2011 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: January 10
Just five undefeated teams remain after Central Florida fell at Houston and Cincinnati lost at Villanova. Kansas got a scare at Michigan, but prevailed in overtime to stay unblemished along with Duke, Ohio State, Syracuse and San Diego State. So what does all this mean in terms of my latest bracket projections?
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.
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.
Which of my First Four teams most deserves a bid?
(No. 12a) Ole Miss vs. (No. 12b) NC State
(No. 13a) Marquette vs. (No. 13b) Dayton
First eight teams out: Baylor, Miami, Boston College, Cleveland State, Portland, UAB, Wichita State, Rhode Island
ACC (4 teams)
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (1 seed)
Dancing with Their Sister: North Carolina (6)
Wallflowers: Virginia Tech (12), North Carolina State (12b), Miami (second team out), Boston College (third team out)
Virginia Tech climbed its way back into the field with a win over Florida State on Saturday. The Hokies have now won six in a row since their only bad loss of the year—a three-point setback at home to Virginia on Dec. 5. The Seminoles, meanwhile, are off the board.
NC State continues to win, but its RPI is still holding steady around 100 because the Wolfpack's last five games (all victories) have come against teams ranked 178 or below. That all changes this week when North Carolina State travels to Boston College and FSU, before hosting Duke and Miami the following week.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, drop from the field after a seven-point loss at No. 112 Clemson. Miami still has good computer numbers (RPI 33, SOS 32), but it hasn't defeated a top-50 team since West Virginia on Dec. 4.
BC suffered maybe a worse loss when it fell at home to Harvard. That was the Eagles' second defeat at the hands of an Ivy League school after dropping one to Yale way back on Nov. 18.
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (1), Pittsburgh (2), Villanova (2), Notre Dame (3), Connecticut (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Georgetown (6), St. John's (8), West Virginia (8), Louisville (8)
Wallflowers: Cincinnati (9), Marquette (13b)
Connecticut had an up-and-down week, losing at Notre Dame—who also beat St. John's last week—before once again proving the Big East's supremacy with a one-point overtime victory at Texas. Kemba Walker had 22 points in the win, including a key desperation heave and the game-winner.
Losing on the road to Notre Dame and St. John's is one thing, but losing at home to West Virginia is another. Georgetown suffered its third loss in four games on Saturday and now sits tied for 12th place in the conference at 1-3.
Cincinnati was pretty impressive in its 20-point win over Xavier on Thursday, but then dropped its first game of the season at Villanova on Sunday. The 15-1 Bearcats still do not have a victory over the RPI's top 40.
Eleven teams from the Big East? Why not? Marquette climbs aboard as my last team in despite losing at Pitt on Saturday. The Eagles beat West Virginia on New Year's Day and don't have a single bad loss. Four of their next six come against teams ranked in the top eight of the RPI, though, so we'll see how good they really are. Such is life in the best conference in America.
Big Ten (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Purdue (2), Illinois (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Wisconsin (7), Michigan State (7)
Wallflowers: Minnesota (10)
Illinois and Wisconsin are trending upwards with wins over Northwestern and Michigan, respectively, this past week, but the same cannot be said for Michigan State and Minnesota.
The Spartans lost for the fifth time in their last 12 games on Saturday, when they fell at Penn State, and the Gophers lost for the third time in their last four games on Sunday, when they fell at Ohio State.
Big 12 (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1), Texas A&M (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Missouri (5), Texas (6)
Wallflowers: Kansas State (9), Oklahoma State (10), Baylor (first team out)
Missouri suffered a bad loss at No. 110 Colorado last Saturday and the Tigers' 13-2 record is only good for 46th in the RPI due to their 163rd strength of schedule. Make sure to circle this Saturday on your calendars when Mizzou travels to Texas A&M.
Kansas State's loss was Oklahoma State's gain when the Cowboys beat the Wildcats, 76-62, on Saturday. That was OSU's second top-50 win (Missouri State) and both of its losses have come to teams in my field—Virginia Tech and Gonzaga.
Dancing with a Hottie: Washington (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Arizona (7)
Wallflowers: Washington State (11)
You can't say this often, but it was a good week for the Pac-10. Washington won its fifth and sixth in a row, Arizona beat Cal and Stanford to climb to 32nd in the RPI, and Washington State swept the Oregon schools at home to get itself out of a First Four game.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (4), Florida (4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Vanderbilt (5)
Wallflowers: Georgia (9), Tennessee (10), Ole Miss (12a)
Kentucky's seven-point loss at Georgia drops the Wildcats one seed line, but moves the Bulldogs up after their ninth consecutive win. It was Georgia's first big victory of the season and vaulted it into the RPI's top 50.
Florida's win over Ole Miss moves the Gators up slightly to a 4 seed and drops the Rebels into a First Four game. Mississippi is still searching for a top-50 victory.
Tennessee's bewildering season continued this past week, when it put up 104 in a 20-point pounding of Memphis before losing at No. 113 Arkansas in Bruce Pearl's first game on suspension. The Vols have dropped five of eight since starting 7-0 with wins over Villanova and Pitt.
And Vanderbilt drops a spot after losing at South Carolina on Saturday.
Other Conferences (15)
Dancing with a Hottie: San Diego State (2), BYU (3)
Dancing with Their Sister: UNLV (5), Temple (5), UCF (6), Old Dominion (7), Saint Mary's (8)
Wallflowers: Utah State (9), Gonzaga (10), Missouri State (11), Butler (11), Xavier (11), Richmond (12), Memphis (12), Dayton (13a), Cleveland State (fourth team out), Portland (fifth team out), UAB (sixth team out), Wichita State (seventh team out), Rhode Island (eighth team out)
UCF suffered its first loss at No. 206 Houston on Saturday and now has a week off before playing another difficult Conference USA opponent on the road in Southern Miss. The Knights are still 16th in the RPI with four top-50 wins over Florida, Miami, Princeton and Marshall.
Gonzaga picked up a big West Coast Conference win over Portland on Saturday. The Pilots missed out on their three big chances to impress in the non-conference season against Kentucky, Washington State and Washington, and now missed out on their first of four opportunities in WCC play.
Missouri State scored a huge victory at Wichita State on Sunday night to take sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference and jump to 38th in the RPI. The loss dropped the Shockers, who do not have a top-75 win, out of the field.
Butler has been playing hide-and-go-seek with a tournament bid all season, and this week, it has found a spot in the field. The Bulldogs crushed Cleveland State by 23 on Friday and are now in a four-way tie for first place in the Horizon League. The Vikings, meanwhile, may have had a shot to hold on as an at-large, but then they went and lost at Valpo too.
Xavier did not look very good in its 20-point loss at Cincy on Thursday, but then the Musketeers bounced back with an impressive 27-point win at Rhode Island, knocking the Rams from their tenuous spot in the field.
Dayton's six-game win streak came to an end at UMass on Sunday, leaving the Flyers as my last team in. They have five top-100 victories, but none against the top 50.
UAB creeps into the discussion this week. The Blazers are 43rd in the RPI and while they don't have any top-50 wins, they have three against the top 100 (Kent State, VCU, UTEP).
No. 13 seeds: Harvard, Oakland, Vermont
No. 14 seeds: Long Beach State, Nicholls State, Jacksonville, College of Charleston
No. 15 seeds: Hampton, Coastal Carolina, Austin Peay, Akron
No. 16 seeds: American, Wagner, Fairfield vs. Northern Colorado, Jackson State vs. Florida Atlantic
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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