Projecting the Field of 65: Jan. 4

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Projecting the Field of 65: Jan. 4
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The holidays are over and conference play has begun.  The best of those conferences— the Big East—lost two of its undefeateds this past week, when Syracuse fell at home to Pittsburgh and West Virginia was beaten by Purdue.

That leaves us with just four perfect teams as we begin 2010 and predictably, those are my four top seeds in my fifth 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 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), Wake Forest (4)

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

Wallflowers: Virginia Tech (10), Clemson (12), Miami (10th out), North Carolina State (14th out), Maryland (17th out)

Wake Forest had a strong week, beating two A-10 bubble teams in Richmond and Xavier.  The Demon Deacons' only two losses are to teams ranked in the top 5 of the RPI (William & Mary, Purdue).

Virginia Tech jumped into the field with a win over Seton Hall in Cancun, Mexico. It was the Hokies' first top-100 victory, but they've now won nine straight and their only loss is to Temple in Philadelphia.

Big East

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Connecticut (5), Pittsburgh (8), Cincinnati (8)

Wallflowers: St. John's (9), Seton Hall (12), Louisville (12th out)

Syracuse drops off the top line following a disappointing 82-72 loss to Pitt at the Carrier Dome. The Orange controlled the early going until the Panthers began dominating from beyond the arc, finishing with a 10 to 1 advantage in three-pointers. SU sharpshooter Andy Rautins was just 1-of-6 from long range before sitting most of the second half.  The refs didn't do the 'Cuse any favors, either, as the Orange was whistled for 25 fouls.  The win gets Pitt off the bubble for now.

UConn was tripped up in its Big East opener at Cincinnati. The Bearcats' freshman Lance Stephenson drilled two free throws after a controversial foul with less than a second left to win the game. The victory moves Cincy into the field.

Georgetown has won three in a row since its first loss to Old Dominion. The Hoyas are 2-0 in conference, including a nice win over RPI No. 51 St. John's.

Speaking of the Red Storm, they opened league play with back-to-back losses to Georgetown and Providence, but remain in the field thanks to the strength of wins over Temple and Siena.

Seton Hall keeps losing close games to tournament teams. First, the Pirates squandered a 12-point lead to Syracuse, and then followed it up with an overtime loss to Va Tech.  The Hall has also lost in OT to West Virginia and by six to Temple. A 10-point win at Cornell and the absence of a bad loss keeps SHU in my field, but the Pirates really need to find a second scorer behind Jeremy Hazell (23.3 ppg).

Big Ten

Dancing with a Hottie: Purdue (1), Wisconsin (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Michigan State (5)

Wallflowers: Ohio State (9), Minnesota (11th out), Northwestern (13th out)

Ohio State, which started the season 7-1, has dropped three of six since losing junior Evan Turner and his 18.5 points per game to an injury. The carnage continued this past week, with the Buckeyes falling at Wisconsin and Michigan.

Northwestern has plummeted from an 8 seed right out of the field following losses to Illinois and Michigan State.

Big XII

Dancing with a Hottie: Texas (1), Kansas (1), Kansas State (3)

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

Wallflowers: Missouri (11), Baylor (first out), Oklahoma State (fifth out)

Things haven't been going so well for Texas Tech since it began the season 9-0. The Red Raiders have lost at Wichita State and New Mexico, and struggled to get past 2-8 McNeese State on New Year's Day.

Missouri has found its way into the field with a six-game winning streak. The Tigers are 4-2 vs. the top 100 and only have one bad loss by one point at Oral Roberts.

Oklahoma State has been just outside the Top 25 in the polls all season, but for no reason. The Cowboys have no significant wins and recently lost to Rhode Island.

Pac-10

Dancing with Their Sister: Washington (6)

Wallflowers: California (10), Washington State (15th out)

Just when the Pac-10 was staring to turn things around, the conference put together another terrible week on and off the court. First, Washington lost by 11 at home to No. 100 Oregon. Then came the announcement that USC had banned itself from postseason play as a result of rules violations relating to former player O.J. Mayo.

Not only is this a shame for the current Trojans team, which had been playing well lately and had nothing to do with these issues, but, selfishly, it also hurts my chances of winning my season-long college basketball pool in which USC is one of my 11 teams.

SEC

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Mississippi State (7), Florida (8)

Wallflowers: Tennessee (9), Vanderbilt (10)

Florida needed a three-quarter court buzzer beater to sneak past NC State, but that road non-conference win may loom large come Selection Sunday.

Tennessee picked up a nice win at Memphis on New Year's Eve, but the overrated Vols still don't have a top-90 victory and recently had four players arrested on drug, alcohol and gun charges.

Vandy's RPI has improved to 45 thanks to a four-game winning streak and one of the teams it lost to (Cincy) beating UConn. 

South Carolina has been removed from consideration following consecutive defeats to Boston College and Baylor.

Mid-Majors

Dancing with a Hottie: Gonzaga (4), New Mexico (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Temple (5), Dayton (6), William & Mary (6), VCU (7), Butler (7)

Wallflowers: Cornell (9), Rhode Island (10), Richmond (11), Northern Iowa (11), UNLV (11), Harvard (12), UAB (12), Missouri State (2nd out), St. Mary's (third out), Tulsa (fourth out), Old Dominion (sixth out), Xavier (seventh out), BYU (eighth out), San Diego State (ninth out), Wichita State (16th out)

Gonzaga's RPI is up to 20 after picking up okay wins over Oklahoma and Illinois. The Bulldogs' strength of schedule is 14th and they don't have any bad losses.

Temple got embarrassed at home, 84-52, by top-ranked Kansas. The Owls still have five top-100 wins, including a huge one over Villanova.

New Mexico nipped Dayton, 68-66, in a Jan. 1 clash of heavyweight mid-majors.

RPI No. 2 William & Mary picked up its fifth top-100 win and ninth in a row overall by winning at Maryland, 83-77, on Dec. 30. The Tribe followed that up with another victory at Hofstra.

Rhode Island leaps into the field with a win over Oklahoma State. The Rams have reeled off seven straight and are ranked eighth in the RPI.

Northern Iowa takes possession of the Missouri Valley automatic bid by beating Missouri State, 84-76, on Sunday.

The momentum UAB earned by beating Cincinnati and Butler came to an end with a loss at Virginia. The Blazers are only in my field at this point thanks to the automatic bid from Conference USA.

Tulsa's win over Oklahoma State doesn't look as strong anymore. That, combined with recent losses to Nebraska and Nevada, has the Hurricane on the outside looking in.

Old Dominion slips out with a 16-point loss at George Mason, as does Wichita State with its defeat at Illinois State.

Automatic Bids

13 seeds: Western Carolina, Siena, Oakland, Western Michigan

14 seeds: Northern Colorado, Murray State, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech

15 seeds: Pacific, Radford, Morgan State, UTSA

16 seeds: East Tennessee State, Vermont, Army, Sacred Heart, Texas Southern

Check out Brad Wachtel's projections at Facts & Bracks.

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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