Projecting the March Madness Field of 65: Feb. 22

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Projecting the March Madness Field of 65: Feb. 22

The Bracketbuster games separated the haves from the have nots among mid-major teams, and now with just 20 days left until Selection Sunday, the big boys will attempt to impress the committee in their final four regular season contests before conference tournaments begin.

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: Wake Forest (5), Maryland (7), Clemson (8)

Wallflowers: Georgia Tech (9), Virginia Tech (9), Florida State (10)

Wake Forest had a rough week on the road, losing at Virginia Tech and North Carolina State to drop a couple seed lines. The Demon Deacons are 5-5 against the RPI's top 50, though, so they should be alright as long as they don't lose their last four games, including their ACC Tournament opener.

Maryland is heating up thanks to a pair of buzzer beaters against Georgia Tech on Saturday (the first one was negated by a time out). The Terps have now won three straight and are 9-3 in league play.

 

Big East

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

Wallflowers: Marquette (12), Louisville (12), Cincinnati (third out), Connecticut (seventh out)

Villanova dropped from the top line after losing to UConn and Pitt. The Wildcats will hope to bounce back by Saturday night, when the Big East regular season championship will probably be on the line in front of a record crowd at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

The Panthers, meanwhile, had a tremendous week, winning at Marquette before surviving a battle with 'Nova. Pittsburgh has won five in a row and is 13-5 against the top 100.

Marquette won a classic bubble game in overtime at Cincinnati on Sunday. The victory keeps the Eagles in and knocks the Bearcats out, but they'll have plenty of chances to regain their at-large spot as Cincy's final three games are against West Virginia, Villanova, and Georgetown.

Left for dead, Connecticut shocked the country by winning at Villanova on Big Monday. The Huskies (16-11, 6-8) needed that victory to back up their other signature 'W' over Texas back on Jan. 23. But UConn's work isn't done yet. Jim Calhoun's bunch will have to win three of the next five to have a shot at a bid, and they can start by beating West Virginia Monday night.

 

Big Ten

Dancing with a Hottie: Purdue (1), Ohio State (3), Michigan State (4), Wisconsin (5)

Dancing with Their Sister: Illinois (7)

Wallflowers: Minnesota (eighth out)

With Villanova losing its last two contests, Purdue narrowly beats out Duke to snag the final No. 1 seed. The Boilermakers have won nine consecutive games, are 6-2 against the top 50, 10-3 against the top 100, and unlike Duke, do not have a sub-100 loss.

Minnesota put its name back in the bubble discussion by pounding Wisconsin, 68-52, on Thursday. The Gophers' RPI is still low at 76, so they'll need to win at least three of their last four regular season games.

 

Big XII

Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1), Kansas State (2), Texas A&M (4), Texas (5)

Dancing with Their Sister: Baylor (6), Missouri (7)

Wallflowers: Oklahoma State (10)

Missouri downed Texas and Nebraska last week to run its streak to four out of five. The Tigers are 5-5 against the top 50 and currently stand tied for third in the Big XII at 8-4.

Oklahoma State got itself back in the field by besting Baylor on Saturday, 82-75. The Cowboys have won three in a row but have a brutal stretch coming up against Texas, Kansas, and Texas A&M. Win two of those and they're golden.

Texas Tech removed itself from consideration after the Red Raiders' third consecutive loss dropped them to 4-8 in conference.

 

Pac-10

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

Washington is no longer in the picture after falling at home to USC, but Arizona State continues to sneak up the pecking order with its third straight win. The Sun Devils are 57th in the RPI, 1-4 against the top 50, and 4-7 against the top 100. Their best victory is over fellow Wallflower, San Diego State.

 

SEC

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

Wallflowers: Florida (11), Mississippi State (13), Mississippi (fourth out)

Florida's 64-61 win at Ole Miss got the Gators back in, while also knocking the Rebels out of the field. Mississippi is 5-7 in conference but has four very winnable games against Auburn, Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas to conclude the regular season. If the Rebels go undefeated in those contests and then win their SEC Tournament opener, they'll have a shot.

Mississippi State is hanging by a thread to my final at-large spot, thanks in large part to a spirited effort in the Bulldogs' 81-75 loss to Kentucky. Miss State may also have to win out, though, because it has just one victory over a top 50 school, and that came all the way back on Nov. 28 against Old Dominion.

 

Atlantic 10

Dancing with Their Sister: Temple (6), Xavier (6), Richmond (7)

Wallflowers: Rhode Island (9), Dayton (9), Charlotte (12), Saint Louis (ninth out)

Three A-10 teams are playing themselves into hot water in late February. Rhode Island lost at St. Louis, Dayton came up short in a nail biter at Duquesne, and Charlotte got beat by the Dukes and Xavier.

The Bilikens, meanwhile, are surprisingly moving up the ranks. They've won six straight over the likes of Dayton and Rhode Island to move into fourth place in conference at 9-3. They'll have to do a lot more, though, to overcome an 82 RPI and three sub-100 losses to Iowa State, Bowling Green, and George Washington.

 

Mountain West

Dancing with a Hottie: New Mexico (2)

Dancing with Their Sisters: BYU (6)

Wallflowers: UNLV (11), San Diego State (11)

UNLV's loss at Utah puts the Rebels in dangerous territory. They'll have to win out to finish 11-5 in conference and feel safe come Selection Sunday.

San Diego State continues to play well down the stretch, running its win streak to four and climbing to 38th in the RPI. The Aztecs have an enormous game at BYU on Wednesday that would go a long way toward clinching a bid.

 

Other Conferences

Dancing with Their Sister: Butler (5), Northern Iowa (8), Gonzaga (8), UTEP (8)

Wallflowers: Old Dominion (10), Utah State (11), Cornell (12), Saint Mary's (second out), Memphis (sixth out), VCU (10th out)

Siena missed its last chance to possibly grab an at-large spot when it was blown out at Butler, 70-53. Kudos to the Saints for scheduling some tough competition, but they whiffed on all four opportunities against top 50 teams and must now win the MAAC Tournament to earn a bid.

Northern Iowa, on the other hand, benefited from its Bracketbuster game with a nine-point win over Old Dominion, and at 17th in the RPI, the Panthers are close to locking up a bid.

Utah State also played well in its late-season non-conference showdown. The Aggies beat Wichita State by 10 for their 12th consecutive win. They've also beaten BYU but have lost to Saint Mary's.

 

Automatic Bids

13 seeds: Siena, Kent State, Murray State

14 seeds: Oakland, Weber State, Sam Houston State, Wofford

15 seeds: Jacksonville, Coastal Carolina, Morgan State, UCSB

16 seeds: Stony Brook, Robert Morris, Lehigh, North Texas, 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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