Last year, Barnette correctly predicted 63 of the 65 teams in the tournament in his final bracket, including 59 teams perfectly or within one spot of their eventual seeding, making it--as with our 2005 mock draft--the most accurate predictions found anywhere on the internet, mainstream media or not.
Barnette continues to monitor the scores, RPI and which 65 teams will end up in the NCAA tournament in March with his latest weekly projections. Also included are the notes on the bracket with explanations of who might be overrated and underrated at this point. As he does every day, the major stories flying under the radar in the college world are discussed along with a look at the day's best and worst matchups.
You can read Drew's daily look at the happenings of the NCAA and follow his weekly bracket projections on the BracketExpress section of the site.
NOTES ON THE BRACKET
-Missouri State is still listed as being SMS in our database. They are the #12 seed in the Oakland Region. (editors note: this has been fixed)
-Let me reiterate that this is not a prediction of what the tournament will look like in March, but a report card of what has already happened this season using the same criteria that the selection committee uses to seed and select teams. That is why some of the seedings and selections may appear to be a bit unusual. CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE SELECTION CRITERIA
-The Bracket reflects all games played on and before December 24th.
-A lot of the data that the committee uses is still pretty scattershot right about now. It becomes more and more consistent as the season goes on. By that I mean that in the end many teams who have several wins against quality opponents also have high RPIs, a good ranking in the coaches poll, a decent place in the conference standings, etc. As for now though a team like Pittsburgh who is undefeated and ranked, but has a weak schedule (222) and an unimpressive RPI (46) is hard to place. They havent played any other tournament caliber teams, so it is hard to compare them. The same can be said about a lot of teams.
-Texas, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and West Virginia are other teams whose RPIs are far below their ranking and most likely their ability level (although Im not sure if thats true about Louisville and Oklahoma because theyve struggled against some pretty weak competition and been beaten handily against what little bit of good competition theyve faced). That is mostly due to either weak scheduling or a lack of wins against the good teams that theyve played. However, Im sure it will all even out for these teams in the end. They are entering conference play and will be facing much tougher competition. Either theyll be successful against it and their RPIs and quality wins will catch up with their high rankings, or theyll struggle to win and their ranking in the coaches poll will disappear altogether.
This is why scheduling weak out of conference puts teams at a disadvantage. If these teams struggle in conference play (and its likely some of them will because their conferences are so tough) they wont have much to fall back on when it comes to making a case for themselves to get into the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, Louisville and Oklahoma havent beaten anyone who is even close to tournament worthy, so the pressure is really on them to perform in conference play.
-Bucknells resume has probably peaked. Their RPI is #7 and their SOS is #16. They do have a game coming up against Duke, and if they win that their profile will certainly improve for the time being, but despite Bucknell being a very good team a win isnt all that likely. After that they will begin conference play in the Patriot League. No one else other than Bucknell is above .500 and none have an RPI that is currently better than #160. That means that any loss Bucknell may suffer will be damaging. They could go 13-1 in league play, but that one loss would come against a sub 100 RPI team and have a negative effect on their placement. Also, none of those games will have a positive effect on their placement even if they win them all, so it will be hard for them to maintain their current projected seed. It just wont be possible for them to keep up with teams in major conferences who will have multiple opportunities to pick up quality wins. Still, if Bucknell runs the table or come close to it in conference play they shouldnt need the automatic bid to get to the dance and will likely get a much better seed than what the Patriot normally gets, so it was definitely worth scheduling hard out of conference like they did.
I say this at least once a week, but why the hell isnt Bucknell ranked??
-Iona is in the same boat that Bucknell is in. They are 7-1 now with a big win at Iowa State. Their one loss was on the road to Kentucky, so that isnt damaging at all, but their conference schedule will not help them improve their resume. None of the wins will be helpful and all of the losses will be harmful. Still, because of a big out of conference win, they are in a position to still get an at large bid if they win out the regular season or come close to it. They probably wont maintain their current projected seed as a #7, but it shouldnt drop off too much if they win out or dont lose more than one or two games prior to the conference tourney. They are certainly good enough to do that.
-Northern Illinois is currently #4 in the RPI and has the #7 SOS, but that is misleading as to how good a team they are because theyve only played six games. That is why they are projected as low as a #11 seed and I wouldnt be at all surprised if they werent in a position to get an at large by the end of the year. Their RPI is largely reflective of how good some of their opponents records are than it is how good they are. That is always the case to an extent, but the less games a team has played the more their RPI is a reflection of a select few teams instead of their overall record. Kansas State, Loyola IL and Indiana State all have very impressive records. They are also all teams that Northern Illinois has played, which is why their RPI is so good. The only team that they beat of those three was Kansas State in overtime. They are currently 4-2 on the year.
