Believe it or not, we’re now less than eight weeks from Selection Sunday, and things are starting to take shape with conference play in full swing.
Three of the four top seeds are no-brainers at this point, with Arizona, Michigan State and Syracuse running away from the pack. But the fourth is another matter entirely.
Following Wisconsin’s two-game losing streak, Villanova appeared poised to move onto the top line, but they ran into a three-point shooting buzzsaw against Creighton on Monday night. Still, the Wildcats have put together a solid profile and can’t be dismissed based on just one game.
The three other teams in that mix are Kansas, Florida, and Wichita State. The Jayhawks have played the toughest schedule in the country, are ranked first in RPI, and have eight RPI Top 50 wins, which is best in the country. In fact, they’ve played just one team outside of the Top 50 since November.
Florida boasts a win over the Jayhawks, and the Gators have done an outstanding job of overcoming injuries and suspensions this season. Thanks in part to a weak SEC though, the Gators have just three wins against the RPI Top 60.
Wichita State is one of just three unbeaten teams remaining. The Shockers put together a solid non-conference schedule, but as it stands, they don’t have any Top 30 wins even though this may well be a more talented team than least season’s Final Four squad.
Here are my projections through the games from January 20. I’ve also listed my last four in and first four out along with my reasoning for those selections.
|WEST (ANAHEIM)||EAST (NEW YORK)|
|1) Arizona||1) Syracuse|
|16) Southern||16) Elon / Robert Morris|
||8) Florida St.|
|9) George Washington||9) California|
|12) Stanford||12) Southern Miss.
|4) Kentucky||4) Cincinnati|
|13) Manhattan||13) Belmont|
|6) Michigan||6) Pittsburgh|
|11) North Carolina||11) Missouri|
|3) San Diego St.||3) Oklahoma St.|
|14) Delaware||14) Mercer|
|7) Memphis||7) Connecticut|
|10) Texas||10) VCU|
|2) Wichita St.||2) Wisconsin|
|15) New Mexico St.
|MIDWEST (INDIANAPOLIS)||SOUTH (MEMPHIS)|
|1) Michigan St.||1) Kansas|
|16) Vermont||16) NC Central / UNC Asheville|
|8) Saint Louis||8) Oregon|
|9) Gonzaga||9) Minnesota|
|5) Louisville||5) Virginia|
|12) Providence / Tennessee||12) Arkansas / Dayton|
|4) Massachusetts||4) Creighton|
|13) Toledo||13) North Dakota St.|
|6) Ohio St.||6) Colorado|
||11) Green Bay|
|3) Iowa St.||3) Iowa|
|14) UC Santa Barbara||14) Stephen F. Austin|
|7) Baylor||7) Kansas St.|
|10) New Mexico||10) UCLA|
|2) Villanova||2) Florida|
|15) N. Colorado||15) Georgia St.|
Last Four In
After racking up non-conference wins against Gonzaga, Cal, and Ole Miss, the Flyers are off to a 1-2 start in A-10 play. Their recent road loss at Richmond isn’t a terrible one, but losing to Illinois State and USC may well come back to haunt Dayton this season.
Once again, the Razorbacks have been home court heroes with a 10-1 record at Bud Walton Arena, including wins over Kentucky, SMU, and Clemson. Unfortunately, they are just 2-4 in road and neutral games, including a pair of sub-100 losses. Seven of Arkansas’ 12 victories have come against sub-200 squads, but for now, a solid collection of wins has them in the field.
On the positive side, Tennessee has a pair of Top 25 wins over Xavier and Virginia. On the other hand, the Vols are just 5-6 against the Top 150 and are 3-4 away from home. Thanks to a weak bubble, Cuonzo Martin’s team is in for now.
The Friars picked up a huge win over Creighton on Saturday and have now won three straight in the Big East. Providence is 4-4 against the Top 100 and 7-5 versus the Top 150, which is more than most bubble contenders can claim. THe Friars’ lone sub-100 loss came in double overtime against Seton Hall on the heels of another OT loss to UMass.
First Four Out
Larry Brown’s team has been playing well of late and recently knocked off UConn in AAC play, but a weak non-conference schedule is really holding the Mustangs back. That UConn win is their only victory over a team in the Top 95, while half of their 14 wins have come against sub-200 teams.
The Sycamores got hammered by Wichita State over the weekend, but they are still sitting just outside of the RPI Top 50. They’re 3-3 against the Top 100 with a nice road win at Notre Dame back when the Irish were at full strength, to go with a win over Belmont. Still, ISU can’t afford to lose many more Missouri Valley games, and they need to knock off the Shockers when they visit Terre Haute.
Injuries have plagued the Hoyas this season, and after falling to Marquette in overtime on Monday night, they’ve now lost four out of five. They are just 6-6 against the Top 200 and 3-5 away from home. The Hoyas haven’t beaten a team in the Top 85 since November 24, which was just three days after an ugly loss to Northeastern.
To be honest, it was tough to find another team to even list here based on some of these profiles. I gave the Illini the nod based on wins over Missouri, UNLV, and Indiana, but they’ve also lost their last four games to push themselves outside of the field.
Here is how the bids broke down by conference:
Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas
ACC (6): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia
Big Ten (6): Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Pac-12 (6): Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
Atlantic 10 (5): Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts, Saint Louis, VCU
SEC (5): Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee
American (4): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Big East (4): Creighton, Providence, Villanova, Xavier
Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Northern Colorado
Big South: UNC Asheville
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: New Mexico State
West Coast: Gonzaga
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