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 a breakdown of the pod teams, an analysis of the effects of the Bracket Buster games, and teams inside the bubble who can really help their resumes in the next few weekss.
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
-Let me reiterate that this is not a prediction of what I think the bracket will look like in March, but rather a report card of what has already happened. In other words, this is what the bracket would look like if today were Selection Sunday.
-All teams are selected and seeded using the exact same criteria the selection committee uses.
-There are currently nine Big East teams projected in, which is why there is a potential matchup between Syracuse and West Virginia before the Elite Eight.
AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to all 31 conference champions regardless of how good or bad the league is. The current projected champions are either all currently in first place or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are Duke, Villanova, Memphis, Texas, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Tennessee, UCLA, George Washington, Wichita State, George Mason, Nevada, Bucknell, San Diego State, Western Kentucky, Northwestern State, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Iona, Akron, Murray State, Winthrop, Penn, Northern Arizona, IUPUI, Pacific, Fairleigh Dickinson, Delaware State, Albany, Georgia Southern, Southern and Belmont.
-Indiana has simply lost too many games. Most of their losses arent damaging, but when a team loses as many in a row as they have it is never good for their resume. The same can be said for Maryland. They did win their last game against Georgia Tech, but Georgia Tech is hardly a tournament caliber team. Before that theyd lost five of six and have done nothing impressive since losing Chris McCray.
-Florida State has won three of four and is playing much better, but they need some quality wins and a few more road wins in order to get their resume to be good enough to get them into the dance.
-Utah State, Hofstra and Air Force simply dont have the quality wins they need to get any serious consideration. None of those teams are in first place in their leagues either.
-Old Dominion is simply too far down the conference standings in the Colonial right now to get any big time consideration.
LAST TEAMS IN
-UAB doesnt have any poor losses, but they really dont have any good wins either and are behind UTEP in the C-USA standings. They cant afford to lose to anyone other than Memphis the rest of the way because they are on very shaky ground right now.
-UNC Wilmington doesnt have a lot of quality wins, but they do have a decent RPI and have less wrong with their resume than anyone else who was left out. They need to win out in the regular season and avoid any poor losses in the conference tournament if they want to stay on the bubble. In fact they might need one more decent win in the conference tournament.
-Arkansas had a poor loss to Mississippi last week, but offset that with a huge win against Florida in overtime over the weekend. The have Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Georgia remaining. In order to be safe, they probably need to win at least three of those and avoid an opening round loss in the conference tournament. Anything less than that will really be cutting it close.
-Western Kentucky is projected in as the Sun Belt Champion, but their RPI is in the low 40s and they might get consideration so long as they win out and avoid a loss to a poor RPI team in the conference tournament. The problem with that is that virtually everyone in the Sun Belt other than Western KY and South Alabama has a poor RPI and if they were to need an at large bid it would be because they lost in the tournament, which would likely add another poor loss to their resume.
-Syracuse got a big win against Louisville to stop the bleeding, but their resume could still use some work. They havent lost to any poor teams, but its never good to lose five of seven.
-Arizona has won three out of their last four, including a big win against Stanford on Sunday. That really helps them out, but they still arent very far inside the bubble at all and still have some work to do.
-Colorado got a huge win last week against Oklahoma, and followed it up with a poor loss to Kansas State over the weekend. Colorado is in, but barely. They havent played well on the road at all.
-Texas was blown out at Oklahoma State on Sunday, which for now has moved them down to a #2 seed. They still have a good resume though and it is a very tough call. The reason for that is because theyve beaten both Memphis and Villanova head to head this season.
-Villanova got a big win over Connecticut, which has them in sole possession of first place in the Big East Conference.
-Duke continues to steamroll as does Memphis. Memphiss schedule in C-USA is catching up with them though. Other teams fighting for a #1 seed are really pasting together some high quality wins. Memphis just hasnt had those opportunities.
OTHER POD TEAMS
-West Virginia would have been projected in as a #1 had they won their last two games. However, they lost to both Seton Hall and Connecticut this week. They are a very solid pod system team though.
-Florida fell to Arkansas this weekend, which has them on the pod bubble. They really need to fight hard to get in because it would likely mean theyd be placed in Jacksonville for the first/second round. That would be extremely advantageous to them.
-UCLA fell to USC, which kept them from taking back sole possession of first place in the Pac Ten. They need to keep winning because being placed in San Diego would be very advantageous to them.
-NC State is in second place in the ACC and has been playing very well lately. They dont have any wins against the RPI top 25, which is hard to believe seeing as how they are in second place, but all and all they have a strong profile.
-George Washington is not in the pod system. Its hard to say what the committee will do with them if they do in fact win out. The only good win they have was against Maryland. Maryland is at best on the bubble right now, but GW will get some credit for that seeing as how the Terps were at full strength for that game. The last time a team posted a big record against a weak schedule was Gonzaga in 2002. The Zags got a #6 seed that year despite the fact that they ended the season ranked #6 in the country. Another thing about that Gonzaga team was that their RPI was in the low 20s while George Washingtons is hovering around the mid 30s. Gonzaga also had four RPI top fifty wins that year, while GW only has three this year with two of those being against Saint Joseph's who isn't anywhere close to being in the bracket picture right now. Its really hard to compare the Colonials to any of the pod teams (or for that matter anyone else in the bracket) because other than NC State they havent played anybody. They were beaten rather handily by NC State earlier this year. What do you do with a team who has just one loss, but no wins against the rest of the tournament field?? I wouldnt be surprised to see them in the Pod System, but I also wouldnt be surprised to see them seeded as low as #6 and maybe even lower than that.
