Another week’s worth of Top 25 losses and major conference road woes have made this a challenging process once again. The good news is that a few more teams actually picked up quality wins, which these days is no small accomplishment. In total, five new at-large teams are in this week’s projections.
As I mentioned last week, these projections are very fluid at this point of the season, but below the bracket I will give my last four in and last four out, as well as the rationale I used to make those decisions.
|EAST (BOSTON)||SOUTH (ATLANTA)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17|
|1 Syracuse (19-0)||1 Kentucky (17-1)|
|16 Miss. Valley St. (5-11)/Stony Brook (9-7)||16 Bucknell (13-6)/UNC-Asheville (12-6)|
|8 Alabama (13-4)||8 Wisconsin (14-5)|
|9 California (15-4)||9 New Mexico (15-2)|
|PORTLAND – March 15 & 17||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 Illinois (15-3)||5 Vanderbilt (13-4)|
|12 BYU (15-4)||12 Long Beach St. (12-6)|
|4 San Diego St. (15-2)||4 Michigan (14-4)|
|13 Oral Roberts (16-4)||13 Cincinnati (14-4)/Oregon (13-5)|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|6 Florida (14-4)||6 Murray St. (18-0)|
|11 Southern Mississippi (16-3)||11 Northwestern (12-5)|
|3 Missouri (16-1)||3 Georgetown (14-3)|
|14 Nevada (14-3)||14 Belmont (12-6)|
|COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|7 West Virginia (13-5)||7 Gonzaga (14-3)|
|10 Harvard (15-2)||10 Temple (11-5)|
|2 Michigan St. (15-3)||2 Kansas (14-3)|
|15 Cleveland St. (15-4)||15 VCU (13-5)|
|MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)||WEST (PHOENIX)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17|
|1 Baylor (17-0)||1 Ohio St. (16-3)|
|16 Texas-Arlington (11-5)||16 Norfolk St. (13-5)|
|8 Purdue (13-5)||8 Wichita St. (15-3)|
|9 Louisville (14-4)||9 Dayton (13-5)|
|NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|5 Virginia (14-2)||5 Saint Mary’s (17-2)|
|12 Iona (14-4)||12 Marshall (13-4)|
|4 Creighton (16-2)||4 Connecticut (14-3)|
|13 Cincinnati (14-4)/Saint Louis (14-4)||13 Minnesota (14-5)/Oregon (13-5)|
|LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17||ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17|
|6 Mississippi St. (15-3)||6 Seton Hall (15-3)|
|11 Stanford (15-3)||11 Florida St. (11-6)|
|3 Indiana (15-3)||3 UNLV (16-3)|
|14 Akron (11-6)||14 Davidson (12-4)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18|
|7 Marquette (14-4)||7 Kansas St. (12-4)|
|10 Memphis (12-5)||10 Xavier (12-5)|
|2 North Carolina (15-3)||2 Duke (15-2)|
|15 Weber St. (14-3)||15 Wagner (14-3)|
Last Four In:
The Gophers needed to prove they could beat tournament-caliber teams without Trevor Mbakwe, and they did just that at Indiana on Thursday. It was their first Top 50 win, and they are now 5-4 against the RPI Top 100. I don’t think the Big Ten will really end up with nine teams in the field, but at this stage they deserve it.
Rick Majerus’ club currently has no Top 50 wins and is 3-3 against the Top 100. So while the Billikens have a nice victory over Washington and won the 76 Classic, they are just 2-2 in A-10 play and have lost to both of the other tournament teams they have played. Their earlier loss to Loyola Marymount isn’t helping either.
The Bearcats did themselves no favors by taking on such a weak non-conference schedule, and the loss to Presbyterian is a potential killer. However, they picked up a huge road win at Georgetown last week and are currently 4-1 in the Big East and 3-2 against the RPI Top 100. Their schedule gives them little margin for error, but at least they have a quality win.
It killed me to put a third Pac-12 team in the bracket, but it was pretty much a coinflip for the last spot. The Ducks have wins over Stanford and at Oregon, and four of their five losses have come against teams I have in the field with the other a road loss at Washington. Like it or not, I wouldn’t be shocked to see three Pac-12 teams get in, but it wouldn’t take much for Oregon to drop out of the field.
First Four Out:
The Cyclones had chances to pick up a profile-building win against Missouri or Kansas last week, and while they played well in stretches of each game, they wound up losing both. At this point, they have just one Top 100 win (Texas), so there just isn’t enough quality on their resume to earn a spot in the field. Luckily for them, the Big 12 plays a full round robin schedule so they have two cracks at everyone.
CSU’s win over Denver last week may well be their best of the season. I have them here largely because they are 30th in the RPI and don’t have an egregious loss. Still, I can’t see four Mountain West teams getting in, and the Rams haven’t done enough for me to warrant a spot in the field.
A strong RPI and strength of schedule are keeping the Panthers in the discussion, and after their win over Missouri State last week, I had them in. However, they blew a lead and lost to Bradley, which was their third questionable loss in MVC play. The numbers might look ok, but they still don’t have a win against a team I have in the field as an at-large.
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack played poorly in a home loss to Georgia Tech, which dropped them out of the field. Admittedly, it’s their only bad loss, but they also haven’t really beaten anyone outside of a neutral court win over Texas. After facing BC at home this week, they play at Miami and North Carolina before facing Virginia at home. That’s a critical stretch for their tournament hopes.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big Ten (9): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big East (8): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia
SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia
Atlantic 10 (4): Dayton, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Big 12 (4): Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri
Conference USA (3): Marshall, Memphis, Southern Mississippi
Mountain West (3): New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (3): California, Oregon, Stanford
West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: UNC-Asheville
Big West: Long Beach State
Horizon: Cleveland State
MEAC: Norfolk State
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State