary's, Alabama, BYU, Baylor, Ole Miss, Arizona State, St. John's
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 (No. 1 seed), Miami (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: NC State (9)
Wallflowers: North Carolina (9), Virginia (third team out), Maryland (fourth team out)
Miami's first loss in 2013 was a surprising 80-65 setback at Wake Forest on Saturday, but the defeat that snapped a 14-game winning streak is not enough to knock the Hurricanes off the top line. They are still ranked second in RPI and nonconference strength of schedule, as well as third in overall SOS. The U is also 5-1 against the RPI top 25, 13-2 vs. the top 100 and 10-4 away from home.
NC State slips a bit after losing by double digits at North Carolina. The Wolfpack are fifth in the ACC at 8-6.
Meanwhile, that win really helped the Tar Heels move to much safer ground. They are just 2-6 against the top 50, but that was their second RPI top-25 victory, and their computer numbers are sparkling (RPI 22, SOS 11).
Virginia missed a major opportunity on Tuesday, losing at Miami by just four points. The Wahoos continue to have the most perplexing resume of any team in consideration, sporting three RPI top-25 wins but six sub-100 losses. They also fall way short in two categories the selection committee has really emphasized of late, owning a 3-7 road/neutral record and the 305th-ranked nonconference SOS.
Maryland followed up its huge win over Duke with a deflating loss at Boston College on Tuesday. The Terps still have a lot of work to do to overcome a 3-7 mark against the top 100 and the 295th-ranked nonconference schedule strength.
Big East (8)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Louisville (3), Georgetown (3), Syracuse (4), Marquette (5)
Dancing with Its Sister: Pittsburgh (6), Notre Dame (7), Cincinnati (8)
Wallflowers: Villanova (12), St. John's (11th team out)
Georgetown and Syracuse switch positions following the Hoyas' 57-46 win in the final conference meeting at the Carrier Dome between the archrivals. Otto Porter's incredible 33-point effort helped snap the Orange's 38-game home winning streak, which was the longest in the nation.
Brandon Triche once again wilted under the pressure of a big game, going 1-of-7 from long range, and Jim Boeheim chose to stick with pretty much the same lineup the entire game despite a 34 percent shooting effort.
Notre Dame had a strong week, winning at Pitt before crushing Cincinnati in South Bend.
The Bearcats better watch out. Three straight losses have dropped them to 10th place in the Big East at 7-8 and below 50th in the RPI.
Villanova moves out of a First Four game and onto safer ground this week following its third RPI top-25 win, a 60-56 decision over Marquette on Saturday. If the Wildcats can avoid a slip-up at Seton Hall on Monday night, they have to feel pretty good about their chances to grab an at-large.
St. John's, on the other hand, is not taking advantage of its opportunities, losing at home by 16 to Pittsburgh on Sunday for the Red Storm's third loss in four games. Coach Steve Lavin's team is 0-4 against the RPI top 25 and just 4-8 vs the top 100.
Big Ten (7)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Indiana (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (3), Wisconsin (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Ohio State (5), Minnesota (7)
Wallflowers: Illinois (10)
I can't keep the Hooisiers off the top line any longer following their very impressive win at Michigan State on Tuesday. Their computer numbers are still lacking a bit (RPI 8, SOS 27, nonconference SOS 78), but IU's 7-1 record against the RPI top 25 is astonishing.
Ohio State had one of the best weeks of any team in the country, scoring a pair of RPI top-20 wins at home over Minnesota and Michigan State. The Buckeyes are now 4-6 vs the RPI top 25.
That loss at OSU was the eighth in 11 games for the Gophers and while they do drop to a No. 7 seed this week, they still are really in no danger of missing the tournament thanks to 11 top-100 wins and playing the toughest schedule in college basketball.
Iowa lost all its momentum with a loss at Nebraska on Saturday. The Hawkeyes dropped to 91st in the RPI and are out of consideration unless they can beat Illinois and/or Indiana over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Big 12 (5)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (2), Kansas State (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oklahoma State (5), Oklahoma (7)
Wallflowers: Iowa State (12d), Baylor (eighth team out)
Iowa State is squarely on the bubble. The Cyclones beat Baylor and Texas Tech last week, but that didn't do anything other than pretty much bury the Bears' chances.
ISU's 50th-ranked RPI and two RPI top-25 wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma (both at home) are keeping the Cyclones in the field, but their 172nd-ranked nonconference schedule is dragging down their overall SOS, and they are just 4-8 in road/neutral games with two sub-100 losses to Texas Tech and Texas.
The good news for Iowa State is that there are some major chances for big wins left on the schedule against Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Baylor still gets a mention here because it has played a tough schedule, but things are getting very bleak following a three-game losing streak. The Bears are 2-9 against the top 50 and might need to beat both Kansas State and Kansas to have a shot.
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Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oregon (6), UCLA (9)
Wallflowers: California (9), Colorado (10), Arizona State (10th team out)
UCLA holds steady at a No. 9 seed with a win at USC on Sunday. The Bruins are 4-4 against the top 50, 8-5 vs. the top 100 and 7-4 away from home.
California keeps surging. The Golden Bears swept the Oregon schools on the road last week to improve their win streak to five games. They are 4-5 against the top 50, 9-5 in road/neutral contests and don't have a single bad loss on their resume.
