2011 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: December 8
There are 19 undefeated teams left in college basketball and seven of them play in the Big East. So it's no surprise that the conference is loaded with schools in my second 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:
1.) "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.
2.) Elite teams are safely in the field—"Dancing with a Hottie."
3.) In the middle are the schools that are "Dancing with Their Sister."
Last year, I placed 22nd out of 83 bracketologists across the country in my final projections, ahead of Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Yahoo!, Rivals.com and the two other guys from Bleacher Report.
Which of my 2 seeds most deserves to be a 1 seed?
The tournament will be expanding from 65 to 68 teams for the first time this year, and while that is completely ridiculous, at least it's not 96 teams. Because of this, I'll begin my projections this season with my two First Four at-large matchups. The two First Four automatic bid games will be listed at the bottom of this article.
(12a) Texas A&M vs. (12b) Temple
(13a) Butler vs. (13b) Maryland
First two out: Xavier, VCU
ACC (seven teams)
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (1 seed)
Dancing with Their Sister: North Carolina (6)
Wallflowers: Florida State (9), North Carolina State (10), Miami (11), Boston College (12), Maryland (13b)
The Tar Heels finally got the big win they needed to get themselves going in the right direction, outlasting Kentucky in a tightly-contested battle at the Dean Dome on Saturday.
Miami began the season with thoughts on finishing near the top in the ACC, but was quickly derailed with a 16-point loss at lowly Rutgers. The Hurricanes bounced back on Saturday, however, when they defeated West Virginia to climb into the field.
Boston College also suffered an early setback at home against Yale, but has looked good since then, beating Texas A&M, California, Indiana and UMass to climb to 19th in the RPI.
Maryland drops to the last team in after falling to Temple at the BB&T Classic in Washington. The RPI is down to 72 and the Terps' best win is over Penn State.
Virginia Tech is off the board thanks to its current downward spiral that concluded with a home loss to Virginia in the ACC opener. The 4-4 Hokies have dropped three straight.
Big East (10)
Dancing with a Hottie: Pittsburgh (1), Syracuse (2), Georgetown (2), Connecticut (2), Villanova (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Notre Dame (5), Louisville (6), West Virginia (8)
Wallflowers: Marquette (10), Cincinnati (11)
After playing its worst game of the season in a narrow victory over NC State, the struggling yet undefeated Orange put forth their best effort of the year on Wednesday night, leading nearly the entire game in a convincing win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. Rick Jackson, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds, is becoming quite the beast, and SU is no longer overrated.
Notre Dame is 8-0 with wins over Georgia, Cal and Wisconsin, but we'll find out exactly how good the Irish are when they square off with Kentucky and Gonzaga this week.
St. John's was about to climb into the field behind the strength of its 5-1 start and No. 25 RPI, but the Red Storm went and lost at home to St. Bonaventure to fall to 59th.
Big Ten (7)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Michigan State (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Wisconsin (6), Illinois (7), Purdue (7), Minnesota (8), Northwestern (8)
Wisconsin moved up in the pecking order with a dominating 39-point win over North Carolina State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That victory looked even more impressive when the Wolfpack took Syracuse to the limit before finally succumbing on Saturday.
Purdue picked up its first significant victory of the season when it won at Virginia Tech last Wednesday, and Indiana's brief stay in my field came to an expected end when the Hoosiers lost by 12 at Boston College.
Big 12 (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (2), Baylor (3), Missouri (3), Kansas State (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Texas (8)
Wallflowers: Texas A&M (12a)
Texas suffered a bad loss at USC in the Big XII/Pac 10 Hardwood Classic on Sunday. The Longhorns have two cupcakes coming up before challenging themselves with trips to Chapel Hill and the Izzone.
Iowa State's brief flirtation with the field disappeared with back-to-back losses to Northern Iowa and California.
Dancing with Their Sister: Washington (7)
Wallflowers: Arizona (9), California (12)
Arizona's 7-1 record has them 79th in the RPI, but with no wins over the top 150, the Wildcats could use a big victory at BYU on Saturday.
Cal's wins over Temple and New Mexico are good; but, its double-digit losses to Notre Dame and Boston College are not. The Bears host San Diego State on Wednesday night in a game that should loom large come Selection Sunday. Welcome to college basketball: the college sport where every regular season game really does matter.
UCLA's losses to Villanova, VCU and Kansas were acceptable. Its nine-point defeat at home to Montana was not. The Bruins are off the board.
Dancing with a Hottie: Tennessee (1)
Dancing with Their Sister: Florida (5), Kentucky (6), Vanderbilt (7)
Florida's three-point loss at UCF last Wednesday dropped the Gators a level, but their computer numbers are still excellent (RPI 10, SOS 3).
Kentucky has lost two of its last three to UConn and North Carolina, but the Wildcats will have a chance to right the ship Wednesday night as they face Notre Dame in Louisville.
Other Conferences (14)
Dancing with a Hottie: Memphis (4), San Diego State (4), UNLV (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: BYU (5), UCF (5)
Wallflowers: Cleveland State (9), Wichita State (9), Saint Mary's (10), Gonzaga (10), Utah State (11), Old Dominion (11), Richmond (12), Temple (12b), Butler (13a), Xavier (first team out), VCU (second team out)
San Diego State continues to build its resume with consecutive wins this past week over Saint Mary's and Wichita State. The Aztecs, who are 7-0 and ranked ninth in the RPI, have also won at Gonzaga and travel to Cal on Wednesday night.
UCF made a major splash this past week by beating Florida. The 6-0 Knights have also defeated South Florida and are ranked 12th in the RPI. They have two other big non-conference games upcoming versus Miami and at UMass before beginning their Conference USA schedule, which includes two meetings with Memphis.
With Butler's struggles, Cleveland State has a real shot to win the Horizon. The Vikings are 9-0 with four top 50 wins, which have helped them climb to 16th in the RPI. They play at West Virginia on Dec. 18.
Gonzaga suffered its third loss of the season on Saturday, when it fell at home to Illinois. The Bulldogs are 141st in the RPI, but will have plenty of opportunities to turn things around with road dates at Washington State, Notre Dame and Baylor, and home contests against Xavier and Oklahoma State coming up this month. Don't you wish every college coach scheduled like Mark Few?
Utah State has failed to impress in either of its big non-conference games, losing at BYU last month and then getting blown out at Georgetown on Saturday. With not much left on its schedule, the Aggies will have a difficult time earning an at-large.
Old Dominion picked up another nice win over Richmond last Wednesday to go along with victories over Clemson and Xavier, but then suffered a horrifying loss at Delaware on Saturday. The Monarchs host a big game against Dayton on Saturday with the Flyers also needing to balance out a bad loss to East Tennessee State.
Temple's win over Maryland gets the 5-2 Owls in the field, but VCU is out after losing at South Florida.
Butler fought hard before falling by 12 to Duke at the Izod Center in New Jersey on Saturday, but what's really of concern is the 3-3 Bulldogs' narrow victory at Loyola-Chicago. Butler travels to Xavier on Thursday in what should be a great contest because the Musketeers desperately need to bounce back after losing at Miami-Ohio.
13 seeds: Nicholls State, Jacksonville, Kent State
14 seeds: North Texas, Iona, Robert Morris, Vermont
15 seeds: Harvard, Charleston, UCSB, IPFW
16 seeds: Coastal Carolina, Northern Arizona, American vs. Jackson State, Hampton vs. Morehead State
Follow me on Twitter at @ JordanHarrison.
Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at email@example.com
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