Projecting the Field of 65: Dec. 14

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Projecting the Field of 65: Dec. 14
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As my good friend Howard Wachtel of "Games That Matter" pointed out recently, there are only 11 undefeated teams left in the country, and four of them come from the Big East (Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown, and Seton Hall).

The Big East continues to dominate play, but what other conferences are making noise in my third projections of the season?

As always, I am not trying to guess how teams will finish the year; I am simply seeding them based on their current résumés.

I like to break teams down into three categories.

"Wallflowers" are bubble teams because everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all have the guts to ask a girl out onto the dance floor.

Elite teams are safely in the field—"Dancing with a hottie"—and in the middle are the schools that are "Dancing with their sister."

 

ACC

 

Dancing with a Hottie

North Carolina (2 seed), Duke (3)

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Georgia Tech (8), Wake Forest (8)

 

Wallflowers

Florida State (10), North Carolina State (10), Virginia Tech (12), Clemson (13),  Maryland (out), Miami (out), Boston College (out)

Not a lot of action in the ACC this past week outside of Virginia Tech.

The Hokies beat VMI before winning at Penn State to sneak into the field.

Va Tech (8-1, RPI 44) doesn't have a top-100 win, but the team has won five straight, and its only loss is to RPI No. 6 Temple.

 

Big East

 

Dancing with a Hottie

Syracuse (1), West Virginia (2), Connecticut (4), Georgetown (4)

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Villanova (5), St. John's (5)

 

Wallflowers

Marquette (10), Seton Hall (11), Cincinnati (out), DePaul (out), Pittsburgh (out), Louisville (out), Notre Dame (out)

Villanova is off the top line and all the way down to a five seed after losing by 10 at Temple.

Replacing the Wildcats as a one seed is Syracuse, which took down its third top-25 opponent, by beating previously undefeated Florida in Tampa.

The Orange has a good shot at starting the season 17-0 before a big showdown at West Virginia on Jan. 16.

I'm sure many are surprised to see St. John's as a five, but I can't see how I can seed the Red Storm any lower right now.

They're 8-1 with wins over Temple and Siena, and their only loss is at Cameron Indoor Stadium, not to mention their outstanding computer numbers (RPI 5, SOS 20).

Seton Hall is another team some wouldn't expect to see in the field when the year began, but the Pirates put up 134 points in a ridiculously high-scoring affair against VMI and are now 8-0 with a win at RPI No. 24 Cornell.

SHU has a big non-conference game this Saturday vs. Temple.

But the rest of the bubble news in the Big East isn't good, as Cincinnati lost at Xavier to fall to 81st in the RPI, DePaul was crushed by Mississippi State, Pittsburgh was embarrassed by Indiana at Madison Square Garden, Louisville was upset at home by Western Carolina, and Notre Dame was shocked in South Bend by Loyola-Marymount.

 

Big Ten

 

Dancing with a Hottie

Purdue (1), Michigan State (3)

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Wisconsin (6)

 

Wallflowers

Ohio State (9), Northwestern (10), Illinois (12), Minnesota (out)

After beating Duke, Wisconsin suffered a letdown in its upset loss at Green Bay. Ohio State also drops in class after falling at Butler.

Illinois has really bounced back since dropping back-to-back games to Utah and Bradley in Vegas.

After that stunning comeback win at Clemson, the Illini continued their rise by beating Vanderbilt.

 

Big XII

 

Dancing with a Hottie

Texas (1), Kansas (1), Texas A&M (4), Texas Tech (4)

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Kansas State (6), Oklahoma State (7)

It was a strong week for the Big XII, as Texas Tech remained undefeated with a win at TCU and Kansas State picked up nice victories over Xavier and at UNLV.

 

Pac-10

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Washington (6)

 

Wallflowers

California (9), Washington State (out), Arizona (out)

Washington's loss to Georgetown highlighted another bad week for the Pac-10.

Arizona State also lost at BYU, and USC only scored 46 in a defeat at San Diego State.

The conference is now an astounding 0-20 vs. the top 50.

 

SEC

 

Dancing with a Hottie

Kentucky (2), Florida (2), Tennessee (3)

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Mississippi (5)

 

Wallflowers

Vanderbilt (out), South Carolina (out)

Vanderbilt had a terrible week, losing at Illinois before falling to Western Kentucky at the Sun Belt Classic in Nashville to drop from a nine seed right out of the field.

 

Mid-Majors

 

Dancing with a Hottie

New Mexico (3)

 

Dancing with Their Sister

Temple (5), Dayton (6), Missouri State (7), Tulsa (7), Charlotte (7), William & Mary (8), UNLV (8)

 

Wallflowers

Butler (9), Gonzaga (9), Harvard (11), Cornell (11), Memphis (11), Southern Miss (12), Siena (13), Northern Iowa (out), VCU (out), Richmond (out), Portland (out), Xavier (out)

New Mexico had maybe the best week of any team in the country.

The Lobos won at San Diego, before taking down Texas A&M in Houston to improve to 10-0 and No. 8 in the RPI. 

Remember, this team also has a win over Cal.

UNM still has two big non-conference games left against Texas Tech (Dec. 29) and Dayton (Jan. 1).

But Temple had the single biggest win of the past seven days when it beat Villanova, 75-65, on Dec. 13.

The Owls are now No. 6 in the RPI and have the eighth-best strength of schedule.

UNLV's 15-point home loss to Kansas State, combined with the loss in value of the Rebels' wins over Louisville and Arizona have them plummeting down the seed pecking order.

After losing neutral court games to Minnesota, Clemson, and Georgetown, Butler picked up a very important "W" over Ohio State, and will look to keep the momentum going as the Bulldogs face Xavier and UAB before opening up Horizon League play.

An at-large Ivy League team? Harvard is deserving right now.

The Crimson (7-2, RPI 42) have beaten No. 18 William & Mary and Boston College, and their only losses are by three at Army, which could win the Patriot, and by six at UConn.

Southern Miss' good computer numbers (RPI 12, SOS 30) are mostly thanks to the fact that the Golden Eagles' four Division I games have all been on the road, and their three non-D-1 games don't count.

I hate to reward a team with such a weak schedule, but Southern Miss' only loss is by two at Ole Miss.

The Eagles have five more easy games upcoming before we really learn how good they are at Vandy on Jan. 2.

Siena's loss at Northern Iowa dropped the Saints to 0-4 vs. big non-conference opponents.

With not much strength left on their schedule, the MAAC school will probably have to win the league to get a bid.

Richmond's defeat at VCU drops the Spiders from the field.

 

Automatic Bids

 

12 seeds

Western Carolina

 

13 seeds

IUPUI, Coastal Carolina

 

14 seeds

Eastern Michigan, Murray State, Louisiana Tech, North Texas

 

15 seeds

SE Louisiana, Belmont, Portland State, Pacific

 

16 seeds

Army, Stony Brook, Morgan State, Sacred Heart, Prairie View A&M

 

Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison .

Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book  Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.

Jordan can be reached at jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com

 

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