2011 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: January 31

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2011 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: January 31
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In one of the wackiest weeks in college basketball history, 19 ranked teams suffered at least one loss, resulting in a major shakeup of the NCAA Tournament 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.

(No. 12 seed (a)) Georgia vs. (No. 12 seed (d)) Washington State

Which of my first four teams out most deserves to be in the field?

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(No. 12 seed (b)) Penn State vs. (No. 12 seed (c)) George Mason

First eight teams out: Richmond, UAB, Clemson, Wichita State, Baylor, Gonzaga, Portland, Dayton

 

ACC (Four Teams)

Dancing with a Hottie

Duke (No. 3 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister

North Carolina (No. 5 seed)

Wallflowers

Boston College (No. 11 seed), Florida State (No. 12 seed), Clemson (third team out)

A few people complained last week that I didn't have Duke as a No. 1 seed. I don't think they'll be complaining this week. The Blue Devils were blown out by St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon and still have exactly zero wins against the RPI top 35.

Florida State's 18-point loss at Clemson leaves the Seminoles barely hanging onto a spot. The computer numbers (RPI 52, SOS 75) aren't great and the win over Duke is looking just a bit less impressive.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are creeping toward the field for the first time all season. They've won 10 of 12 and are 4-3 in conference, but the RPI (69) and strength of schedule (102) are still too low to crack the field right now.

Virginia Tech is off the board thanks to its 15-point loss at Georgia Tech on Tuesday. That was the Hokies' second defeat at the hands of a sub-150 team.

 

Big East (11)

Dancing with a Hottie

Pittsburgh (No. 1 seed), Notre Dame (No. 2 seed), Connecticut (No. 3 seed), Villanova (No. 4 seed), Syracuse (No. 4 seed), Louisville (No. 4 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister

Georgetown (No. 5 seed), West Virginia (No. 8 seed), St. John's (No. 8 seed)

Wallflowers

Cincinnati (No. 9 seed), Marquette (No. 11 seed)

The cannibalism has begun.

As Big East teams beat up on each other, their projected seeds suffer, but one team staying above the fray is Notre Dame. Last Monday, the notoriously bad road team traveled to Pittsburgh—a notoriously difficult place to win—and tamed the Panthers for the Irish's fourth RPI top 25 victory.

Pitt, meanwhile, remains a No. 1 seed thanks to the strength of its overall profile. The Panthers are 4-2 against the RPI top 25 and are still the first-place team in the nation's best conference.

It was a rough week for Villanova and Syracuse. The Wildcats lost at Providence before falling at home to Georgetown, while the Orange were embarrassed at the Carrier Dome by Seton Hall and lost at Marquette to run their losing streak to four. SU's defense needs to reclaim its early-season form.

On the other hand, it was a tremendous past seven days for Louisville. The Cardinals won a pair of one-point games over West Virginia and at UConn to improve to 6-2 in the conference and 23rd in the RPI.

Georgetown also had a good week, beating St. John's and 'Nova to run its win streak to four and go from 1-4 to 5-4 in league play.

The Red Storm, meanwhile, were headed toward the tournament exit after falling to the Hoyas for their third straight loss, but rebounded in shocking fashion against Duke.

Cincinnati lost at home by 11 to West Virginia on Saturday, but now has a full week to prepare for its game at Pittsburgh.

And Marquette cashed in on one of its two big home games last week. After losing to UConn, the Eagles held off a second-half comeback to beat Syracuse.

 

Big Ten (Seven)

Dancing with a Hottie

Ohio State (No. 1 seed), Purdue (No. 3 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister

Minnesota (No. 6 seed), Wisconsin (No. 7 seed), Illinois (No. 8 seed)

Wallflowers

Michigan State (No. 9 seed), Penn State (No. 12 seed (b))

Penn State's 56-52 win over Wisconsin was the biggest story of the week in the Big Ten (because Northwestern couldn't pull off the stunner against Ohio State). That was the Nittany Lions' third top 50 win (they also beat Michigan State and Illinois) and their strength of schedule is the sixth best in the country. But PSU could really use a win away from home. It's just 1-5 on the road and travels to Illinois on Tuesday.

But Illinois also suffered a bad loss, falling at Indiana. The Illini have dropped four of five to fall to .500 in the conference and have two sub-150 defeats.

And then there's the continuing saga of Michigan State's 2010-11 season. First, coach Tom Izzo suspended junior guard Korie Lucious for the rest of the year. Then, the Spartans were shocked at home by in-state rival Michigan, and finally, they needed overtime to get past the lowly Hoosiers. MSU is 3-7 against the top 50.

 

Big 12 (Six)

Dancing with a Hottie

Kansas (No. 1 seed), Texas (No. 1 seed), Texas A&M (No. 3 seed), Missouri (No. 4 seed)

Wallflowers

Kansas State (No. 11 seed), Oklahoma State (No. 12 seed), Baylor (fifth team out)

Texas is looking like one of the best teams in the country of late. The Longhorns beat Oklahoma State and Missouri last week to stretch their winning streak to six, with the last four coming over top 60 schools. Two of UT's three losses this year were near-victories (by two against Pitt at MSG and by one to UConn) and the Longhorns are 6-2 versus the top 50.

