Bracketology for Jan. 6: Projecting the March Madness Field
The calendar has flipped to 2014 and conference play has begun across the country, revealing even more about teams' resumes as they try to make the Field of 68 this March.
As always, I am not predicting how teams will finish the season; however, I am simply bracketing them based on what they have done up to this point. 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."
Last four in: Kansas State, Arkansas, Tennessee, SMU
First seven out: Georgetown, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Texas, California, Michigan
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1 seed)
Dancing with its Sister: Pittsburgh (6), Duke (7), North Carolina (8)
Wallflowers: Virginia (10), Florida State (10), Notre Dame (second team out)
Pittsburgh moves up to a 6 seed after opening its ACC schedule with a win at NC State. The Panthers are 31st in the RPI and 4-1 away from home.
Those who didn't agree with Duke as a 6 seed last week certainly won't like the Blue Devils dropping to a 7, but it's difficult to place them any higher following a loss to Notre Dame. Duke's computer numbers continue to be mediocre (RPI 36, SOS 54) and the Blue Devils are just 1-2 against the top 50.
And then there's the curious case of North Carolina, which is 3-0 against ranked teams but lost its fourth game to an unranked opponent Sunday, when the Tar Heels fell at Wake Forest, 73-67.
Virginia had a roller-coaster week, getting crushed at Tennessee on Monday before bouncing back to defeat Florida State by 12 on the road Saturday. The Seminoles, meanwhile, drop a bit following the loss.
Notre Dame puts itself back in the race for a bid thanks to that victory over Duke, but the Irish are still on the outside for now due to a 67 RPI, 1-3 mark against the top 50 and 1-2 record away from home.
Big East (3)
Dancing with a Hottie: Villanova (2)
Dancing with Its Sister: Creighton (7), Xavier (8)
Wallflowers: Georgetown (first team out)
Creighton moves up after starting Big East play 2-0 and running its win streak to seven. The Bluejays are 22nd in the RPI and 3-0 in true road games.
Xavier is on much more solid footing following wins over fellow bubbles St. John's and Butler. The Musketeers have also won seven straight, climbing to 25th in the RPI.
Those losses dropped the Red Storm and Bulldogs from consideration as neither of them has a top-50 win.
Georgetown is still right at the cut line. The Hoyas' computer numbers (RPI 46, SOS 64) are just OK, they don't have any top-45 wins and they still have that sub-200 loss to Northeastern.
Big Ten (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Wisconsin (1), Michigan State (3)
Dancing with its Sister: Illinois (5), Iowa (7)
Wallflowers: Minnesota (11), Michigan (seventh team out)
It's getting more and more difficult to understand how Illinois didn't receive a single vote in the AP preseason poll. The Illini opened Big Ten play this past week with victories over Indiana and Penn State to run their win streak to four and increase their RPI to 17th.
Iowa had a chance to really improve its seed Sunday with a win at undefeated Wisconsin, but head coach Fran McCaffery was ejected following a 2nd-half tirade and the Hawkeyes wound up squandering an 11-point halftime lead.
Minnesota's home loss to Michigan on Thursday drops the Gophers close to the cut line, but they're still in thanks to three top-100 wins and a top-50 RPI and schedule strength.
The win gets the Wolverines back on the radar, but they're not in the field just yet. The computer numbers are not strong enough (RPI 59, SOS 70), they are just 1-3 vs the top 50 and that loss to No. 129 Charlotte is still weighing down the resume.
Big 12 (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Baylor (2), Iowa State (2), Oklahoma State (4)
Dancing with its Sister: Kansas (5), Oklahoma (7)
Wallflowers: Kansas State (12), Texas (fifth team out)
Oregon's loss at Colorado allows Iowa State to move up to the 2 line. The 13-0 Cyclones are third in the RPI, 3-0 vs the top 50 and 6-0 away from home.
Oklahoma State slips to a 4 seed following a 74-71 loss at Kansas State.
Kansas' home loss to San Diego State on Sunday snapped the Jayhawks' 68-game nonconference win streak at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but the good news for KU is that all four of its losses have come to teams ranked in the RPI top 18 and Kansas itself remains second in the RPI thanks to playing the toughest schedule in the country. The Jayhawks also still have four top-50 wins.
Oklahoma had an up-and-down week losing at home to Louisiana Tech before scoring a nice win at Texas. The Sooners are 23rd in the RPI and 5-1 in road/neutral games.
