With just two weeks until Selection Sunday, the at-large situation is as fluid as I can remember in recent years.
Very few bubble teams have seized the opportunity to impress the committee by picking up a late-season signature win, which in a year like this would all but cement a bid. As it stands, we have a fairly large pool of relatively unimpressive profiles from which to choose, making this weekly exercise a challenge once again.
Below are my latest bracket projections through Sunday’s games. As usual, underneath the bracket I will give my last four in, and this week I am including my last five 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 (29-1)||1 Kentucky (26-1)|
|16 Texas-Arlington (22-6)||16 NC-Ash. (21-9)/Savannah St. (19-10)|
|8 Iowa State (21-8)||8 Purdue (19-10)|
|9 Harvard (24-4)||9 Connecticut (17-11)|
|PORTLAND – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|5 Creighton (25-5)||5 Gonzaga (23-5)|
|12 BYU (24-7)||12 Long Beach State (21-7)|
|4 Indiana (22-7)||4 Wichita State (26-4)|
|13 Iona (24-6)||13 Saint Joe’s (19-11)/Texas (18-11)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17|
|6 Florida State (19-9)||6 Murray State (28-1)|
|11 Xavier (18-10)||11 Saint Louis (22-6)|
|3 Baylor (24-5)||3 Marquette (24-5)|
|14 Davidson (22-7)||14 Akron (20-9)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|7 Notre Dame (20-9)||7 New Mexico (22-6)|
|10 Washington (20-8)||10 Southern Mississippi (23-6)|
|2 Ohio State (23-6)||2 Missouri (25-4)|
|15 Belmont (24-7)||15 Weber State (23-4)|
|MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)||WEST (PHOENIX)|
|COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|1 Michigan State (24-5)||1 Kansas (24-5)|
|16 Stony Brook (20-8)/Miss. Vall. St. (15-11)||16 Long Island (22-8)|
|8 Memphis (21-8)||8 Saint Mary’s (25-5)|
|9 Virginia (21-7)||9 Alabama (19-9)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 Louisville (22-7)||5 Temple (22-6)|
|12 Northwestern (17-11)||12 Cincinnati (20-9)/Miami, FL (17-10)|
|4 UNLV (24-6)||4 Wisconsin (21-8)|
|13 Oral Roberts (26-5)||13 Drexel (25-5)|
|COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|6 Vanderbilt (20-9)||6 San Diego State (22-6)|
|11 West Virginia (17-12)||11 Mississippi State (19-10)|
|3 Michigan (21-8)||3 Georgetown (21-6)|
|14 Nevada (23-5)||14 Middle Tennessee State (25-5)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18|
|7 Kansas State (19-9)||7 Florida (22-7)|
|10 Seton Hall (19-10)||10 California (23-7)|
|2 Duke (25-4)||2 North Carolina (25-4)|
|15 Bucknell (22-8)||15 Valparaiso (21-10)|
Last Four In:
Interestingly enough, the last four teams in are the same as last week, likely because each one went 1-1 since the last set of projections. The Bearcats picked up a huge home win over Louisville to give them yet another Top 25 win, but they missed an opportunity to move further off the bubble by losing at South Florida by a point on Sunday. The fact that they have five Top 50 wins validates their argument that they are one of the 37 best at-large teams, but unfortunately their non-conference strength of schedule overshadows that to a certain extent. If UC can beat Marquette at home and take care of Villanova on the road this week, they can start to breathe a little easier.
Things looked bleak for Miami after losing at Maryland and subsequently learning big man Reggie Johnson was suspended for the Florida State game. However, the Canes managed to pick up a key win over FSU, which prompted a lame court-storming but also got them back into the field. It was just their second Top 50 win, but they also don’t have a horrible loss. Miami has crept back inside the RPI Top 50, but they can’t afford to slip up at North Carolina State this week based on an incredibly slim margin for error.
The Hawks picked up a signature win against Temple on Saturday, but their home loss to Richmond earlier in the week leaves them in a precarious position. They now have seven Top 50 wins and are just outside the RPI Top 50 with a decent record in road/neutral games. Non-conference wins over Creighton and Drexel certainly help their case, but they can’t really afford a loss at Saint Bonaventure this week in the regular season finale.
After blowing a double-digit second half lead against Baylor, the Longhorns missed out on yet another chance to pick up a marquee win last Monday. They then needed overtime to beat lowly Texas Tech to get back to 8-8 in the league. The Longhorns must beat Oklahoma this week to ensure a .500 finish in the conference before they head to Kansas over the weekend for a game I just don’t see them winning. They will likely need a victory or two in the Big 12 Tournament in order to feel even remotely safe given their 4-9 record against the Top 100 and a pair of sub-100 losses.
First Five Out:
The Flyers won both of their games last week, including Saturday’s rout of UMass, but I still had them as the 38th at-large team. The good news is they have eight Top 100 wins, including victories over Alabama, Saint Louis, Temple, and Xavier. The bad news is they have two ugly sub-200 losses to Miami (OH) and Rhode Island, with the latter coming at home. Head-to-head matchups aren’t necessarily taken into consideration, but they did lose to Saint Joe’s by 14 in their only meeting. Dayton just needs to keep winning, and games at Richmond and home against George Washington give them chances to do just that.
The Rams have solid computer numbers, but they have just two Top 50 wins and have yet to win a conference game on the road. In fact, their best road win this season came by three points at UTEP. If they can continue their home dominance by beating UNLV and then pick up a win at Air Force, CSU would almost certainly be in the field.
With a narrow win at home against UCLA, Arizona stayed in the discussion. They are now 12-5 in the Pac-12 with their lone remaining game coming Sunday at rival Arizona State. The Wildcats have just one win against the RPI Top 70, so the quality victories simply aren’t there. As it stands, they are 10-9 against the Top 150 and will need to make a run to at least the Pac-12 Finals to make a compelling case.
I love how people who disparaged Cincinnati’s chances as an at-large turned around and used USF’s victory over the Bearcats to validate their meager profile. Sure the Bulls have 11 Big East wins, but nearly all of them have come against teams with no shot to make the tournament. They are 1-7 against the Top 50, have zero non-conference road wins, and have losses to Penn State and Auburn. I know they didn’t have Anthony Collins and Jawanza Poland for much of the non-conference season, but this team’s two best wins are over fellow bubble teams. That said, games at Louisville and at home versus West Virginia give the Bulls opportunities to prove their worth.
Ironically, VCU is excited about USF’s ascension, because it makes their win over the Bulls in the non-conference look that much better. Even so, the Rams are fighting an uphill battle based on a poor strength of schedule, with 13 of their 25 wins coming at the expense of sub-200 teams. Their three CAA losses came by a total of just nine points, they finished a game behind Drexel in the standings. VCU definitely passes the infamous “eye test,” but I’m not sure that will be enough even if they lose to Drexel in the CAA Finals.
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 (7): Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas
ACC (5): Duke, Florida State, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Virginia
SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Atlantic 10 (4): Saint Joseph’s, 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): California, Washington
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: UNC-Asheville
Big West: Long Beach State
MEAC: Savannah State
Northeast: Long Island
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State