-The latest Bracket Projections are posted below. It is not a prediction of what I believe things will look on Selection Sunday, but rather a checkpoint of where I believe teams currently stand. In other words, this is what I believe the NCAA Tournament would look like if today were Selection Sunday.
-The criteria I use to select and seed the teams is the exact same criteria the selection committee uses. You can read all about that HERE
-The bracket reflects games played through February 24th. CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS
. All 31 conference champions receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament regardless of how good or bad the league is. The projected champions are all either in first place in the conference/division standings, or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are: (Tennessee, Memphis, Duke, Texas, UCLA, Louisville, Wisconsin, Xavier, Drake, Butler, BYU, Saint Marys, Kent State, South Alabama, Davidson, VCU, Stephen F Austin, Oral Roberts, Cornell, New Mexico State, Winthrop, Siena, Belmont, UMBC, Cal State Northridge, American, Portland State, Robert Morris, Austin Peay, Morgan State and Alabama State).
-More notes and analysis below the bracket.TEAMS THAT WERE MOVED TO MEET BRACKET REQUIREMENTS
(UP: Villanova, Kentucky, Maryland, South Alabama, DOWN: Baylor, West Virginia, Arizona State, Wake Forest)OTHERS CONSIDERED
: Syracuse, Florida, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Virginia Tech, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Creighton, New Mexico, Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Houston, Western Kentucky, DaytonSLUMPING
-Two teams have undergone monumental meltdowns this season. Dayton and Mississippi got off to incredible starts and beat a couple of really strong opponents. They appeared to not just be on their way to the NCAA Tournament, but to be positioning themselves for a deep tourney run. Both teams have absolutely gone into the tank and it doesnt look like either team will be dancing this March. Dayton is in 12th place in the Atlantic Ten standings, and with just a one game lead over George Washington and Fordham its possible they wont even make the Atlantic Ten Tournament, much less the NCAAs. Theyre coming off a loss to Xavier where both teams played sloppy, which makes them 3-8 in their last twelve games.
Ole Miss is coming off a loss to LSU where only half the teams played sloppy, but unfortunately for the Rebels they were that half. Theyre 3-7 in their last ten games, and have three losses to sub100 RPI teams in that stretch. After appearing to be good enough to contend for a division title at one point, they now stand at just 4-8 in the standings and probably need to win out the regular season in order to get any serious consideration for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
-Rhode Island got off to a terrific start this season, but theyre in a major slump now with four straight losses. They have gone from being comfortably in the field to right on the bubble. They really need a strong finish to the season or else theyll be watching the NCAA Tournament at home.
-Florida got a close win over the weekend against South Carolina that they desperately needed, but it was anything but convincing. They had lost four out of five prior to that, and have especially been struggling on the road. They have a couple of big games coming up this week.
-Ohio State is completely out of the picture right now. They fell to Wisconsin over the weekend, which is not a damaging loss all by itself, but Ohio States only wins of note came against Syracuse and Florida, neither of which are all that solid. Losses to Michigan and Iowa are really pulling their credentials down as well. Theyll need some big wins between now and the end just to get themselves in the discussion.
-Massachusetts is in the field, but was the last team I took. There isnt anything all that outstanding about them. Its just that they dont appear to be quite as bad as the teams that I left out. They also have a road win against Syracuse, who is another bubble team, and since the two have similar profiles UMass will have the leg up if it comes down to taking one or the other. TEAMS THAT ARE HOT
-After a terrible start to the season that didnt even seem worthy of an NIT bid, Kentucky is now 15-10 on the season and 9-3 in the conference standings, which has them in second place in the SEC East. The win over Arkansas was their third against the RPI top 50. Its the only wins against the RPI top 100 that they have, but they appear to be coming on strong. This team also dealt with injuries earlier in the year, and the selection committee should take that into account. Theyre in the bracket for the first time since November this week with a #11 seed.