Oklahoma State continued its downward spiral last week by losing to Texas and Texas Tech. The Cowboys have dropped three in a row and five of six to fall to 2-5 in conference and 2-6 against the top 100.

Baylor beat Colorado on Saturday in a game that could loom very large come Selection Sunday. The Bears are climbing back toward respectability with a 4-3 mark in the Big 12, while Colorado is just 3-4 and 93rd in the RPI.

 

Pac-10 (Four)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Dancing with Their Sister

Washington (No. 5 seed), Arizona (No. 5 seed)

Wallflowers

UCLA (No. 10 seed), Washington State (No. 12 seed (d))

Washington State used the final game played last week to claim the final spot in the field. The Cougars defeated Washington, 87-80, on Sunday night for their first top 50 win and their fifth Pac-10 victory against four losses.

UCLA suffered an understandable loss at Arizona on Thursday and then escaped disaster with a one-point win at Arizona State on Saturday. The Bruins have won five of six and are 6-3 in conference.

 

SEC (Five)

Dancing with a Hottie

Kentucky (No. 2 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister

Florida (No. 6 seed), Vanderbilt (No. 6 seed), Tennessee (No. 8 seed)

Wallflowers

Georgia (No. 12 seed (a))

Kentucky was one of the few ranked teams not to lose last week and that's partly because it played only one game. The Wildcats defeated Georgia, 66-60, at home on Saturday and are now 10th in the RPI with the 16th-best strength of schedule. Kentucky's 14-point win over Notre Dame back on Dec. 8 is looking very good right now.

Florida's loss at Mississippi State was somewhat understandable because it was on the road, but Vanderbilt's 11-point loss at home to Arkansas was not.

Georgia lost twice last week, to Florida and Kentucky, and is now just 3-4 in the SEC and 2-6 against the top 50.

 

Mountain West (Four)

Dancing with a Hottie

BYU (No. 2 seed), San Diego State (No. 2 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister

UNLV (No. 7 seed)

Wallflowers

Colorado State (No. 11 seed)

After handing San Diego State its first loss of the season in the most anticipated game of the week, BYU could have grabbed a No. 1 seed, but the Cougars suffered a letdown at New Mexico—never an easy place to play—and instead, hold steady as No. 2 seed. Brigham Young is 2-0 against the RPI top 25 and 6-1 versus the top 50.

Colorado State isn't getting a lot of coverage, but the Rams are 5-2 in the fourth-rated conference in the country. They're 48th in the RPI and have a win at UNLV, but CSU can really make a name for itself by beating SDSU on Wednesday.

 

Other Conferences (Nine)

Dancing with Their Sister

Xavier (No. 6 seed), Temple (No. 7 seed), Saint Mary's (No. 7 seed)

Wallflowers

Utah State (No. 9 seed), VCU (No. 9 seed), Memphis (No. 10 seed), Old Dominion (No. 10 seed), Cleveland State (No. 10 seed), George Mason (No. 12 seed (c)), Richmond (first team out), UAB (second team out), Wichita State (fourth team out), Gonzaga (sixth team out), Portland (seventh team out), Dayton (eighth team out)

Xavier continues to climb up the S-curve following an impressive win at Richmond. The Musketeers are 7-0 in the competitive A-10 and rank in the top 22 in both RPI and strength of schedule. The Spiders, meanwhile, continue to hang around with a win at Dayton on Tuesday.

Memphis' four-game win streak came to an end on Saturday with an 85-70 loss at Marshall. The Tigers are now in a three-way-tie for the Conference USA lead with UTEP and UAB, which improved its profile this past week by beating Marshall and UCF, a squad that has dropped six straight to fall into oblivion.

Saint Mary's won at Gonzaga for the first time since 1995, but suffered a letdown at Portland two days later. The Pilots are back on the radar thanks to that win, but they're still just 2-4 against the top 100. The Zags, meanwhile, are out of the field thanks to an RPI of 88 and a 1-5 mark versus the top 50.

The Colonial Athletic Conference has three teams in the field this week. First-place VCU has won nine straight games, Old Dominion has won three in a row and newcomer George Mason has reeled off seven consecutive victories to climb to second in the league. The Patriots are 33rd in the RPI with wins over Harvard, Duquesne, Drexel and James Madison.

A lot of people have Wichita State in their field, but I don't see the Shockers as a worthy at-large team right now. They have the 113th strength of schedule and don't have a single win against the top 100. Missouri State won at Wichita State on Jan. 9, so they get the automatic bid from the Missouri Valley.

Butler's loss at Valpo drops the Bulldogs to fourth in the Horizon and way out of the field.

 

Automatic Bids

No. 13 seeds: Missouri State, Oakland, Harvard, Belmont

No. 14 seeds: Coastal Carolina, Bucknell, Long Beach State, Austin Peay

No. 15 seeds: Florida Atlantic, Fairfield, Northern Colorado, Buffalo

No. 16 seeds: Long Island, Wofford, Maine vs. McNeese State, Bethune-Cookman vs. Jackson 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 jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com

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