-I believe Texas A&M is the only unbeaten team who is not in the bracket. The reason for that is that there are dozens of other teams who are not in the bracket who would also be undefeated against A&Ms schedule. Their SOS checks in currently at #326. That means that there are only seven teams in all of div1 that have played a weaker schedule than A&M has. Their opponents are just a combined 16-44 against div1 on the year. The pressure will be on them to perform well in conference play if they want to get to the dance.
-I believe nearly all of these teams have a good chance of making the tournament and wouldnt be surprised if some of them ended up with good seeds. As you know, we still have a long way to go.
-The officiating blunder of the week occurred in the semifinal game of the Rainbow Classic between Iowa State and Northwestern State. About midway through the second half Iowa States Curtis Stinson went to the line to shoot two freethrows. Although he missed the first freethrow, the scorekeeper gave him the point anyway. When Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy questioned the scorekeeper he declined to bring over the game officials and the game continued. Those keeping game stats for Hawaii later pointed out the error to the officials, but they did so after there had been two dead balls and NCAA rules prevented the score from being changed at that point. Iowa State went on to win in double overtime. Coach McConathy didnt blame the loss on the scoring error and downplayed the incident after the game. The fact that the officials were made aware of it could have resulted in a call or two that could have gone either way going Northwestern States way as well. The end result was still a loss for them though. It was a game they really could have used because it would have been the second notable opponent Northwestern State had knocked off. Not only that, it would have given them a nice RPI game in the finals because they would have faced Colorado State, who will likely finish with a good record. As it turns out, they faced Hawaii, who was the host team, and lost the third place game as well. Northwestern State is now 4-4. They have played some very tough competition though and are probably the best team in the Southland. However, unless they run the table chances are theyll need the automatic bid to get them in.
Highlighted Matchups for Tuesday, 12/27
Christmas Vacation is over...at least for College Hoops season.
-GONZAGA AT MEMPHIS. Gonzaga is getting healthier, and the healthier they get the more they will improve. Memphis is having a big year as well and will likely contend for a #1 seed. Both these teams are likely pod system teams, but this is a monster game for both of them because neither will get the chance to knock off the heavyweights once they get into conference play. Both teams have done a very nice job in scheduling tough out of conference teams in order to offset not getting shots at big wins in conference play. This is big because it is probably one of the last chances either team has at a massive win. Id say that this would be the biggest win of the season for either team, which is saying a lot because both teams have knocked out some heavyweights. It is also a very interesting matchup. Gonzaga is fantastic in the half-court offense and passes the ball very well. Memphis is very athletic and appears to be much quicker than the Zags. Expect this to be a good one.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTED MATCHUPS:
-RHODE ISLAND AT HOUSTON. Houston has been extremely inconsistent this year. They have some big wins against good teams, but they have a few losses against teams that arent likely to make the tournament to go along with it. They need to play more consistently if they want to make their profile more solid. Rhode Island is a pretty good team that will likely play in the postseason, but the NCAA Tournament is still a long shot. They are 6-3 on the year and wont be easy to beat, but if Houston wants to make a statement that they are a tournament team they need to be able to beat a team like Rhode Island at home.
-WISCONSIN MILWAUKEE AT WYOMING. Wisconsin Milwaukee has won 5 of their last 6 after getting off to a somewhat slow start in November. A win today will get them to 7-3 on the year and give them their second road win. An at large is possible for them, but theyll have to come close to winning out the season to get it.
-BOSTON COLLEGE AT DUQUESNE. If BC was playing this game at home it would be considered a buy game. A win will get BC to 8-2 on the year.
-JACKSON STATE AT ALABAMA. Alabama has lost three of their last four games. A win today will get them to 6-4 on the year, but will do little to boost their profile.
-NORTH CAROLINA A&T AT HAWAII. NC A&T has yet to win a game this season and probably wont win this one either. A win gets Hawaii to 7-3 on the year.
-NORFOLK STATE AT NEVADA. Norfolk is just 2-8 on the year so Nevada should have little trouble improving to 9-1.
-ALABAMA A&M AT TENNESSEE. AAMU has played just two div1 teams and has been beaten by both. Tennessee is coming off their first loss and shouldnt have any trouble rebounding from that in this game.
-TEXAS SOUTHERN AT TEXAS A&M. The cupcake marathon continues for TAMU. Texas Southern is just 0-9 against div1 which means TAMUs opponents will be a combined 16-55 after this game. They shouldnt have any trouble at all staying undefeated.
-SYRACUSE VS TOWSON. This is a major mismatch. Syracuse should improve to 10-2 quite easily.
-COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON AT UNC WILMINGTON. Normally Im not an advocate of these so-called buy games, but this is just UNCWs fourth OOC home game. Not only that, they probably didnt actually buy the game, but plan on returning it at some point. Still, it has the looks of one. UNCW is a team that will challenge for an at large bid and CofC is not. A win will get UNCW to 10-2 on the year.