NCAA Tournament

Bracketology for Dec. 30: Projecting the March Madness Field

Jordan SchwartzSenior Writer IDecember 30, 2013

Bracketology for Dec. 30: Projecting the March Madness Field

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    As 2013 nears its end, there are still eight undefeated teams left in the country. All of those schools are in the latest bracket projections, but who fills the other 60 slots?

    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."

     

    The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.

     

ACC (6)

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1 seed)

    Dancing with its Sister: North Carolina (5), Duke (6), Pittsburgh (7), Florida State (8)

    Wallflowers: Virginia (11)

    Syracuse overcame a 25-7 deficit to keep its undefeated season alive while handing Villanova its first loss on Saturday. The Orange has top-30 wins over Minnesota, Baylor and the Wildcats.

    North Carolina's home loss to Texas on Dec. 18 was its third questionable setback of the season, but the Tar Heels still have massive victories over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky. UNC continues to be difficult to figure out.

    Duke's losses to Kansas and Arizona are acceptable, but the Blue Devils don't have a single win over the top 50 and their computer numbers (RPI 35, SOS 69) are mediocre, at best. Duke has yet to play a true road game.

    Florida State absolutely crushed Charlotte 106-62 back on Dec. 17, following with a huge win over previously-undefeated UMass at the Orange Bowl Classic four days later.

Big East (5)

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Villanova (2)

    Wallflowers: Creighton (9), Butler (10), Xavier (12a), St. John's (12b), Georgetown (third team out)

    There's nothing wrong with losing a game on the road against the No. 2 team in the country. Following its loss at Syracuse, Villanova is sixth in the RPI and holds neutral-court wins over Kansas and Iowa.

    Creighton scored an impressive nonconference win over Cal on Dec. 22. The Bluejays have won five in a row to climb into the RPI top 50.

    Butler has won four straight against D1 competition to climb into the field at 33rd in the RPI. The Bulldogs' two losses to Oklahoma State and LSU were each by only two points at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando around Thanksgiving.

    Another Big East team on a roll is Xavier, which has claimed five consecutive victories while moving its RPI and strength of schedule numbers into the top 50.

    On Tuesday, the Musketeers play St. John's, which doesn't have a top-100 win, but barely sneaks into the field because of its solid computer numbers (RPI 41, SOS 31) and strong play in a five-point loss to Syracuse back on Dec. 15.

    Georgetown falls out of the field after getting blown out by 22 in an opportunity game at Kansas. The loss to No. 187 Northeastern still stings.

    All five of Marquette's losses have come against top-62 competition, but an 8-5 record and a 123 RPI have removed the Golden Eagles from the radar.

Big Ten (6)

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Wisconsin (1), Michigan State (3)

    Dancing with its Sister: Iowa (6), Illinois (7), Minnesota (8)

    Illinois finally removed the stink of that bad loss at Georgia Tech when it handed Missouri its first defeat on Dec. 21. The Illini are 18th in the RPI.

    Minnesota is moving in the right direction as well, having won 5 in a row against D-I opponents to climb to 30th in the RPI.

    Michigan and Indiana are off the radar for now. The Wolverines are 8-4, 79th in the RPI and still have that ugly loss to Charlotte on the resume. Indiana, meanwhile, doesn't have a top-100 win and the Hoosiers' computer numbers are atrocious (RPI 88, SOS 183).

Big 12 (6)

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    David Purdy/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Baylor (2), Iowa State (3), Oklahoma State (3), Kansas (4)

    Dancing with its Sister: Texas (6), Oklahoma (8)

    Iowa State remained undefeated by beating Boise State in the Diamond Head Classic final on Christmas. That was the Cyclones' third top-40 win and they are now 5th in the RPI.

    Oklahoma State picked up a nice victory over Colorado in Las Vegas on Dec. 21. The Cowboys are 3-1 vs the top 50 and 11th in the RPI.

    Kansas crushed Georgetown, 86-64, for its third top-50 win. The Jayhawks' computer numbers are outstanding (RPI 4, SOS 2).

    Nothing like a win at North Carolina to get you moving up the S-curve, but Texas' momentum was halted when it fell at home to Michigan State three days later.

    Oklahoma has won seven straight, albeit against subpar competition, but that will change when the Sooners face Texas, Kansas and Iowa State in the span of a week starting Saturday.

Pac-12 (6)

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    Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1), Oregon (2), Colorado (4)

    Wallflower: UCLA (10), Stanford (11), Arizona State (12d), California (first team out)

    Oregon is 12-0 with four top-50 wins and is ranked ninth in the RPI.

