As promised last week, I have agreed (perhaps stupidly) to put out weekly bracket projections, and my first effort this year quickly reminded me why I haven’t done this in a couple seasons. Or maybe it’s the fact that the bubble this season looks poised to give last year’s historically weak bubble a run for its money.
The reality is that these projections are very fluid at this point of the season, but if nothing else it can prompt some good discussion. 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||1 Kentucky|
|16 Campbell/Stony Brook||16 Bucknell/Miss. Valley St.|
|8 Illinois||8 Wisconsin|
|9 Dayton||9 Temple|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|5 Creighton||5 Gonzaga|
|12 North Carolina St.||12 Iona|
|4 Kansas St.||4 Louisville|
|13 Ohio||13 Denver/Virginia Tech|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|6 West Virginia||6 Murray St.|
|11 Xavier||11 Southern Mississippi|
|3 Missouri||3 Georgetown|
|14 Davidson||14 Belmont|
|LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|7 Mississippi St.||7 Alabama|
|10 California||10 Harvard|
|2 Indiana||2 Michigan St.|
|15 Wagner||15 George Mason|
|MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)||WEST (PHOENIX)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18|
|1 Ohio St.||1 North Carolina|
|16 Lamar||16 Norfolk St.|
|8 Saint Mary’s||8 San Diego St.|
|9 New Mexico||9 Wichita St.|
|PORTLAND – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|5 Virginia||5 Connecticut|
|12 Marshall||12 Long Beach St.|
|4 Seton Hall||4 Michigan|
|13 Iowa St./Missouri St.||13 Middle Tennessee St.|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|6 Vanderbilt||6 Florida|
|11 Stanford||11 BYU|
|3 Kansas||3 UNLV|
|14 Nevada||14 Cleveland St.|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17|
|7 Marquette||7 Purdue|
|10 Memphis||10 Saint Louis|
|2 Duke||2 Baylor|
|15 Oral Roberts||15 Weber St.|
Last Four In:
Everyone’s favorite bubble team is on track to be there once again. They have no Top 50 wins and are 2-2 against the RPI Top 100. At this point their saving grace is a relatively high strength of schedule and no bad losses, but their prior defeats to Minnesota (without Trevor Mbakwe) and Wake Forest may doom them in the end.
For the fifth Big 12 team, I was down to the Cyclones and Texas. I gave ISU the nod based on last week’s head-to-head victory over the Longhorns. They have now won seven straight games but are just 1-2 against the Top 100 with a loss to Drake also mixed in. Did I mention the bubble was weak?
Again it came down to two teams with the Bears and Northern Iowa, because the Missouri Valley isn’t getting four bids. MSU has road wins at Creighton, Indiana State, and Nevada, and they also took West Virginia to overtime. Both MVC teams in question lost to Illinois State so that didn’t help distinguish them from one another. They also have three wins each against the Top 100, so this one was pretty much a coin flip.
This may seem crazy, and in all likelihood the Sun Belt won’t be getting two bids. But at some point you have to reward teams for actually beating people, and Denver has beaten both Southern Mississippi and Saint Mary’s, both of whom are in the field. There aren’t many bubble teams that can say that, but the loss to Arkansas-Little Rock definitely will hurt them. Their other losses are respectable on the road against Cal and in OT versus Iona.
First Four Out:
I mentioned the Panthers above, and if they had started MVC play better than 2-2 with losses to Illinois State and Evansville, perhaps they would have received the bid instead of Missouri State. To their credit, they are 3-2 against the RPI Top 100 and have five wins against teams between 101 and 150. Again, the MVC beats up on one another too much for the league to get more than three bids.
I also mentioned Texas above, and while they have a home win against Temple, there isn’t much other meat on their profile. They are 1-3 against the Top 50 and just 3-4 against the Top 150 with seven of their wins coming over sub-200 teams. Losses to fellow bubble teams N.C. State and Iowa State don’t help either.
The Hawks have a solid win over Creighton, but they are just 1-4 against the Top 100. Losses to Seton Hall, Iona (in double-OT), and Harvard won’t kill them, but ones to American and Charlotte might. Luckily, the A-10 gives them a number of chances to enhance their resume.
The Pac-12 is awful, and I simply can’t bring myself to give that league three bids. Arizona’s best win is at New Mexico State, and their only questionable loss is at UCLA last week. This team will improve and may work their way into the picture, but they simply haven’t beaten anyone so far.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big East (7): Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
ACC (5): Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri
SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Atlantic 10 (4): Dayton, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Conference USA (3): Marshall, Memphis, Southern Mississippi
Missouri Valley (3): Creighton, Missouri State, Wichita State
Mountain West (3): New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Pac-12 (2): California, Stanford
Sun Belt (2): Denver, Middle Tennessee State
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: Campbell
Big West: Long Beach State
Colonial: George Mason
Horizon: Cleveland State
MEAC: Norfolk State
Ohio Valley: Murray State
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State
Summit: Oral Roberts