Projecting the March Madness Field of 65: Feb. 1

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Projecting the March Madness Field of 65: Feb. 1

As we flip the calendar to February, the bubble is the weakest it's been all season.  There are about 30 teams fighting for the last eight or nine spots, and none of these squads are very good.  It kind of makes all that talk about expanding the tournament seem rather ridiculous.

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 (3 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister: Georgia Tech (6), Wake Forest (7)

Wallflowers: Florida State (9), Clemson (9), Virginia Tech (11), North Carolina (11), Maryland (12), Virginia (12)

Nine teams from the ACC seems like a lot, especially since this has been a relatively down year for the conference, but chances are the league won't get that many bids into the Big Dance come Selection Sunday.

Four schools are squarely on the bubble, led by the defending National Champion Tar Heels.  UNC has lost four of five, including an unheard of three-game slide at the Dean Dome.  Carolina has dropped to 73rd in the RPI and ninth in the ACC at 2-4.  The Heels are clinging to a spot thanks to strong non-conference wins over Ohio State and Michigan State.

Virginia enters the field for the first time all season.  The Cavs just won in Chapel Hill and also hold victories over UAB and Georgia Tech.  Their early-season loss at South Florida isn't as bad anymore with the Bulls' recent run and the Wahoos are just a half-game out of first place.

 

Big East

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Pittsburgh (7)

Wallflowers: Connecticut (10), Marquette (first out), Louisville (12th out), Cincinnati (14th out), Providence (15th out), South Florida (17th out), Seton Hall (18th out)

After a beat down of G'town, the Orange had a letdown at DePaul but were able to avoid a terrible loss to remain on the top line along with Villanova.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has been on quite a slide since completing an eight-game winning streak on Jan. 16.  The Panthers have dropped three of four, including an embarrassing nine-point defeat at USF.

UConn, like UNC, is another big name school on the bubble.  The Huskies have lost back-to-back games to Providence and Marquette and are now just 3-5 in conference.  The positives for Connecticut, however, are that its RPI remains respectable at 44 thanks to the strongest schedule in the country, and that recent 14-point win over Texas is still fresh in the minds of many.

South Florida usually doesn't get a lot of love in my projections, but the Bulls have won three straight over Providence, Seton Hall, and Pitt, climbing to 4-5 in conference and 54th in the RPI.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, has been removed from consideration after handing Rutgers its first league victory.

 

Big Ten

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

Dancing with Their Sisters:  Ohio State (6)

Wallflowers: Illinois (12), Minnesota (19th out), Northwestern (20th out)

Illinois is my last team in, but things are about to get mighty tough for the Illini as their Big Ten schedule turns from easy to difficult.  Four wins over bottom feeders Penn State and Indiana have helped boost Illinois' conference record to 6-3, but after a game at Iowa on Wednesday, the Illini square off against Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Purdue.

Northwestern falls from the field following losses at Minnesota and Michigan State.

 

Big XII

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Baylor (4), Missouri (7), Oklahoma State (8)

Wallflowers:  Texas A&M (9), Texas Tech (fourth out)

A No. 1 ranking was the kiss of death for Texas, which lost three of four after reaching that plateau for the first time in school history.  Baylor was the most recent team to defeat the Longhorns, scoring an 80-77 overtime win in Austin.  The Bears are 3-2 vs. the top 50 and 6-3 away from home.

Missouri extended its home winning streak to 31 on Saturday with a victory over Oklahoma State.  The Tigers have also beaten Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Old Dominion.

The Red Raiders' recent losses at Texas and A&M dropped them to 0-7 against the top 50.

 

Pac-10

Wallflowers: California (10), Arizona (third out), Washington (sixth out), Arizona State (21st out)

Arizona is the latest Pac-10 team to make a run at a second bid from the conference.  The Wildcats have won four straight, including a Jan. 31 victory over Cal, are up to 53rd in the RPI with the ninth most difficult strength of schedule, and are 6-3 in league play.

 

SEC

Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (1), Tennessee (4), Vanderbilt (4)

Wallflowers: Mississippi (10), Florida (11), Mississippi State (8th out), South Carolina (16th out)

The biggest news in the SEC was South Carolina handing top-ranked Kentucky its first loss of the season.  The win pulled the Gamecocks within striking distance of a bid.

Arkansas swept the Mississippi schools this past week.  The damage was the worst for the Bulldogs, which have now lost to three teams ranked below 100 in the RPI. 

 

Mid-Majors

Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (3)

Dancing with Their Sister: BYU (5), Temple (5), Butler (5), Xavier (5), Rhode Island (6), Northern Iowa (6), Gonzaga (7), UAB (8), Cornell (8), UNLV (8)

Wallflowers: Charlotte (9), Dayton (10), Saint Mary's (11), Siena (12), San Diego State (second out), UTEP (fifth out), Richmond (seventh out), Northeastern (ninth out), VCU (10th out), Old Dominion (11th out), Wichita State (13th out)

BYU had a chance to pick up its first real big win of the season last Wednesday, but the Cougars came up just short at The Pit.  Brigham Young's loss was New Mexico's gain, as the Lobos are now 11th in the RPI and 5-2 vs. the top 50.  They're even 7-2 away from home.

The Atlantic 10 added another team to the field when Charlotte knocked off Temple, 74-64.  The red hot 49ers have won five straight and hold victories at Louisville and Richmond.  They have no bad losses and are 8-4 in road/neutral bouts.

Rhode Island also had a good week, picking up a one-point win at Dayton before taking down George Washington.  The Rams are 12th in the RPI, 7-2 on the road and have no bad losses.

Gonzaga's mind-boggling loss at No. 237 San Francisco dropped the Zags a few seeds.

The much-anticipated Ivy League showdown between Cornell and Harvard didn't turn out to be much of a game after all.  The Big Red crushed the Crimson in Ithaca by 36 and it appears there's absolutely no chance of the smartest conference in the country getting multiple bids.

The automatic bid in the Colonial Athletic Association now belongs to 10-1 George Mason.  The CAA is just a one-bid league this week as Northeastern fell at home to Drexel, ODU lost to the Huskies, and William & Mary was beaten at James Madison.

 

Automatic Bids

13 seeds: Utah State, Oakland, Kent State, Sam Houston State

14 seeds: Murray State, College of Charleston, Pacific, George Mason

15 seeds: Weber State, Jacksonville, Morgan State, Arkansas State

16 seeds: Coastal Carolina, Stony Brook, Robert Morris, Lehigh, 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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