-Wake Forest managed a huge win against Duke earlier last Sunday, which gave their resume a huge spike. Theyre just 4-2 in their last six games, and were beaten rather handily by North Carolina last night (they played well for most of the game, but fell apart down the stretch). Still, with all the bubble teams that are slumping right now, theyve managed to play their way into the projected field. They need to avoid stubbing their toes between now and the end of the season against non-tournament teams, and pick up a few more quality wins against quality opponents if they want to feel safe, though.
-Davidson has won 17 in a row, and only a few of those games ended up being close. Unfortunately none of those came against teams that will excite the selection committee all that much, but they are still a very tough team and I could easily see them advancing in the NCAA Tournament.
-South Alabama is 18-2 in their last 20 games, and picked up a big win against Western Kentucky on the road, which is a team that was nearly perfect at home. Again, like Davidson, they dont have an abundance of wins against tournament caliber teams, but they did manage to beat Mississippi State earlier in the season, so theyll get some serious consideration for an at-large if they win out the regular season, but fail to win the conference tournament.
At the top of the bracket, Louisville has been outstanding since getting back to full strength. Theyre 13-2 in their last 15 games with both losses being close road games, one of which was at Connecticut. In that stretch, theyve beaten Marquette twice, Georgetown and won at Pittsburgh. Theyre now in a tie for first place in the Big East, and are into the bracket this week as a #2 seed.
-Xavier has won ten in a row, and is 16-1 in their last seventeen games in a rather competitive Atlantic Ten conference. They should be in position for a solid seed if they win out, but they may have trouble getting anything better than a #3 because they dont have any wins against the top ten. Everyone else on the top two lines has at least one win against a big time heavyweight. RECAPPING THE WEEKEND
-It was a huge weekend that was highlighted with Tennessees road won over Memphis. As advertised, it was a close, emotional, fast paced exciting game with both teams playing outstanding basketball (except when they were shooting freethrows). Along with several others, I thought Memphiss poor free-throw shooting would be an issue eventually, and it definitely was on Saturday as they missed several key attempts down the stretch. Tennessee picks up a colossal 66-62 win, which is probably the most impressive win any team in the nation has right now, and moves up to the top #1 seed in this weeks projections. Memphis is still a #1 seed, and will likely get one if they can win out through the conference tournament.
-Butler and Drake squared off in the Bracket Buster. Both teams are very strong, but neither had a big time quality win on their resume, which is what made the game so important in terms of both teams trying to improve their seeding. It was another exciting, hard fought, well played game with Drake stepping up and picking up a very impressive win that will definitely come into play in regards to their seed. The win actually snapped a two game losing streak for Drake, and ended a nine game winning streak for the Bulldogs. Both teams played solid offense and defense, and the lead seesawed back and forth.
-Kent State picked up a huge road win against Saint Marys, which elevated them from being on the bubble to appearing to be safely in the field. Many may not realize this, but the Mid American Conference is very competitive and has some intense rivalries, and as a result it beats up on itself quite a bit. Winning the conference tourney wont be a cakewalk by any means for Kent State, which is why this was such a huge win. If they can finish strong and avoid losing to any poor RPI teams, Kent State should be safe, though.
-Arizona picked up a huge, much needed road win against Washington State over the weekend. Arizonas record isnt the best, but their schedule is among the toughest in the nation and this win, along with several others theyve managed throughout the season, indicate that Arizona is a solid NCAA Tournament team even though theyre just 16-10.
-Baylor had lost six of seven, but managed a 92-86 win against Kansas State that they desperately needed over the weekend. Kansas State has gone from being in first place in the conference to losing three out of four. Kansas State still safely in the NCAA Tournament, but their seeding will suffer if they cant turn it around. As for Baylor, their next two games are winnable and I believe they need to win them both.
