March Madness 2012: December Projections for the Field of 68
As we enter December, there are 15 undefeated college basketball teams remaining in the country. They are all in my projected field of 68, but what other 53 squads would make the Dance if it was seeded today?
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 that are safely in the field are Dancing with a Hottie.
3. In the middle are the schools that are Dancing with Their Sister.
Last year, I had the most accurate bracket projections in the country, correctly predicting 67 of 68 teams and once again finishing way ahead of ESPN's Joe Lunardi.
I'll begin with the two First Four at-large bid games:
- (12a) Arizona vs. (12d) Ole Miss
- (12b) Texas A&M vs. (12c) Northern Iowa
- First eight teams out: Southern Miss, Seton Hall, Minnesota, TCU, Richmond, Indiana State, Temple, Missouri State.
The projections are presented in slideshow format, with each major conference receiving its own slide. First up is the ACC...
Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (No. 1 seed), North Carolina (No. 2)
Dancing with Their Sister: Florida State (No. 8), Virginia (No. 8)
Wallflowers: North Carolina State (No. 10)
Duke's loss at Ohio State and North Carolina's one-point setback at Kentucky do nothing to their seeding, as those were games they were supposed to lose on the road.
Virginia's 12-point win over Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge vaults the 7-1 Cavs into the field and up to an eighth seed.
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, slips out of the field following back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Kansas State.
Big East (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Syracuse (No. 1), Louisville (No. 2), Marquette (No. 2)
Dancing with Their Sister: Georgetown (No. 4), Connecticut (No. 8), Pittsburgh (No. 9)
Wallflowers: Seton Hall (second team out)
Seton Hall enters the conversation after pounding previously undefeated Auburn, 81-59. Beating the Tigers really isn't that huge of an accomplishment, but the Hall also has nice wins over VCU and St. Joe's.
It was not a good week for the rest of the Big East Wallflowers, as Notre Dame lost star Tim Abromaitis to a torn ACL before falling to Gonzaga and Maryland, and West Virginia lost at Mississippi State.
Big Ten (8)
Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (No. 1), Wisconsin (No. 3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Illinois (No. 4), Michigan State (No. 6), Purdue (No. 6), Northwestern (No. 7), Michigan (No. 9)
Wallflowers: Indiana (No. 12), Minnesota (third team out)
Illinois made a major move last week, beating Maryland and Gonzaga to improve to 8-0. The 29th-ranked team in the RPI has also defeated Richmond.
Michigan State scored a big win over FSU to get itself on more solid ground. The Spartans are 5-0 against Division I opponents since opening the season with consecutive losses to UNC and Duke.
Purdue takes a step back after losing at Xavier, as does Michigan, who fell by 12 to UVA.
Indiana's surprising start to the season continued on Wednesday with a win at North Carolina State. The Hoosiers are 8-0.
Even without injured senior forward Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota was able to beat VA Tech and USC last week, moving to 8-1 and keeping itself in the conversation for now.
Big 12 (6)
Dancing with a Hottie: Baylor (No. 2), Kansas (No. 3), Missouri (No. 4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Kansas State (No. 6)
Wallflowers: Texas (No. 11), Texas A&M (No. 12b)
Not a lot of movement last week in the Big 12, as every team is on a winning streak except for Iowa State.
Baylor secured a very convincing 28-point victory at previously undefeated Northwestern, while Baylor and Kansas State remained perfect on the season as well.
Dancing with Their Sister: California (No. 5), Stanford (No. 7)
Wallflowers: Oregon State (No. 10), Washington (No. 11), Arizona (No. 12a)
Stanford improved to 8-1 with a win over N.C. State and is a hard-fought loss to Syracuse away from being undefeated.
Washington entered the season with high expectations, but has been upset in two of its last three games at Saint Louis and Nevada to drop to 4-2 and 83rd in the RPI. It doesn't get any easier this week, as the Huskies battle Marquette and Duke.
Oregon's 14-point loss at BYU ends their flirtation with the field for now.
Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (No. 1), Florida (No. 3), Alabama (No. 4)
Dancing with Their Sister: Vanderbilt (No. 10)
Wallflowers: Mississippi State (No. 11), Ole Miss (No. 12b)
Ole Miss' road wins at DePaul and Penn State move the Rebels to 7-1, with their only loss coming to Marquette. Mississippi is 10th in the RPI and has the 22nd-toughest strength of schedule.
Auburn's loss at Seton Hall and Georgia's setbacks to Colorado and Cincinnati last week drop both of those SEC squads from consideration.
Other Conferences (13)
Dancing with a Hottie: Xavier (No. 3)
Dancing with Their Sister: Gonzaga (No. 5), Creighton (No. 5), San Diego State (No. 5), Harvard (No. 6), Wichita State (No. 7), UNLV (No. 7), UCF (No. 8)
Wallflowers: Memphis (No. 9), Saint Louis (No. 9), Cleveland State (No. 10), Saint Mary's (No. 11), Tulane (12), Northern Iowa (No. 12c), Southern Miss (first team out), TCU (fourth team out), Richmond (fifth team out), Indiana State (sixth team out), Temple (seventh team out), Missouri State (eighth team out)
Xavier proved itself worthy of a three-seed last week with wins over Vandy and Purdue. Next up for the 6-0 Musketeers are Butler and Cincy.
Creighton (7-0) scored a huge road win at San Diego State on Wednesday. The Bluejays are 15th in the RPI.
It was a strong week for the Missouri Valley Conference, as Wichita State launched itself into the field with a 19-point drubbing of UNLV. Northern Iowa beat Iowa State and Colorado State to push its RPI to four and its SOS to 11.
But Missouri State lost at Oral Roberts and New Mexico to fall from the field.
Saint Louis' loss at Loyola-Marymount, combined with the decreasing value of wins over Washington and Villanova, has the Billikens headed in the wrong direction.
No. 13 seeds: Denver, Long Beach State, Davidson, Norfolk State
No. 14 seeds: Ohio, Murray State, Lamar, Belmont
No. 15 seeds: Iona, New Mexico State, Oakland, Old Dominion
No. 16 seeds: Weber State, Campbell, American vs. Robert Morris, Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. Albany