It is now under a month until the field of 68 is announced, and the at-large selections are starting to stabilize with just two new teams in this week’s projected field. However, a number of losses by ranked teams and tournament hopefuls last week did lead to some fluctuation in terms of seeding.
Below are my latest bracket 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 (25-1)||1 Kentucky (25-1)|
|16 Miss. Vall. St. (13-11)/NC-Ashe. (19-7)||16 UT-Arlington (19-5)/Stony Brook (17-8)|
|8 Saint Louis (20-5)||8 Memphis (18-7)|
|9 Illinois (16-9)||9 Connecticut (15-9)|
|PORTLAND – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|5 Wichita State (22-4)||5 Gonzaga (20-4)|
|12 BYU (21-6)||12 N.C. State (18-7)/Cincinnati (17-8)|
|4 Wisconsin (19-6)||4 Michigan (19-7)|
|13 Long Beach State (19-6)||13 Iona (20-6)|
|COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18||ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17|
|6 Creighton (21-5)||6 Florida State (17-7)|
|11 Kansas State (17-7)||11 Seton Hall (17-8)|
|3 Georgetown (19-5)||3 UNLV (22-4)|
|14 Cleveland State (20-6)||14 Davidson (19-6)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|7 Florida (19-6)||7 Mississippi State (19-6)|
|10 Harvard (21-3)||10 West Virginia (16-10)|
|2 North Carolina (21-4)||2 Michigan State (20-5)|
|15 Belmont (19-7)||15 Bucknell (20-6)|
|MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)||WEST (PHOENIX)|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17|
|1 Missouri (23-2)||1 Ohio State (21-4)|
|16 Norfolk State (18-8)||16 Long Island (19-7)|
|8 Murray State (24-1)||8 Southern Mississippi (21-4)|
|9 New Mexico (20-4)||9 Iowa State (18-7)|
|NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 Louisville (20-5)||5 Saint Mary’s (23-3)|
|12 Arizona (18-8)/Xavier (16-9)||12 Miami, FL (15-8)|
|4 Indiana (19-6)||4 San Diego State (20-4)|
|13 Middle Tennessee State (23-4)||13 Oral Roberts (23-5)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17|
|6 Vanderbilt (17-8)||6 Temple (19-5)|
|11 Purdue (16-9)||11 Minnesota (17-8)|
|3 Baylor (21-4)||3 Marquette (21-5)|
|14 Akron (18-7)||14 VCU (22-5)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|7 Notre Dame (17-8)||7 Virginia (19-5)|
|10 California (20-6)||10 Alabama (16-8)|
|2 Duke (21-4)||2 Kansas (20-5)|
|15 Nevada (21-4)||15 Weber State (20-4)|
Last Four In:
After Washington’s ugly loss to Oregon, I am giving the Wildcats the nod as the second Pac-12 team. When you compare the two profiles, Arizona has more Top 50 and Top 100 wins than the Huskies. The Wildcats have now won four straight, but their biggest remaining game comes on Saturday when they play at Washington. The winner of that one will get a leg up in the race for an at-large bid.
The Bearcats continue to find themselves in this section because they can’t seem to string together a series of wins. They won handily at St. John’s last week but got blown out at Marquette on Saturday. Still, they have three Top 50 wins and a 6-5 record vs. the Top 100 to fall back on. Cincinnati plays their next three games at home, starting with matchups against Providence and Seton Hall this week. If they can win both of those, their grip on an at-large bid will get a bit stronger.
North Carolina State
N.C. State is a newcomer to the bracket this week, although they essentially backed in due to losses from other teams as opposed to thoroughly impressing me by beating Georgia Tech. As it stands, they are 51st in RPI with a pair of Top 50 wins and a 4-5 record against the Top 100. The next three games are a make-or-break stretch for the Wolfpack as they play Duke, Florida State, and North Carolina. Losing all three might be a death sentence for their at-large hopes.
Following an uninspired performance against Temple, the Musketeers are teetering on the brink of exclusion. They are currently 57th in the RPI with seven Top 100 wins, but the reality is they haven’t beaten a team I have in the field since December 10th. Xavier needs to go at least 4-1 in their last five regular season games, and Saturday’s home game with Dayton is one they cannot afford to lose.
First Four Out:
The Wildcats still don’t have any losses to sub-100 teams, but they are two games under .500 in the Big Ten after losing to Purdue on Sunday. They do have three Top 50 wins, but two of those victims (Seton Hall and Illinois) are both sinking in the RPI. Northwestern is currently just 4-9 against the Top 100, and in my eyes they have to find a way to finish 9-9 in the Big Ten. This week they travel to Indiana and host Minnesota, who beat them by 23 points in the first meeting.
Saturday’s win over UMass gave the Hawks their seventh Top 100 win, which is more than a number of bubble teams can claim. That said, they are just 1-4 against the Top 50 and have three losses to sub-100 teams, so the margin for error is slim. At this point, Saint Joe’s probably has to win out to make a more compelling case, but for this week, they need to take care of business during road games against A-10 bottom dwellers Rhode Island and George Washington.
The Longhorns have won three straight to climb back to 6-6 in the Big 12. They’ve also inched into the RPI Top 50, but Saturday’s comeback win over Kansas State was just their third Top 100 victory in 11 tries this season. Road trips to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this week certainly won’t be easy, but they are games Texas needs to win in order to prove their at-large worth.
If Thursday’s 25-point loss at Oregon was the only ugly defeat on the Huskies’ profile, maybe I would view it differently, but this team has already lost by 19 at home against South Dakota State and by 18 at Colorado. The good news is that they have no sub-100 losses, but at the same time they are just 2-8 against the Top 100. As I mentioned above with Arizona, Saturday’s game will be incredibly important for the profile of both teams.
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
ACC (6): Duke, Florida State, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri
SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Atlantic 10 (3): Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Mountain West (3): New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
Pac-12 (2): Arizona, California
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