Projecting the Field of 65: Dec. 29

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Projecting the Field of 65: Dec. 29
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This last week was light in terms of action in college basketball, but two more undefeated teams did go down when New Mexico lost at Oral Roberts and Missouri State fell at Arkansas.

That leaves only six unbeaten squads in the nation as we approach 2010, and all of them come from the big six conferences.  But with league play beginning in earnest this week, chances are, there won't be any left by St. Patrick's Day, the eve of the NCAA Tournament.

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 on to 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 (2)

Dancing with Their Sister: Wake Forest (7), Florida State (7), Georgia Tech (8)

Wallflowers: Clemson (12), Virginia Tech (first out),  North Carolina State (13th out), Miami (18th out)

NC State's back-to-back losses at Wake Forest and Arizona have dropped the Wolfpack from the field.  Their only top-100 win is over RPI No. 66 Austin Peay.

 

Big East

Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), West Virginia (2), Connecticut (3), Villanova (3)

Dancing with Their Sister: St. John's (5), Georgetown (5)

Wallflowers: Seton Hall (12), Pittsburgh (fifth out), Louisville (15th out), Cincinnati (16th out)

Georgetown bounced back nicely from its stunning loss to Old Dominion with a convincing 86-70 victory over upstart Harvard.  It was the Hoyas' fourth top-50 win.

Seton Hall welcomes undefeated Syracuse to the Prudential Center in Newark on Tuesday night following the Pirates' bittersweet comeback against West Virginia on Saturday.  SHU rallied from 10 down in the final minute to send the game to overtime, but eventually lost, 90-84.  The Pirates hang on to their 12 seed despite the defeat, but are still in need of a signature win.

 

Big Ten

Dancing with a Hottie: Purdue (2)

Dancing with Their Sister: Michigan State (5), Wisconsin (6), Ohio State (6), Northwestern (8)

Wallflowers: Minnesota (14th out)

Northwestern keeps climbing up the rankings thanks to a nine-game winning streak.  The Wildcats face a stiff challenge this week, as they travel to Illinois before hosting Michigan State.

 

Big XII

Dancing with a Hottie: Texas (1), Kansas (1), Kansas State (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Texas Tech (5), Texas A&M (6)

Wallflowers: Oklahoma State (10)

Texas A&M's loss at Washington in the Big XII/Pac-10 Hardwood Series hurt the Aggies, but helped Texas Tech, which beat the Huskies earlier this season.  It was an especially painful defeat for A&M, which also lost senior guard Derrick Roland to a devastating leg injury.  The horrifying fracture made me cringe as I watched the replay on YouTube.

Oklahoma State's projected seed took a hit with Tulsa (the only team the Cowboys have lost to) dropping two in a row to Nebraska and Nevada.  OSU's best win is over No. 83 La Salle.

 

Pac-10

Dancing with a Hottie: Washington (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: California (7)

Wallflowers: USC (11), Washington State (11th out)

The Pac-10 gained back a little respect this week with Washington's win over Texas A&M and USC's consecutive victories over St. Mary's and UNLV at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.

The Trojans got off to a dismal 2-4 start, but have now won six in a row, including a victory over Tennessee, to climb to 44th in the RPI.

 

SEC

Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (1), Mississippi (3)

Dancing with Their Sister: Florida (6), Tennessee (8)

Wallflowers: Mississippi State (10), Vanderbilt (10th out), South Carolina (12th out)

It's pretty rare that I have a team ranked 117th in the RPI projected as a six seed, but the Gators' wins over Michigan State and Florida State still have them on solid footing.  Still, a one-point loss at home to South Alabama will be a major blight on Florida's final resume. 

 

Mid-Majors

Dancing with a Hottie: Temple (3), Dayton (4), New Mexico (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Gonzaga (7), Missouri State (8)

Wallflowers: William & Mary (9), Tulsa (9), VCU (9), Cornell (9), UAB (10), Butler (10), Richmond (11), Old Dominion (11), UNLV (11), Wichita State (12), Harvard (12), Charlotte (2nd out), Rhode Island (3rd out), St. Mary's (4th out), Northern Iowa (6th out), San Diego State (7th out), Xavier (8th out), BYU (9th out), Memphis (17th out), Green Bay (20th out)

New Mexico's loss to Oral Roberts was disappointing, but the Lobos still own victories over Cal and A&M and have more opportunities for big non-conference wins with Texas Tech and Dayton coming up. 

Missouri State's blunder at No. 241 Arkansas was more damaging because the Bears only have one top-100 win and that came over Tulsa, which just dropped back-to-back games to Nebraska and Nevada at the Las Vegas Classic.

Butler continues to play with fire.  After escaping with a controversial win over Xavier, the Bulldogs lost their next game by 10 at UAB and now have four losses.  This should tell you how meaningless the Coaches' Poll is—Butler is still ranked 23rd.

The Blazers, meanwhile, are finally putting together a tournament-worthy resume after years of flirting with the bubble.  UAB now has wins over Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Butler.

ODU followed up its impressive victory over Georgetown with another solid win over No. 78 Charlotte.  Three of the four teams to beat the Monarchs (Miss State, Richmond, and Dayton) have been playing well, which also helps.

UNLV's 11-point loss to Southern Cal puts the Rebels squarely on the bubble.  Vegas' wins over Southern Illinois, Louisville, and Arizona aren't as impressive as they once seemed.

Despite some pretty poor computer numbers (RPI 97, SOS 304), Wichita State sneaks into the field on the strength of its win over Texas Tech and the fact that its only loss is to Pitt.

I still have Harvard in my field after the Crimson lost to Georgetown, but that probably won't remain for long.  The Ivy League school would have to go 16-1 and split the two games with Cornell to finish out the season in order to have any shot at an at-large, and since that would probably earn Harvard an automatic bid, there's really no chance it gets an at-large.

 

Automatic Bids

13 seeds: Western Carolina, Siena, Buffalo, Western Kentucky

14 seeds: IUPUI, Nevada, Northern Colorado, Murray State

15 seeds: Pacific, Morgan State, Coastal Carolina, Army

16 seeds: Sacred Heart, UTSA, Vermont, Belmont, Texas Southern

 

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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