-Texas A&M fell at home to Nebraska (which was the second big win of the week for the Huskers), which was their third straight loss. The Aggies had been playing really well and looked to be heading for a very good seed, but now it appears as though theyre slipping. As good as they have looked at times this season, they still only have two wins against the RPI top 50 (Texas, Oklahoma). If they want a good seed, theyll need to turn it around and add some more quality wins to their profile. ONE-BID CONFERENCE RUNDOWN
-UMBC has clinched the America East regular season championship, and has won eight straight games. Theyll host the conference championship game if they advance that far in the tournament.
-Belmont has a one game lead over Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun, and can clinch at least a share of the title with a win over Campbell in their next game. The tournament is at a predetermined site, though.
-Portland State has clinched at least a share of the Big Sky title, and with two wins against Northern Arizona they hold the tiebreaker and will receive a bye into the semifinals and have home court advantage throughout the conference tournament.
-Winthrop has a one game lead over UNC Asheville in the Big South. UNCA appeared to be running away with it, but theyve lost four straight conference games. The two will face each other at the end of the season in a game that could determine who wins home court advantage throughout the conference tournament.
-With four conference games to play, Cal State Northridge has a one game lead over Cal State Fullerton in the Big West. The two will face each other this week in a big match-up as far as the regular season title goes, but the top two teams both bye into the semifinals of the conference tournament.
-VCU has clinched at least a share of the Colonial and can win it outright if they win one of their final two conference games. The conference tournament will be played in their home city.
-Butler has clinched at least a share of the Horizon League title, and can win it outright if they defeat Wright State later this week, which would earn them a bye into the semifinals and home court advantage throughout.
-Cornell is unbeaten in Ivy League play and has a three game cushion in the conference standings. They can clinch at least a share of the conference title with one more win, and win it outright with two more. There is no conference tournament so once they clinch theyll punch their ticket to the NCAAs.
-Loyola MD, Siena, Niagara and Rider are all in a four way tie for first place in the Metro Atlantic, but the conference tournament is at a predetermined site so other than seeding there isnt a whole lot to be gained from finishing first.
-Western Michigan has already clinched the MAC West title, and Kent State is just one win away from clinching at least a share of the East Division. Kent should be okay for an NCAA bid, especially if they win out, but everyone else in the conference will need the automatic bid.
-Morgan State has a one game lead in the MEAC standings with three games remaining. The conference tournament is at a predetermined site.
-Drake is safe for a bid and has clinched the regular season Missouri Valley title. Everyone else in the league will need the automatic bid.
-Robert Morris can clinch at least a share of the Northeast Conference with a win over Sacred Heart this week. They beat Wagner head to head, so theyll have home court advantage throughout the conference tournament once they clinch.
-Austin Peay has clinched at least a share of the Ohio Valley title. Theyll host a quarterfinal game in the conference tournament.
-American can clinch first place in the Patriot League if they defeat Navy this week, which would award them home court advantage throughout the conference tournament.
-Davidson has already clinched the #1 seed in the Southern Conference Tournament and is a perfect 18-0. Theyll probably need to win the conference tournament, which is at a predetermined site, in order to get to the NCAAs, though.
-Lamar has clinched the East Division in the Southland, and Stephen F Austin is one win away from clinching at least a share of the West Division. Stephen F Austin clearly looks to be the better team and should be favored to win the conference tourney, but no one is good enough to get in without the automatic bid.
-Oral Roberts has clinched at least a share of the Summit League title with two games remaining, and the conference tourney will be in their home city.
-South Alabama and Western Kentucky are neck and neck at 14-2 in the Sun Belt Standings, but South Alabama holds the tiebreaker for the #1 seed. The tournament is at a predetermined site, though. South Alabama should be safe for a bid if they win out, but lose in the championship game of the conference tournament. Western KY will need the automatic bid, though.
-Alabama State has a two game lead in the SWAC standings with five games remaining.
-Boise State and New Mexico State are tied in the conference standings with three games remaining. The conference tournament will be held at New Mexico State (which was predetermined) and both teams will need to win the tournament to get the automatic bid.