New Year's Day has passed, conference play is in full swing and the farce that is college football is nearly over, so that means it's time to really focus on NCAA hoops.
With March Madness just two months away, the bracket picture is beginning to take shape, so let's see who's in and who's out.
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:
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.
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.
(No. 12a) Boston College vs. (No. 12d) Gonzaga
(No. 12b) Washington State vs. (No. 12c) Xavier
First seven out: Butler, Portland, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, Northwestern, Florida State, Baylor
ACC (5 teams)
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (1 seed)
Dancing with Their Sister: North Carolina (7)
Wallflowers: North Carolina State (11), Miami (11), Boston College (12a), Virginia Tech (third team out), Florida State (sixth team out)
Boston College's 67-65 loss at Rhode Island on Dec. 29 has the Eagles flying into some turbulence as we begin the new year. Their computer numbers (RPI 26, SOS 44) are still good as is a win over Texas A&M on Nov. 25, but there isn't much meat other than that, and that eight-point loss at home to Yale on Nov. 18 is still sticking out like a sore thumb on BC's resume.
Florida State picked up a solid win over Baylor on Christmas, but then came out on Monday and lost to one of the worst power conference teams in the country in Auburn. The 'Noles don't have a single RPI top-100 victory and they also lost to fellow bubble team Butler.
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), Pittsburgh (2), Connecticut (2), Villanova (3), Notre Dame (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: St. John's (5), Georgetown (5), West Virginia (8), Louisville (8), Cincinnati (8)
UConn's first loss of the season, a 15-point setback at Pitt on Dec. 27, drops the Huskies off the top line. They have two more stiff road tests coming up this week at Notre Dame and Texas and will need someone other than Kemba Walker to step up and contribute.
The Irish, meanwhile, picked up a huge 14-point win over Georgetown on Dec. 29, and while they couldn't back that up with a victory at Syracuse on New Year's Day, Notre Dame still has three top-50 wins, when you include Wisconsin and Gonzaga, and two more top-100 victories over Georgia and Cal. A pair of challenging home contests against UConn and St. John's this week will go a long way toward proving if the Irish deserve a 3 seed.
How do you go from my first team out to a 5 seed? All you have to do is win at West Virginia and Providence and then beat Georgetown at Madison Square Garden. After dropping back-to-back games to St. Bonaventure and Fordham, the Johnnies have reeled off five straight top-75 victories and are in first place in the Big East at 3-0. The Red Storm are seventh in the RPI and fourth in strength of schedule. Kudos to Steve Lavin.
The Hoyas, on the other hand, are in a bit of a tailspin. They've lost two of their last three at Notre Dame and St. John's, but there's not a lot of shame in dropping road games in the nation's best conference, and Georgetown is still No. 1 in the RPI with wins over Missouri, Old Dominion and Utah State.
Big Ten (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Purdue (2)
Dancing with Their Sister: Michigan State (6), Illinois (6), Minnesota (7)
Wallflowers: Wisconsin (9), Northwestern (fifth team out)
All of the top teams in the Big Ten have gotten off to a quick start in conference play other than Minnesota, which dropped its first two contests at Wisconsin and Michigan State. That's a rough way to open up the league schedule and the Gophers have another toughie at Ohio State on Sunday.
Northwestern is going backwards. After beginning the season 8-0, the Wildcats have lost three of their last four, including their first two Big Ten games at Purdue and home against Michigan State. Northwestern doesn't have a single top-50 win and its only top-100 victory is over No. 97 American. The 'Cats better get going if they want to lock up their first NCAA berth.
Big 12 (5)
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1), Missouri (4), Texas (4), Texas A&M (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Kansas State (6)
Wallflowers: Oklahoma State (fourth team out), Baylor (seventh team out)
Oklahoma State was one of the many Wallflowers to lose this past week, dropping a 73-52 decision at Gonzaga. The Cowboys still don't have a big win, but have a chance to pick one up at home against Kansas State on Saturday.
No team has been more disappointing this season than Baylor. Just three weeks ago, the Bears were ranked ninth in the country, but have since lost three of five games, with the last of which coming to Florida State at the Hawaiian Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Christmas. While all three of those setbacks have come to top-100 squads, those schools are also fellow Wallflowers, and Baylor doesn't have a single top-100 win.