Arizona State's loss at home to Washington on Saturday night may spell the end of the Sun Devils' at-large chances. Their computer numbers are dreadful (RPI 87, SOS 124, nonconference SOS 301), and they wrap up their schedule with road games at UCLA, USC and Arizona. Good luck.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Dancing with a Hottie: Florida (2)
Wallflowers: Missouri (10), Tennessee (12a), Kentucky (12b), Alabama (sixth team out), Ole Miss (ninth team out)
Florida drops off the top line after a loss at Missouri. That win helps keep the Tigers afloat, especially since they followed it up with a setback at Kentucky.
That was a huge victory for the Wildcats, who are now 2-1 without Nerlens Noel. UK's resume is still dicey, as that was its first top-50 win, but John Calipari's squad moved into the top 50 in RPI and SOS.
Tennessee moves into the field this week as well. Where did the Vols come from? They've won five straight, and now you have to take notice of their two top-50 victories (Wichita State, Kentucky) and their seven top-100 wins. Their schedule strength numbers (36 overall and nonconference) are also solid.
Alabama and Ole Miss suffered bad road losses last week at LSU and South Carolina, respectively, that have severely damaged their at-large hopes.
Mountain West (5)
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Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (1)
Dancing with Its Sister: Colorado State (6), San Diego State (8), UNLV (8)
Wallflowers: Boise State (11)
I had the Lobos on the top line last week, and I'm certainly keeping them there after they snapped Colorado State's 27-game home winning streak with a 91-82 victory at Moby Arena on Saturday. UNM got 46 points from guard Kendall Williams, who shot an incredible 10-of-13 from three-point range.
The Mountain West leaders are third in the RPI and fourth in both overall and out-of-league SOS figures, not to mention 14-4 against the top 100 and 10-3 in road/neutral games.
Let's welcome back Boise State, who returned to the field with wins over Air Force and Fresno State last week. The Broncos have reasonable computer numbers (RPI 47, SOS 69), a big win over UNLV, a 6-6 record against the top 100 and a 7-7 mark away from home.
Air Force is removed from consideration following that loss, and the same is true for Wyoming, which whiffed on both of its chances against San Diego State and UNLV last week.
Atlantic 10 (6)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Butler (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Saint Louis (6), VCU (7)
Wallflowers: La Salle (10), Temple (11), UMass (No. 12c), Charlotte (second team out)
Saint Louis is officially on fire. The Billikens tallied two big wins over VCU and at Butler last week to run their win streak to nine and climb into first place in the A-10. They are 9-4 against the top 100.
Temple also had a good week to maintain a spot in the field. The Owls beat fellow Wallflowers La Salle and Charlotte to improve their winning streak to three games. They are 41st in both RPI and SOS, as well as 3-3 against the top 50 and 8-6 vs. the top 100.
UMass is like a cockroach; you just can't get rid of the Minutemen. They drop a bit after losing at St. Bonaventure but remain in the field thanks to OK strength of schedule numbers (overall 67, nonconference 55), a 7-7 record against the top 100 and an 8-6 mark away from home.
Charlotte was not so lucky following that 20-point home loss to Temple on Sunday. The 49ers' computer numbers are trending downward, and they are just 2-5 against the top 50.
Other Conferences (6)
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Dancing with a Hottie: Gonzaga (2)
Dancing with their Sister: Memphis (5), Wichita State (8)
Wallflowers: Creighton (11), Belmont (11), Middle Tennessee (12), Southern Miss (first team out), Saint Mary's (fifth team out), BYU (seventh team out)
Memphis' 18-game winning streak is tied with Akron for the longest in the country, and while the Tigers don't face a lot of tough competition in Conference USA, they did throttle the second-best team in the league for the second time this season on Saturday, beating Southern Miss 89-73. Memphis is 18th in the RPI, 9-3 against the top 100, 8-2 away from home and doesn't have a single bad loss.
Southern Miss missed its last chance to pick up a big win with that loss to Memphis and now must win out and hope other bubble teams continue to lose. The Golden Eagles still have a solid RPI (34), a great road/neutral record (11-6) and just one sub-100 loss, so they're not out of it yet.
Saint Mary's beat two fellow Wallflowers last week in BYU and Creighton but is not yet in the field. The win over the Bluejays was the Gaels' first top-50 win, and 18 of their 23 victories have come against sub-100 competition. Those are virtually worthless. Like Southern Miss, SMC needs to just win out and hope other bubbles lose.
It pains me to not only drop Indiana State out of the field, but also out of consideration for now. The Sycamores lost at home to Wichita State on Tuesday to drop to fourth in the Missouri Valley at just 9-7. They do have three top-50 wins, but six sub-100 losses and 11 overall setbacks are hard to overlook right now. There's still time, though.
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No. 13 Seeds: Bucknell, Valparaiso, Louisiana Tech, Akron
No. 14 Seeds: South Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin, Harvard, Davidson
No. 15 Seeds: Stony Brook, Niagara, Long Beach State, Montana
No. 16 Seeds: Robert Morris, Mercer, Northeastern vs. Southern, Norfolk State vs. Charleston Southern
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