-Everyone else in the pod system appears to be solid for now, but they need to keep winning at the same rate theyve been winning at if they want to stay where they are.
BRACKET BUSTER WEEKEND
-There were some incredibly exciting Buster games this past weekend. Bucknell appeared to have Northern Iowa beat, but UNI came back to force overtime. Bucknell appeared to have them beaten again, but with 2.4 seconds while in-bounding the ball, Bucknell threw it back out of bounds before it touched anyone. Northern Iowa got the ball under the basket with a chance to tie and came through. UNI got it done in the second overtime and picked up a big win. Bucknell really needed that game more, at least as far as being considered for an at large bid is concerned, because they really dont have anywhere near the number of quality wins Northern Iowa has. They also dont have the opportunities to get any for the rest of the season.
That being said, it would be a huge surprise if Bucknell even needed an at large bid because theyve been totally dominating the Patriot League and arent likely to lose to anyone in the conference tournament anyways, especially considering the fact that assuming they win the regular season title Bucknell will get to play all the games on their home floor.
-George Mason got a huge win on the road against Wichita State. They are in great shape for a bid if they can avoid any poor RPI losses the rest of the way. Their next game is a tough one though. They are on the road against Hofstra, who has just five losses this year. After that they face a very poor James Madison team and if they win that they get at least a share of the conference title. If they win both games they win the title outright.
The win would have been good for Wichita State, but the loss isnt that damaging. They are currently in first place in the Missouri Valley and if they win the league that is more than enough to get them into the tournament safely.
-Missouri State got a big win against Wisconsin Milwaukee. Wisconsin Milwaukee is now entirely outside the bubble and wont be getting back on it so theyll need to win the Horizon League Tournament. The good news is that if they win the regular season they get a bye into the semifinals and get the games on their home floor, so there is a huge incentive for them to keep winning. They are currently tied with Butler for first place.
-Nevada looked like an entirely different team than the last few times Ive seen them play. They absolutely blew out an Akron team who is pretty good. It wasnt even a game. If they play like that the rest of the way Nevada wont only make the tournament, but theyll probably do some damage after getting there. Of course, it wouldnt be the first time Nevada made some noise in the Big Dance.
-Cincinnati has won three of their last four, is playing very well, and is back in the bracket picture. It appears as though theyve finally adjusted to life without Armein Kirkland. If they can get a few more wins and show the committee that their profile without Kirkland isnt so drastically worse than the profile they built up with him, then what they did with him wont be emphasized quite as much. The rest of the road is tough though. Their last three games are against Villanova, Seton Hall and West Virginia. If they win one of those, that will put them at 8-8 in league play and should be enough to get a bid, especially if they win a game in the conference tournament.
-Alabama really had their way with Tennessee. They are getting themselves further and further inside the bubble and have the opportunities to improve their projected seed even more between now and the end.
-After losing their first six Big Ten Conference games, Minnesota is 4-2 since with a blowout win against Indiana and other quality wins against Michigan State and Iowa. They havent been a good road team, but their only two remaining road games are against Northwestern and Wisconsin, who they competed with and nearly beat earlier this year. Their RPI is in the 60s and they are really on a roll now. It is not impossible for them to play their way onto and even inside of the bubble.
-Texas A&M is another team who could get pretty close to the bubble. They really struggled to get wins when they first began conference play, but theyve won three in a row to even their record at 6-6. Their remaining games are against Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and Texas Tech. Obviously if they win out and beat Texas in the process theyd be in, but if they beat everyone but Texas and end up at 9-7 theyll be in a position where a few wins in the conference tournament might put them in the dance. One of the things working against them is their incredibly weak out of conference schedule, which didnt even give them a chance to get any high quality wins.
-Wisconsin is hot right now after they went on a bit of a tailspin a few weeks ago. Theyve won three in a row, are in a four way tie for first place in the Big Ten, with a chance to play their way into the pod system if they keep it up. Theyre pretty close as it is with four wins against the RPI top 25. They need to put together some road wins in order to get their resume up to par as far as becoming a solid pod system team goes.
-Kentucky got two big wins this past week against Georgia and South Carolina. Those arent necessarily high quality teams, but it ended a three game losing streak, allowed them to get two conference wins, and stabilized their resume which was getting them dangerously close to the bubble. Kentucky does have a big win against West Virginia, but it came in November before West Virginia really got hot. Still, it happened on a neutral floor and at least they beat a high RPI opponent at some point. Thats more than a lot of teams on the outside looking in can say. They have Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and LSU remaining. If they can win two of those they should be fine as far as making the Big Dance, but one ever knows for sure. Id say if they win three more games between now and whenever it is they exit the conference tournament theyll be fine. They may not get the seed that theyre used to getting, but they will be in the field.