2014 March Madness Field of 68 Projections for Dec. 9
Holiday tournaments and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge are over, so there's enough information to make my first NCAA tournament bracket projections of the 2013-14 season.
I like to break teams down into three categories:
1. Wallflowers are bubble teams. 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 is "Dancing with a Hottie."
3. A school in the middle is "Dancing with Its Sister."
I'll begin with the first four at-large bid games:
(12a) Illinois vs. (12d) Oklahoma
(12b) BYU vs. (12c) Southern Miss
First Four Teams Out: Georgetown, UAB, Minnesota, California
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.
First up is the ACC.
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1 seed), North Carolina (2), Duke (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Pittsburgh (8)
Wallflowers: Virginia (11), Florida State (12)
Syracuse appears to be the favorite to win the ACC just one month into its membership in the new league. The Orange have jumped to a 9-0 record with victories over Minnesota, Cal and Baylor en route to a Maui Invitational title, as well as a nonconference win over Indiana.
North Carolina is the hardest team in the country to figure out so far. The Tar Heels have lost to Belmont and UAB but have beaten Louisville in Connecticut and top-ranked Michigan State on the road.
Duke's losses to Kansas and Arizona are nothing to be ashamed of, but the Blue Devils' best win was over Michigan, which currently finds itself 6-3 and ranked 140th in the RPI.
Pitt is one of 15 undefeated teams in the nation, but it lacks a single win over the top 75.
Virginia entered the season ranked in the top 25, but an early loss to VCU and two recent ones to Wisconsin and Green Bay have the Cavaliers very much on the early bubble.
Florida State's win over VCU at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is keeping the 'Noles afloat, but losses to Michigan, Florida and Minnesota have them in trouble.
Big East (3)
Dancing with a Hottie: Villanova (3)
Wallflowers: Marquette (10), Creighton (11), Georgetown (first team out)
Villanova has been a major surprise in the revamped Big East. The 9-0 Wildcats shocked Kansas before beating Iowa to win the Battle 4 Atlantis. That now-nonconference game at the Carrier Dome on Dec. 28 just got a whole lot bigger.
Marquette, on the other hand, has been somewhat of a disappointment. Setbacks to Ohio State, Arizona State, San Diego State and Wisconsin were not bad losses, but you never want to be 5-4.
Creighton beat Arizona State in its first Wooden Legacy game but then lost to San Diego State and George Washington.
Georgetown opened its season with an acceptable loss to Oregon in South Korea, but the setback versus Northeastern 13 days later is what's keeping the Hoyas on the outside looking in.
Big Ten (7)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Wisconsin (1), Michigan State (2)
Dancing with Its Sister: Iowa (6), Indiana (7), Michigan (9)
Wallflowers: Illinois (12a), Minnesota (third team out)
The Big Ten is loaded at the top with Ohio State and Wisconsin each debuting on the top line, with Michigan State just below, following a home loss to North Carolina.
Iowa's only loss is to an undefeated Villanova team, so the Hawkeyes are in decent shape despite their best win coming over Drake.
It's the same for Indiana, which has only lost to UConn and Syracuse but doesn't have a single victory over the top 125 in the RPI.
A No. 9 seed may seem low for a Michigan team that has been ranked nearly the entire season, but that loss to Charlotte isn't great. The Wolverines are ranked 140th in the RPI with a 238th-ranked schedule strength and no wins over the top 100.
Illinois' best win is over No. 138 UNLV (but it was on the road), and the Illini lost to Georgia Tech, but the RPI is solid at 46, and the squad has a couple of upcoming chances to prove itself versus Oregon and Missouri.
Minnesota's loss to Syracuse was expected, but its 14-point setback versus Arkansas was disappointing. The Gophers are ranked 69th in the RPI.
Big 12 (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Baylor (2), Kansas (3), Oklahoma State (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Iowa State (5)
Wallflowers: Texas (12), Oklahoma (12d)
Baylor is ranked in the top four of both the RPI and strength of schedule, with its only loss to Syracuse. Wins over Colorado and Dayton are looking better and better as they support a recent victory over Kentucky.
Kansas lost to Villanova in the Bahamas before falling on a buzzer-beater versus Colorado, and yet the Coaches Poll still has the Jayhawks ahead of the undefeated Wildcats, which should tell you everything you need to know about that metric.
The answer to the questions, "What is Oklahoma State's best win?" and "What is Oklahoma State's only loss?" are the same: Memphis.
Iowa State has been a pleasant surprise, beating Michigan before following that game with a victory at BYU. The undefeated Cyclones' next test is versus in-state rival Iowa on Friday.
Texas' only loss came in the Hall of Fame Classic versus BYU, which is fine. The Longhorns have five top-100 wins and are ranked 29th in the RPI.
