Bracketology for Jan. 20: Projecting the March Madness Field
- "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.
- A school in the middle is "dancing with its sister."
- An elite team that is safely in is "dancing with a hottie."
Ranked teams suffered 15 losses last week, leading to a major shakeup in this week's projections.
As always, I am not predicting how teams will finish the season. However, I am bracketing them based on what they have done up to this point. I like to break teams down into three categories:
Last four in: Texas, Tennessee, Southern Miss, Stanford
First nine out: Georgetown, VCU, Saint Mary's, Arkansas, Missouri, La Salle, SMU, Illinois, Arizona State
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide.
Dancing with a hottie: Syracuse (No. 1 seed)
Dancing with its sister: Duke (5), Pittsburgh (6), North Carolina (7), Virginia (7)
Wallflowers: Florida State (10)
Syracuse's undefeated season was in jeopardy at home against Pitt on Saturday until freshman point guard Tyler Ennis took over late and led the Orange to its 18th victory.
Duke looked very good in its 35-point rout of NC State on Saturday and has now won back-to-back games for the first time since December. The Blue Devils are still without a true road win, however, and their next test comes at Miami on Wednesday.
North Carolina won the only game it played last week, an 82-71 victory over Boston College. That was the Tar Heels' initial conference win and their first triumph over an unranked team in three tries this month.
Virginia's week began with a missed opportunity at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the Cavaliers bounced back to score a nice win over Florida State. That loss set the Seminoles back a bit and dropped them to 2-5 vs the top 50.
Big East (4)
Dancing with a hottie: Villanova (1)
Dancing with its sister: Creighton (5), Xavier (8)
Wallflowers: Providence (11), Georgetown (first team out)
Wisconsin's pair of losses opened up a spot on the top line for Villanova, which is 16-1 with its only loss coming at undefeated Syracuse. The Wildcats are 3-1 against the top 50 and 9-1 vs. the top 100 with victories over Kansas, Iowa and Providence.
Xavier's 13-point win over Georgetown moved the Musketeers up a line and started what was a very bad week for the Hoyas, who fell by 10 at home to lowly Seton Hall three days later. Georgetown drops out of the field following its second sub-100 loss.
Taking the Hoyas' place? Providence. The Friars have come out of nowhere to beat Georgetown, Saint John's and Creighton in consecutive games, moving into the top 50 in RPI and strength of schedule.
Big Ten (6)
Dancing with a hottie: Michigan State (2), Wisconsin (3), Iowa (4), Ohio State (4)
Dancing with its sister: Michigan (8)
Wallflowers: Minnesota (10), Illinois (eighth team out)
Boy, was that a rough week for Wisconsin, which lost back-to-back games after starting the season 16-0. The Badgers fell at Indiana before losing at home to Michigan.
Iowa had just one game last week and took care of business at home against Minnesota, thrashing the Gophers by 21. The Hawkeyes are 17th in the RPI and have three top-50 wins.
The Wolverines began the season 6-4 but have reeled off seven in a row, including an enormous win at Wisconsin last week to get themselves back onto stable ground. Michigan is 3-3 against the top 50 and 29th in the RPI.
Minnesota did not look good in the second half at Iowa, but that's not a place you are supposed to win. What has the Gophers back in the field is their 63-53 win over Ohio State on Thursday. That was Minnesota's second RPI top-26 victory and its computer numbers are solid (RPI 35, SOS 17).
The worst week of any team in the conference was had by Illinois, which lost at home to both Purdue and Michigan State. The Illini are 0-3 vs. the top 50 and have fallen out of the field after losing four straight.
If you're wondering about Indiana, the Hoosiers lost everything they gained in beating Wisconsin when they then lost at home to Northwestern. They remain off the radar with an RPI of 77.
Big 12 (7)
Dancing with a hottie: Kansas (2), Iowa State (3), Oklahoma State (3)
Dancing with its sister: Oklahoma (5), Kansas State (6), Baylor (8)
Wallflowers: Texas (12)
That 6-3 record is a distant memory, as the Jayhawks have won seven of eight, including huge victories last week over Iowa State and Oklahoma State, to get back to a second seed. Kansas is still tops in the country in RPI and schedule strength.
Iowa State is another team that has gone into a tailspin since taking an unblemished mark into January. The Cyclones have lost three straight after falling to Kansas and Texas last week.
Oklahoma's win at Baylor was more important than its earlier loss at Kansas State. The Sooners are 3-3 against the top 50, 16th in the RPI and sixth in strength of schedule. Speaking of the Wildcats, did you know they are now 4-1 vs the RPI top 25? Wow.
Bad week for Baylor, which lost by double digits at Texas Tech (!) before falling at home against Oklahoma. The Bears plummeted from 13th to 42nd in the RPI over the past seven days.
Texas is in the field after that win over Iowa State. The Longhorns have reeled off three in a row to climb into the top 50 of both RPI and SOS.
Dancing with a hottie: Arizona (1), Colorado (4)
Dancing with its Sister: Oregon (5)
Wallflower: California (9), UCLA (10), Stanford (12), Arizona State (ninth team out)
Colorado drops a line after losing at home to UCLA, 69-56, on Thursday.
