Projecting the March Madness Field of 65 (Jan. 18)

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Projecting the March Madness Field of 65 (Jan. 18)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As we hit Martin Luther King Day, the pecking order in the league standings are beginning to take shape.  Here are my latest projections for 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 resumes.

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: Duke (2 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister: Clemson (5), Wake Forest (5), North Carolina (6), Georgia Tech (7)

Wallflowers: Florida State (11), Virginia Tech (12), Maryland (12), Miami (seventh out)

Clemson rises three seeds after beating North Carolina for the first time in six years and then following that win with another victory at NC State.  The Tigers have also beaten Butler and are 4-1 on the road.

The defending champion Tar Heels, on the other hand, are 0-4 away from the Dean Dome and can't seem to beat anyone these days. 

UNC has dropped three of four, the most recent of which came at home to Georgia Tech.  The Yellow Jackets blew a 20-point lead in that game, but pulled out the victory after losing at Virginia.

Florida State is clinging to one of the final at-large spots after suffering a bad home loss to the Wolfpack.  The Seminoles were able to stay in the field, however, by holding off Virginia Tech in their next game.

That loss put the Hokies in an even more precarious spot, but since all three of their losses are away from home against tournament-worthy teams, Virginia Tech remains in the field.

Maryland is in a similar situation.  The Terps are my second-to-last team in because all five of their defeats have come vs. top-50 schools.  Garry Williams' bunch only has one top-100 win, though, so they better win their next three against Longwood, NC State, and Miami.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they drop out of the field with back-to-back losses at the Virginia schools.

 

Big East

Dancing with a Hottie: Villanova (1), Syracuse (1), Pittsburgh (2), Georgetown (3), West Virginia (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Connecticut (8)

Wallflowers: Marquette (11), St. John's (third out), Cincinnati (fourth out), Notre Dame (fifth out), Louisville (10th out)

The Orange returns to the top line after a huge win in Morgantown.  SU is joined there by Villanova, which beat Georgetown this past week for its fourth top-50 victory.

Pittsburgh may finally start getting the respect it deserves.  I have the so-called "rebuilding" Panthers as a No. 2 seed after they won three straight road conference games over Syracuse, Cincinnati and Connecticut, and then returned home to beat Louisville.  

The Big East co-leaders have won eight in a row, are ranked seventh in the RPI and are just a befuddling loss to Indiana on Dec. 8 away from being a top seed.

UConn, meanwhile, still has William & Mary as its best win on the season.  The Huskies are 1-5 vs. the top 50 and 0-3 on the road, including their most recent loss at Michigan.

Marquette finds its way back in the field after a 30-point thrashing of RPI No. 81 Providence.  The Golden Eagles were also helped out by two of the teams they've beaten picking up big wins (Xavier def. Dayton, Michigan def. UConn).

This past week wasn't as good for other Big East bubble teams.  Cincinnati beat Notre Dame, but lost by two at St. John's, and Louisville whiffed on two big chances to pick up a quality win with losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh.

 

Big Ten

Dancing with a Hottie: Michigan State (2), Wisconsin (3), Purdue (4)

Dancing with Their Sisters:  Ohio State (5)

Wallflowers: Northwestern (11)

Purdue has dropped three consecutive games since starting the season 14-0.  One of those defeats was at the hands of Ohio State, which made the biggest move upwards in my projections by also beating Wisconsin. 

The Buckeyes are a completely different team with Evan Turner on the floor, and they should be judged come selection time by what they've done with him in the lineup.

Northwestern is back in the field after cashing in on one of its two big opportunities at home.  The Wildcats lost to Wisconsin, but beat Purdue.

Minnesota has been removed from consideration after losing at Indiana for its third defeat in four games.

 

Big XII

Dancing with a Hottie: Texas (1), Kansas (2), Kansas State (3)

Dancing with Their Sister: Texas A&M (7)

Wallflowers: Baylor (9), Missouri (9), Oklahoma State (eighth out), Texas Tech (12th out)

It wasn't a good week for the middle of the pack in the Big XII.  Texas A&M was crushed at Kansas State and then missed a golden opportunity to knock off top-ranked Texas on the road.

Missouri, meanwhile, beat Texas Tech, but lost at Oklahoma.  That was one of three consecutive losses for the Red Raiders, which have fallen from the field because they have just one top-100 victory.

Baylor lost at Colorado, but beat Oklahoma State, which is no longer dancing thanks to back-to-back losses.

 

Pac-10

Dancing with Their Sister: Washington (8)

Wallflowers: Arizona State (10), California (sixth out)

Washington beat Cal to knock the Bears from the field.  Despite a 27 RPI, California doesn't have a top-50 win.

But the good news for the Pac-10 is that Arizona State is playing better.  The Sun Devils have won four straight and their only bad loss was a two-point defeat at UCLA on Dec. 31.

 

SEC

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Mississippi (6), Mississippi State (6), Vanderbilt (6)

Wallflowers: Florida (12)

Florida is one of my last teams in.  The Gators' only bad loss is by one point to South Alabama and they still have those two big non-conference victories over Michigan State and Florida State.

 

Mid-Majors

Dancing with a Hottie: Temple (4), Gonzaga (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: New Mexico (5), Dayton (7), BYU (7), Northern Iowa (8), William & Mary (8)

Wallflowers: UAB (9), Cornell (9), Rhode Island (10), Xavier (10), Butler (10), Siena (11), Richmond (12), UNLV (13), VCU (first out), Harvard (second out), St. Mary's (ninth out), Old Dominion (11th out), Wichita State (13th out), Tulsa (14th out)

The Atlantic 10 is the sixth rated conference in the country and with five teams ranked in the top 31 of the RPI, the league should be well-represented come March.  Xavier gets in the field by beating Charlotte and Dayton, while Richmond, Rhode Island, and Temple went a combined 6-0 this past week.

UNLV falls to my last team in after a bad home loss to No. 127 Utah.  The Rebels are still 3-2 vs. the top 50 and 6-3 against the top 100.

 

Automatic Bids

13 seeds: Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, Buffalo

14 seeds: Oakland, Murray State, College of Charleston, Weber State

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

16 seeds: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Quinnipiac, Campbell, Lafayette, Jackson State

 

See how my projections (BR-JS) and Brad Wachtel's (F&B) compare to others in the Bracket Project .

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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