In just six weeks and one day, the first game of the tournament will tip off in Dayton.
Despite the fact that March Madness will be here before we know it, the exercise to find the last few at-large teams seems to actually be getting worse as each week passes. At this point, I’ll actually be hoping for some conference tournament bid thefts!
Below are my latest projections through Sunday’s games. As usual, underneath 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 (22-1)||1 Kentucky (19-1)|
|16 Long Island (15-7)||16 Miss. Vall. St. (9-11)/TX-Arlington (15-5)|
|8 Illinois (15-6)||8 Seton Hall (15-6)|
|9 Southern Mississippi (19-3)||9 Harvard (18-2)|
|NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 San Diego State (18-3)||5 Saint Mary’s (21-2)|
|12 Iowa State (15-6)||12 Middle Tennessee State (20-3)|
|4 Vanderbilt (16-5)||4 Michigan (16-6)|
|13 Cincinnati (15-7)/Washington (14-7)||13 Oral Roberts (20-4)|
|LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|6 Florida (17-4)||6 Florida State (14-6)|
|11 Notre Dame (14-8)||11 New Mexico (17-4)|
|3 Creighton (20-2)||3 Missouri (19-2)|
|14 Nevada (18-3)||14 Akron (14-7)|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|7 Virginia (17-3)||7 Louisville (17-5)|
|10 Minnesota (16-6)||10 California (17-5)|
|2 Kansas (17-4)||2 Michigan State (17-4)|
|15 Bucknell (17-6)||15 Belmont (15-7)|
|MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)||WEST (PHOENIX)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17|
|1 Ohio State (19-3)||1 Baylor (19-2)|
|16 UNC-Ash. (16-7)/Stony Brook (13-7)||16 Norfolk State (16-6)|
|8 Kansas State (15-5)||8 Temple (15-5)|
|9 Wichita State (18-4)||9 Memphis (15-6)|
|NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 Murray State (21-0)||5 Indiana (17-5)|
|12 Long Beach State (16-6)||12 Saint Louis (16-5)|
|4 West Virginia (15-7)||4 Marquette (18-4)|
|13 Colorado St. (14-6)/Mississippi (14-7)||13 Iona (17-5)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|6 Connecticut (14-6)||6 Wisconsin (17-5)|
|11 Xavier (14-7)||11 Dayton (14-7)|
|3 UNLV (20-3)||3 Georgetown (16-4)|
|14 Cleveland State (18-4)||14 Davidson (15-5)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18|
|7 Mississippi State (17-5)||7 Gonzaga (17-3)|
|10 Purdue (15-7)||10 Alabama (14-7)|
|2 North Carolina (18-3)||2 Duke (18-3)|
|15 VCU (18-5)||15 Weber State (16-4)|
Last Four In:
A loss at Rutgers pushed the Bearcats just outside of the RPI Top 100, but I am leaving them in based on their 6-4 record against the Top 100, including road wins at Georgetown and Connecticut. I have no question they are one of the best 68 teams in the country, but their strength of schedule gives them little margin for error in terms of losing to inferior opponents. Their remaining schedule is manageable with their toughest games a home-and-home with Marquette and a home date with Louisville.
It’s unrealistic to think the Mountain West gets four bids, but the Rams are ranked 29th in the RPI with a high strength of schedule, which gets them in the field for now. They finally picked up a signature win by beating San Diego State at home, but in their previous two games they lost by 19 at Wyoming and by 33 at New Mexico. That makes CSU’s hold on this bid rather tenuous with a road trip to UNLV looming on Wednesday.
When I found myself considering the Rebels, I was admittedly shocked, but that’s how bad things are. They are 5-6 against the Top 100, with their best win coming against Mississippi State. The Rebels played well at home against Florida last week but couldn’t pull out the victory. A pair of questionable road losses in SEC play aren’t doing them any favors, but they are 8-7 against the Top 150. That doesn’t sound like much, but you would be surpised how many bubble teams are below .500 against teams in that range.
Whether you agree or not, I still believe the Pac-12 gets two teams in, and as of now, the Huskies look like the second-best team behind Cal. They are 7-2 in the conference at the halfway point and have as much talent as anyone in the league. However, they have zero Top 50 wins, but they also don’t have any sub-100 losses. For now, that’s as good as it gets in the Pac-12.
First Four Out:
The Hogs split games last week by narrowly defeating Auburn at home and falling on the road against Alabama. Arkansas still has no wins away from home at this point, and their loss to Houston is pretty ugly. They are 3-5 against the Top 100 and 7-5 against the Top 150, but for now I gave Mississippi the edge based on a win when they met head-to-head. It’s a fairly important week for the Razorbacks, who host Vandy on Tuesday before heading to LSU over the weekend.
After losing at home to Saint Mary’s, the Cougars still have no Top 50 wins and have been swept by the Gaels by a total of 30 points. They won at Virginia Tech earlier in the week, but the Hokies aren’t even close to being a tournament team right now. As it stands, BYU is 5-4 versus the Top 100 and 7-6 versus the Top 150, but eight of their wins are against sub-200 teams. Consequently, Thursday’s home game with Gonzaga is virtually a must-win game for the Cougars.
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack came up empty last week against North Carolina and Virginia, and a win in either game would have made their tournament profile much more compelling. They are now 0-5 against the Top 50 but 5-6 against the Top 100, with a home loss to Georgia Tech the biggest blemish on their profile. N.C. State’s next three games fall in the “can’t lose” category, while a three-game stretch against Duke, Florida State, and North Carolina in February will be huge for their tournament hopes.
The early part of Texas’ Big 12 schedule has been brutal, and they are now just 3-5 in the league. They did pick up a nice win at home against Iowa State last week, but the fact remains they are a mere 2-7 against the Top 100 and 6-8 against the Top 150. Monday’s home game with Missouri is huge for the Longhorns, who have played well against tougher teams so far but always managed to come up just short.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big East (9): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten (8): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
SEC (6): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri
ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia
Atlantic 10 (4): Dayton, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
Pac-12 (2): California, Washington
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
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
Northeast: Long Island
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State