Add Oregon to the list of teams on a downward spiral. The Ducks have lost four straight after starting 13-0 following a stunning loss at Oregon State on Sunday night.
California swept the Washington schools at home last week to push its winning streak to six. The Bears are 33rd in the RPI and 5-4 against the top 100 with no bad losses.
Stanford also beat both of the Washington teams at home last week to remain in the field.
Arizona State lost at Arizona on Thursday, which is nothing of which to be ashamed, but the Sun Devils are going to have to get a big win at some point because they are 0-3 vs the top 50 and 1-5 against the top 100.
Washington is off the radar after those losses at Cal and Stanford dropped the Huskies to 87th in the RPI.
Dancing with a hottie: Florida (2), Kentucky (4)
Wallflowers: Tennessee (12), Arkansas (fourth team out), Missouri (fifth team out)
Florida is quietly moving up the S-curve. Probably because the Gators have won seven straight without beating a top-50 team since Dec. 17. Nevertheless, they own victories over Florida State, Kansas and Memphis.
Tennessee drops down a line but remains in the field after losing at Kentucky. The Vols still have RPI top-25 wins over Xavier and Virginia and are 4-4 against the top 100.
Arkansas gets back on the radar after beating Kentucky, but the Hogs are still outside the field because they followed up that win with a loss at Georgia. The three top-50 wins are good, but the computer numbers (RPI 67, SOS 82) are not, and neither are the two sub-100 losses.
Missouri's loss at Vanderbilt on Thursday forced me to take a closer look at the Tigers' resume, and unfortunately for them, there isn't a lot there. Their RPI is subpar at 55th, their schedule strength is atrocious at 129th, they have just one top-50 win and yet own a pair of sub-100 losses.
Atlantic 10 (4)
Dancing with a hottie: UMass (2)
Dancing with its sister: George Washington (7)
Wallflowers: Saint Louis (9), Dayton (11), VCU (second team out), La Salle (sixth team out)
Shh. Don't tell anyone, but Saint Louis has won 11 games in a row. The Billikens are 32nd in the RPI and 6-0 in true road games.
Dayton drops a few notches on the S-curve but remains in the field after losing at Richmond on Saturday. The Flyers still have wins over Gonzaga and California, are 5-3 away from home and 50th in the RPI.
VCU drops out of the field after losing at GW. The Rams' last six wins have come against teams ranked 142nd or below in the RPI, which has not helped their sinking schedule strength (currently at 90th). VCU is just 1-2 against the top 50 and 2-4 vs the top 100.
La Salle is not in the field yet, but the Explorers have won five in a row to get themselves on the radar. They need to improve that 1-5 mark against the top 100.
American Athletic (4)
Dancing with its sister: Connecticut (6), Cincinnati (6), Louisville (8)
Wallflowers: Memphis (9), SMU (seventh team out)
UConn won at Memphis but then lost at home to Louisville last week.
Cincinnati is up to a sixth seed after winning its 10th straight game to climb to 21st in the RPI. The Bearcats are 3-2 against the top 50 and 5-2 vs. the top 100.
Memphis' 10-point home loss to Connecticut sent the Tigers sliding down the S-curve. The sub-.500 record against the top 100 (3-4) is concerning.
SMU wasn't able to help its case much last week, playing and beating UCF and Hofstra. The Mustangs remain just 2-4 vs. the top 100, and their 101st-ranked schedule strength isn't good enough.
Other Conferences (8)
Dancing with a hottie: Wichita State (1), San Diego State (3)
Dancing with its sister: Gonzaga (7)
Wallflowers: New Mexico (9), Harvard (10), Boise State (11), BYU (11), Southern Miss (12), Saint Mary's (third team out)
New Mexico's home loss to UNLV on Wednesday drops the Lobos into wallflower territory.
Boise State gets back into the field by winning both of its games last week while other teams were falling around it. The Broncos' computer numbers (RPI 53, SOS 52) are just good enough, and the 5-3 mark away from home helps.
Let's welcome BYU to the field. The Cougars have seven losses, but that's in part because they have played the 15th-toughest schedule in the country. BYU's 40th-ranked RPI gets the team in the conversation, and wins over Texas and Stanford, combined with a five-game win streak, gets the Cougs in the field for now.
Southern Miss is still hanging around as one of the last teams in. The Golden Eagles went 2-0 last week and are now 39th in the RPI with a 4-1 record vs the top 100.
Saint Mary's keeps yo-yoing in and out of the field, and that will probably continue all season. The Gaels' computer numbers are mediocre at best (RPI 51, SOS 63), and while they are 5-1 against the top 100, they also have four losses to teams ranked outside the top 100.
No. 12 Seeds: Green Bay, Toledo
No. 13 Seeds: Delaware, Manhattan, Belmont, Mercer
No. 14 Seeds: Georgia State, UC Irvine, SFA, Robert Morris
No. 15 Seeds: Stony Brook, Northern Colorado, Utah Valley, American
No. 16 Seeds: Southern, Old Dominion, Savannah State vs. Chattanooga, Radford vs. South Dakota State
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