Dancing with Their Sister: Washington (7)
Wallflowers: Arizona (9), Washington State (12b)
Arizona suffered a really bad one-point loss at No. 263 Oregon State on Sunday. The Wildcats' RPI is good at 37, but their best wins are over Robert Morris and NC State.
Washington State was a major riser in my last projections, but slid back down the seed lines with three consecutive losses to Butler, UCLA and USC. The Cougars can take solace in the fact that none of those came at home, but this team wouldn't be in the field if it wasn't for the foolish expansion.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (3), Vanderbilt (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Florida (5)
Wallflowers: Tennessee (9), Georgia (10), Ole Miss (11)
Vanderbilt has won four straight, with the last two coming over Marquette and Davidson. The 'Dores are ranked 15th in the RPI with a win over North Carolina, and their only losses are to West Virginia and Missouri away from home.
Florida is heading in the right direction, having defeated Xavier and Rhode Island in its past two games. The Gators' overtime home loss to Jacksonville on Dec. 20 is still mystifying, but they have seven top-100 wins, including one over Kansas State, and are ranked 11th in the RPI with the eighth best strength of schedule.
Tennessee is 3-0 against the top 50, but 6-4 against everyone else. That should tell you how wacky this season has been for the Vols so far.
Bruce Pearl's club lost another shocker at home to the College of Charleston by 13 points on New Year's Eve and has now dropped four of six after starting 7-0 with wins over Villanova and Pitt.
Georgia has climbed its way into the field behind the strength of eight straight wins.
While the Bulldogs don't have any bad losses, they also don't have any good victories, but the schedule picks up this week when they host Kentucky on Saturday.
Ole Miss is another SEC team benefiting from an easy schedule and the fact that everyone else is losing. The Rebels have won three in a row and while they do have a bad loss to Colorado State in Cancun on Dec. 23, they also have three OK wins over Murray State, Penn State and Southern Miss.
Other Conferences (16)
Dancing with a Hottie: San Diego State (2), BYU (3), UCF (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: UNLV (5), Temple (7), Memphis (8)
Wallflowers: Saint Mary's (9), Richmond (10), Dayton (10), Old Dominion (10), Cleveland State (11), Utah State (12), Rhode Island (12), Xavier (12c), Gonzaga (12d), Wichita State (13), Butler (first team out), Portland (second team out)
Temple's six-game win streak was snapped at Villanova on Dec. 30, but the Owls still have great computer numbers (RPI 18, SOS 25) and wins over Georgetown and Georgia.
Richmond's one-point home loss to Bucknell would be big trouble if not for the fact that a bunch of bubble teams suffered at least one loss over the past 11 days. The Spiders can still hang their tiny insect hats on that 11-point victory over Purdue at the Chicago Invitational Challenge on Nov. 27.
Dayton has won five in a row, with the last two coming over RPI top-57 teams New Mexico and George Mason. The Flyers are ranked 45th in the RPI and only have one bad loss - at home to East Tennessee State on Dec. 1.
Rhode Island has come out of nowhere to claim a spot in the field. That's thanks to the weak bubble and a win over Boston College on Dec. 29. The Rams are 44th in the RPI and 49th in strength of schedule with four top-100 wins. However, losses to Illinois-Chicago and Quinnipiac are troubling.
Xavier missed a chance to put itself on more solid ground when it lost by four at home to Florida on Dec. 31. The Musketeers will have another shot when they travel to undefeated Cincinnati on Thursday.
After three straight losses last month, Gonzaga has put together a five-game winning streak against D-I competition. The Zags beat Oklahoma State on New Year's Eve and open up West Coast Conference play with a big Wallflower showdown against Portland on Saturday.
Butler has wins over fellow bubble teams Florida State and Washington State, but a 24-point shellacking at No. 115 Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Monday leaves the Bulldogs on the outside looking in. They'll have a chance for redemption Friday, when they host Cleveland State in a big Horizon League showdown.
No. 13 seeds: Kent State, Oakland, Vermont
No. 14 seeds: Long Beach State, Princeton, Jacksonville, Wagner
No. 15 seeds: Hampton, Furman, American, North Texas
No. 16 seeds: Montana, Austin Peay, Fairfield vs. Jackson State, Stephen F. Austin vs. Liberty
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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