    Colorado slipped a bit with a loss to Oklahoma State. The Buffs are still seventh in the RPI with wins over Kansas and Harvard.

    UCLA was blown out by Duke back on Dec. 19 and sit at just 60th in the RPI with its best win coming over UCSB.

    Stanford's win at previously-undefeated UConn puts the Cardinal in the field, although they couldn't keep the momentum with a loss to Michigan three days later.

    Arizona State is barely holding onto a spot despite four straight wins. The Sun Devils don't have any top-90 wins and their computer numbers are ugly (RPI 62, SOS 175).

    Cal drops just outside the field following a loss at Creighton. The Bears have lost four of eight.

SEC (5)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (4)

    Dancing with Its Sister: Florida (5), Missouri (5), LSU (8)

    Wallflowers: Arkansas (11)

    Kentucky finally got a marquee win when the Wildcats took down Louisville on Saturday.

    LSU is coming on strong with five straight victories that have the Tigers sitting 21st in the RPI. Losses to UMass and Memphis are totally fine and that win over Butler on Dec. 1 is looking better.

    Arkansas has won six straight to get into the field. At 10-2, the losses to Cal and Gonzaga aren't terrible, but the Razorbacks are hanging their hat on a victory over Minnesota, so they'll want to pad their resume with something else or risk falling out.

    Ole Miss lost at home to Mercer to fall way off the radar.

Mountain West (3)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Wallflowers: San Diego State (9), Boise State (9), New Mexico (10)

    Boise State missed an opportunity when it fell to Iowa State in the Diamond Head Classic championship on Wednesday.

    New Mexico's home loss to New Mexico State back on Dec. 17 sent the Lobos sliding a bit.

Atlantic 10 (4)

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: UMass (3)

    Dancing with its Sister: George Washington (7)

    Wallflowers: Dayton (10), Saint Louis (12c), VCU (second team out)

    UMass suffered its first loss to Florida State on Dec. 21, but the Minutemen are No. 1 in RPI, No. 4 in schedule strength, 3-1 against the top 50, 7-1 versus the top 100 and 7-1 away from home.

    GW has won six straight to rise to 37th in the RPI with a win over Creighton on its ledger.

    Dayton's home loss to USC on Dec. 22 sent the Flyers tumbling down the S-curve: three losses in eight games since beating Gonzaga.

    Saint Louis' only two losses have come against a pair of unbeaten teams: Wisconsin and Wichita State. But the Billikens are going to need a win over a top-50 team before feeling more secure.

    VCU has righted the ship since losing at Northern Iowa. The Rams have won three in a row, including a pair of wins over ACC foes Virginia Tech and Boston College; but having no top-50 wins is what is keeping Virginia Commonwealth just outside the field.

American Athletic (4)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Connecticut (4)

    Dancing with its Sister: Memphis (5), Louisville (7)

    Wallflowers: Cincinnati (11)

    Memphis dropped falling to Florida at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17.

    Louisville appears to be overrated in the national polls, especially after a loss at Kentucky. That alone is nothing to criticize, but the Cards' best win is over Southern Miss. They are ranked 113th in schedule strength and the team dismissed junior Chane Behanan (7.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) on Monday.

    Cincinnati moved into the field following four consecutive victories, including a win over previously-undefeated Pittsburgh.

Other Conferences (3)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Dancing with a Hottie: Wichita State (2)

    Dancing with its Sister: Gonzaga (6)

    Wallflowers: Harvard (9)

    What a terrible trip to Honolulu for Saint Mary's. The Gaels lost to South Carolina, Hawaii and George Mason to not only only fall out of the field, but also off the radar.

    Charlotte is also gone after losing at Florida State and at home to Georgia Tech.

    Ditto for UAB, which lost to LSU and dropped to 100th in the RPI.

    BYU's computer numbers are fantastic thanks to playing the third-toughest schedule in the country, but the Cougars are also off the radar after losing to Utah, Oregon and Loyola Marymount in consecutive games.

Automatic Bids

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    No. 12 Seeds: UCSB, North Dakota State

    No. 13 Seeds: Southern Miss, Toledo, Manhattan, New Mexico State

    No. 14 Seeds: Mercer, SFA, Drexel, Belmont

    No. 15 Seeds: Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Elon, Western Kentucky, St. Francis NY

    No. 16 Seeds: Lehigh, Northern Colorado, Norfolk State vs. Radford, Stony Brook vs. Alabama State

     

    Follow me on Twitter @JordanHarrison.

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