Oklahoma is my last team, only having lost to Michigan State while compiling an 8-1 record.
Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1), Colorado (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: Oregon (5), UCLA (6)
Wallflower: Arizona State (10), California (fourth team out)
Arizona is the top-ranked team in the country for good reason. The Wildcats are 9-0, with wins over San Diego State, Drexel and Duke.
Don't sleep on Colorado. The Buffs have won nine straight, with victories over Harvard and Kansas. They are top 10 in RPI and SOS.
Oregon is 8-0 but lacks a real signature win. The Ducks will have a chance to pick up a nice W Saturday versus Illinois.
UCLA suffered its first loss of the season at Missouri, which is no easy place to play.
Arizona State has lost to Creighton and Miami. The only saving grace for the Sun Devils is their victory over Marquette on Nov. 25 in the Wooden Legacy.
Cal has an OK win over Arkansas, but the Bears have lost three of four to drop to 115th in the RPI.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: Florida (5), Missouri (6)
The talk of Kentucky going undefeated was laughable considering how young the Wildcats are. They've already lost twice to Michigan State and Baylor and are ranked just 84th in the RPI.
Florida's only two losses have come on the road against top-10 RPI teams Wisconsin and UConn.
Missouri's undefeated record needs to be taken seriously following a win over UCLA.
Mountain West (3)
Dancing with Its Sister: San Diego State (7), New Mexico (7), Boise State (7)
San Diego State's only loss came against top-ranked Arizona, and the team has wins over Creighton and Marquette.
New Mexico's loss to UMass in the Charleston Classic semis was surprising at the time, but the Minutemen are undefeated and No. 1 in the RPI. The Lobos have defeated UAB and Cincinnati.
Playing Kentucky at Rupp following a Wildcats loss is no easy task but I wouldn't be surprised if the 6-0 Broncos keep it close.
Atlantic 10 (5)
Dancing with Its Sister: UMass (6)
Wallflowers: Dayton (9), VCU (9), Saint Louis (10), George Washington (11)
Yes, it's very early, but UMass being ranked No. 1 in the RPI is still something for which the Minutemen should be proud. They have three top-40 wins over LSU, New Mexico and BYU.
Dayton's win over Gonzaga in Maui will be a very big feather in the Flyers' cap all season. The recent loss to Illinois State, however, will continue to be a thorn in the side.
VCU has had an up-and-down season, winning at UVa then losing to Florida State and Georgetown in San Juan before winning at Belmont.
Saint Louis hasn't really done much, but losing by a combined 11 points to Wisconsin and Wichita State proves the Billikens can play.
GW picked up a nice win over Creighton in the Wooden Legacy third-place game. The Colonials' only loss was to Marquette.
American Athletic (4)
Dancing with a Hottie: Louisville (2), Memphis (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: UConn (5), Cincinnati (8)
Louisville hasn't done a ton yet to put on its resume. The Cardinals lost to North Carolina at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, and their best win came over Southern Miss.
Coach Josh Pastner finally got that big win he's been looking for when Memphis defeated Oklahoma State in a rematch.
UConn is 9-0 with wins over Indiana and Florida.
Cincy recently fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, but a loss at New Mexico is nothing to be ashamed of.
Other Conferences (8)
Dancing with a Hottie: Wichita State (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Harvard (8), Saint Mary's (8), Gonzaga (9)
Wallflowers: Belmont (10), Charlotte (11), BYU (12b), Southern Miss (12c), UAB (second team out)
The Shockers are undefeated with wins over BYU and Saint Louis.
Harvard blew a big lead in its Nov. 24 loss at Colorado, but that setback isn't looking so bad lately and the Crimson are unbeaten otherwise, including an Alaska Shootout championship, albeit against a weak field.
Saint Mary's is at it again, beating the teams it should without playing a very challenging schedule. A game at Boise State Saturday will be a stiff test, however.
Gonzaga seems overrated thus far. Its best win is over Arkansas, and the Bulldogs have lost to Dayton.
Belmont's win at North Carolina will go a long way if the Bruins don't earn the OVC auto bid.
Charlotte beat Michigan, but losses to College of Charleston and Davidson are almost canceling that out.
BYU has three losses, but the Cougars have played the third-toughest schedule in the country, and they have a win over Texas.
Southern Miss' only loss is to Louisville.
UAB beat UNC, but the Blazers also lost to Temple, and they are ranked 61st in the RPI.
No. 13 Seeds: Drexel, North Dakota State, Toledo, UCSB
No. 14 Seeds: Mercer, Winthrop, Bryant, Eastern Washington
No. 15 Seeds: SFA, Davidson, NC Central, New Mexico State
No. 16 Seeds: Boston University, Manhattan, Wisconsin-Milwaukee vs. Alabama Stata, Stony Brook vs. Arkansas State
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