Kansas State had a huge week to come from out of nowhere to grab a spot in the field. The Wildcats picked up a pair of top-30 wins over George Washington and Oklahoma State and have now won nine straight with another victory over Gonzaga.
First, Texas damaged its computer numbers just by playing No. 237 Rice. Then, the Longhorns lost at home to OU, dropping their RPI to 63rd. Things got even worse when UNC lost again, cheapening Texas' only big win of the season.
Dancing with a Hottie: Arizona (1), Oregon (3), Colorado (3)
Wallflower: UCLA (10), Arizona State (fourth team out), California (sixth team out)
Oregon drops to a 3 seed after losing its first game of the season, a 100-91 setback at Colorado. The Buffs, on the other hand, are up to a 3 thanks to that win. They are eighth in the RPI, fourth in schedule strength and 4-2 against the top 50.
Arizona State is out of the field following a home loss to Washington. The same is true for Stanford, which lost to Cal. That win kept the Bears in the picture, but wasn't enough to propel them into the field because they are still 0-4 vs the top 50.
Dancing with a Hottie: Florida (4)
Dancing with Its Sister: Missouri (5), Kentucky (6)
Wallflowers: LSU (11), Arkansas (12), Tennessee (12), Ole Miss (third team out)
LSU drops down after losing at home to No. 167 Rhode Island. This was the Tigers' first sub-30 loss of the season and they do have three top-100 wins. The computer numbers (RPI 54, SOS 66) are barely acceptable.
Arkansas actually hurt itself by winning a game last week. That's because it came against No. 341 Texas-San Antonio, which dropped the Razorbacks' schedule strength to 210. The good news for Arkansas is that it's 2-1 against the top 50 and 4-2 vs the top 100.
Tennessee launched itself into the field with a 35-point beatdown of Virginia on Monday. The Vols are 2-2 against the top 50 and 25th in strength of schedule.
Mountain West (3)
Dancing With a Hottie: San Diego State (4)
Dancing With Its Sister: New Mexico (8)
Wallflowers: Boise State (10)
Becoming the first nonconference opponent to win at Kansas since 2006 will do wonders for your resume. San Diego State is now 18th in the RPI, 2-1 vs the top 50 and 6-0 away from home.
Atlantic 10 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: UMass (3)
Dancing with its Sister: George Washington (6), Dayton (8)
Wallflowers:Saint Louis (11), VCU (11)
Dayton moves up after a nice win at Ole Miss on Saturday. The Flyers are 34th in the RPI, 4-2 away from home and have that big win over Gonzaga.
VCU has won four straight to get back into the field. The Rams are ranked 47th in the RPI, are 5-3 in road/neutral games and don't have any sub-100 losses.
American Athletic (5)
Dancing with its Sister: Memphis (5), Louisville (6)
Wallflowers: Cincinnati (9), Connecticut (9), SMU (12)
Cincinnati had a very big week with wins over SMU and at Memphis. The Bearcats have won six straight to climb to 24th in the RPI, with a 3-2 mark against the top 50 and a 6-2 record vs the top 100.
UConn, on the other hand, had a disastrous week, losing at both Houston and SMU.
That win got the Mustangs into the field. SMU doesn't have any bad losses and is 45th in the RPI.
Other Conferences (4)
Dancing with a Hottie: Wichita State (2), Gonzaga (4)
Wallflowers: Harvard (9), Saint Mary's (9)
Gonzaga's 22-point win over Saint Mary's on Thursday was the Bulldogs' second top-50 win. They are top-20 in RPI and SOS and have won four straight.
The Gaels, meanwhile, had a strange week. Losing to Gonzaga actually helped them because they got to play the 13th-ranked team in the RPI. They were also helped by North Dakota State moving into the RPI top 25, Boise State entering the top 50 and Louisiana Tech, Drake and South Carolina all getting into the top 100, because these are all teams Saint Mary's has played.
When the dust settled, the Gaels were 2-1 vs the top 50 and 5-3 against the top 100, which is better than where they were at last week.
No. 12 Seeds: Southern Miss, North Dakota State
No. 13 Seeds: UCSB, Toledo, Green Bay, New Mexico State
No. 14 Seeds: Manhattan, SFA, Drexel, Belmont
No. 15 Seeds: Stony Brook, Bryant, Western Kentucky, Boston Univ
No. 16 Seeds: North Florida, Northern Colorado, Hampton vs. Radford, Western Carolina vs. Alabama State
Follow me on Twitter @JordanHarrison.