Projecting the March Madness Field of 65: Feb. 8

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Projecting the March Madness Field of 65: Feb. 8

The NFL season is over and baseball is still seven weeks away, so for the next two months, the country should be completely focused on college basketball and the countdown to the greatest day of the year, which currently stands at 34 days.

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), Wake Forest (4)

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

Wallflowers: Florida State (9), Clemson (10), Virginia Tech (12), Virginia (fifth out), North Carolina (14th out)

Wake Forest had a solid week, defeating Miami by nine before edging Virginia on the road to improve to 6-3 in conference and 8-5 vs. the top 100.

Maryland, meanwhile, is tied for first place in the loss column after beating Florida State and North Carolina. The Terps have won six of seven and their computer numbers (RPI 44, SOS 35) appear to be those of an NCAA Tournament team.

UVA and UNC both dropped from the field this past week, when the Cavs lost at home to Wake and the Heels were defeated in consecutive games at Va Tech and Maryland. The defending champs have lost six of seven to sap almost all of the drama out of the rivalry game against Duke on Wednesday.

Big East

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Pittsburgh (7)

Wallflowers: Marquette (first out), Notre Dame (fourth out), Louisville (ninth out), Cincinnati (10th out), South Florida (11th out), Connecticut (12th out)

Villanova was tripped up for the first time in conference play at Georgetown, but the Wildcats remain a top seed thanks to their No. 5 RPI and 5-2 mark vs. the top 50.

Could the Big East get just five teams in the Big Dance? There's a lot of strength up top, but struggles by UConn and Louisville have hurt the league's depth.

Marquette has won four straight, but with just three top-100 victories, the Eagles remain my first team out.

Notre Dame also had a good week, beating Cincinnati and South Florida at home, but the Irish will have to do a little more if they want to make up for losses to Loyola-Marymount and Rutgers.

Louisville is another team on the upswing, but the Cardinals are still only 1-6 vs. the top 50 and 1-5 on the road.

Cincinnati blew a great chance to jump into the field when the Bearcats surrendered a second-half lead to Syracuse and ended up losing by 17.

South Florida also missed a great opportunity on Sunday, when the Bulls lost by three in South Bend. A fifth consecutive victory probably would've put USF in the field.

And then there's Connecticut, which dropped out after falling at Louisville for its third straight loss. UConn bounced back against DePaul, but the Huskies will have to beat the Orange on Wednesday to return to the field.

Big Ten

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

Wallflowers: Illinois (11), Minnesota (17th out), Northwestern (18th out)

With Evan Turner back, Ohio State has reeled off four in a row and seven of eight. The Buckeyes are just 2-5 on the road, though, and will be tested this week at Indiana and Illinois.

The Illini scored a major win over Michigan State on Saturday night, benefiting from the absence of the Spartans' Kalin Lucas. Illinois has won four straight and is in second place in the conference at 8-3.

Big XII

Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1), Kansas State (2), Texas (4)

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

Wallflowers: Missouri (10), Texas Tech (11), Oklahoma State (12)

Texas A&M snapped Missouri's 32-game home winning streak on Wednesday before scoring another big victory over Baylor on Saturday. The Aggies have four top-50 wins and are 20th in the RPI with the 13th toughest schedule in the country.

In its eighth attempt, Texas Tech finally picked up a top-50 win when it beat Oklahoma State on Saturday. The loss dropped the Cowboys to very dangerous territory because it was their third in a row.

Pac-10

Wallflowers: California (11), Washington (second out), Arizona State (19th out), Arizona (20th out)

The Pac-10 is 9-33 against the RPI top 50 and four of those wins belong to USC, which is banned from postseason competition.

Cal lost at the Trojans this past week, but the Bears remain in first place, earning the conference's only bid at the moment.  There's a five-way tie for second, but the Arizona schools have little chance of securing an at-large nod.

Washington, however, is creeping back toward respectability with four consecutive wins and an RPI of 55.

SEC

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

Dancing with Their Sister: Vanderbilt (5)

Wallflowers: Mississippi (10), Florida (11), Mississippi State (15th out), South Carolina (16th out)

Vanderbilt drops a seed line after getting tripped up by 14 points at No. 91 Georgia.

Mississippi State is in the midst of a nose dive, falling at Vandy and Florida this past week to push its current slide to four of five. The Bulldogs haven't won a road contest in a month and are down to 69th in the RPI.

Atlantic 10

Dancing with Their Sister: Rhode Island (5), Temple (6), Xavier (7), Richmond (8), Dayton (8)

Wallflowers: Charlotte (9)

Could the A-10 get more bids than the Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC? It's certainly possible with six teams playing so well right now that pretty much all of them would garner a bid if Selection Sunday was today.

Rhode Island has won four in a row and is currently 13th in the RPI, Charlotte has reeled off seven straight to take sole possession of first place, and Dayton got a much-needed victory over Xavier on Saturday, crushing the Musketeers by 25.

But the biggest game this past week took place in Richmond.  The hometown Spiders have been flirting with an at-large bid all season, but finally secured a spot by blowing out Temple, 71-54.  It was Richmond's fourth top-50 win, adding to victories over Missouri (neutral), Old Dominion (home) and Florida (virtual road game in Sunrise, Fla.)

Mountain West

Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (3)

Dancing with Their Sisters: BYU (6), UNLV (8)

Wallflowers: San Diego State (eighth out)

There's a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West, but New Mexico (seven straight wins) and UNLV (five straight wins) are clearly the two hottest teams in the league. The odd man out is BYU, which was crushed, 88-74, in Vegas on Saturday, marking the Cougars' second loss in four games after beginning the season with a bloated 19-1 record vs. D-I opponents.

San Diego State, meanwhile, missed a golden opportunity to earn a bid, when the Aztecs lost by two in overtime at UNM. SDSU falls to 1-4 vs. the top 50 and 3-5 against the top 100.

Other Conferences

Dancing with Their Sister: Butler (5), Northern Iowa (6), Gonzaga (7)

Wallflowers: Cornell (9), UAB (9), Saint Mary's (10), Siena (12), UTEP (12), Northeastern (13), VCU (third out), Old Dominion (sixth out), Wichita State (seventh out)

UAB's loss at Memphis puts the Blazers in a dangerous spot with seven regular season games remaining. Birmingham has lost its Conference USA lead to UTEP and may not have an opportunity to improve on its unimpressive 1-0 record against top 50 teams. UAB will probably have to play perfect basketball from here on in to get in the Tournament.

Virginia Commonwealth picked up a big win over ODU on Saturday to pull within one game of the second-place Monarchs and two games of first-place Northeastern. Remember, VCU is 3-0 vs. the top 50 with victories over Rhode Island, Richmond, and Old Dominion.

Automatic Bids

13 seeds: Utah State, Oakland, Kent State

14 seeds: Murray State, College of Charleston, Weber State, Sam Houston State

15 seeds: Pacific, Coastal Carolina, Morgan State, Stony Brook

16 seeds: Arkansas State, Robert Morris, Lehigh, Lipscomb, 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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