NCAA Tournament Field Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 03/02/2009
Below are some updated predictions and projections for the 2009 NCAA Tournament field. I am on record as saying that I think at least two of the following teams are going to get upset in their conference tournament - Butler, Utah State, Siena, Davidson and Memphis. If Memphis or Butler gets beaten then they will receive an at-large bid but I don't think that any of the other three teams (Siena, Davidson, Utah State) have a strong enough resume to warrant one. However, you never know. In order to project a field for the "worst case scenario" I am actually projecting that Butler and Memphis will lose their conference tournaments and therefore "steal" two bids from the BCS conferences.
I also have Davidson and Siena winning their respective tournaments but I have Utah State losing in the WAC and therefore being left out of The Big Dance. Again, I tried to do this in order to predict an authentic field by anticipating a little March Madness. If Butler and Memphis do happen to win their conference tournaments that would open up two more slots and I think the following teams are the first ones standing in line: Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, New Mexico, Penn State, and Florida.
My last teams in the field were Dayton, Providence, Miami, Michigan, Texas A&M and South Carolina. Kick in Georgetown and Wisconsin and I think you can say that the "bubble" is essentially 13 teams battling for between eight and 10 available slots.
So this is how I see the next few weeks shaking out. Selection Sunday is on March 15 at about 6 p.m. so we still have two weeks of madness left. And as we saw last year (Georgia winning the SEC title, anyone?) there is still a lot that can happen.
Teams marked with an asterisk are the ones that I project as "in" the NCAA Tournament field.
Atlantic 10 (2)
Bubble: Dayton*, Rhode Island
Skinny: Dayton still cannot be feeling very comfortable right now. They blew two chances to lock up their dance card with losses at St. Louis and at Rhode Island. They probably need to make it to the conference finals or beat Xavier on the road (good luck) this week. Rhode Island has played its way onto the bubble and has a great strength of schedule. They lost to Oklahoma State, Duke, Xavier and Providence by a combined 11 points. They have better numbers than Dayton, but the Flyers have wins over Marquette and Xavier as trumps.
In: UNC, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State
Bubble: Boston College*, Virginia Tech, Miami*, Maryland
Skinny: Florida State is now 100 percent in and I think that Boston College is about 98 percent in. In my initial projection I thought the ACC would have to settle for six. But, depending on what happens in Atlanta, I think they actually steal a seventh berth. I just don't know whom. Neither Va. Tech nor Miami has much in the nonconference to hang their hat on.
Big 12 (5)
In: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas
Bubble: Oklahoma State, Texas A&M*
Skinny: The four teams that are in are no-doubters. In my last projection I had K-State and Baylor as the bubble teams. Now I think they are both toast and I think that Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are knocking the door. The Aggies have wins over LSU and Arizona in the nonconference and Ok. State is playing as well as anyone in the country right now.
Big East (9)
In: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Louisville, Villanova, Syracuse
Bubble: Providence*, Cincinnati, West Virginia*, Georgetown*, Notre Dame
Skinny: The Big East already has a guaranteed six bids, and I think that West Virginia is really solid as No. 7. After that it is anyone's guess. You can snicker at me including Georgetown and Notre Dame. But if you look at their schedules and their top wins they can stack up with anyone. Cincinnati and Providence are hanging on, but this one comes down to who gets hot in the conference tournament.
Big 10 (6)
In: Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue
Bubble: Ohio State*, Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin*, Michigan*
Skinny: This league is still a toss-up. And along with the ACC and the SEC, a LOT is going to be determined by the conference tourney. Wisconsin, Penn State, and Minnesota don't have the nonconference resumes. Michigan has the nonconference resume but is a pathetic 5-9 in its last 14 games. Ohio State has wins over Miami, Butler and Notre Dame, as well as a 3-0 mark against Michigan and Penn State, so they get the nod. This conference gets five - I have no idea who the fifth is, so I'll go with Wisconsin - but that sixth bid is dependant on what happens in the smaller conferences.
Conference USA (2)
Skinny: Conference USA is still holding strong as the No. 8 conference. Last year the No. 8 conference was the A-10 and they got three bids. In 2007 the No. 8 league was the Mountain West and it got two bids. UAB only has a win over Arizona. But their numbers are solid. They probably have to win the conference tournament, however, to get in.
Bubble: Butler*, Wisconsin-Green Bay*, Cleveland State
Skinny: I am not budging - I don't think Butler will win the conference tournament. Part of it is just being stubborn. But I just think that there are some good teams in the Horizon and I think one of them can snipe the Bulldogs.
Bubble: Siena*, Niagara
Skinny: If the Saints had swept Niagara they would have had a shot at an automatic bid if they had made the Metro finals. But now I think it's all or nothing for this bunch. And that is a shame because this team can definitely ball.
Missouri Valley (1)
Bubble: Northern Iowa, Creighton*
Skinny: I still have seen nothing from the MVC to warrant multiple bids. They are the 10th ranked conference right now and only one of the teams (Creighton) is ranked in the Top 75.
Mountain West (2)
Bubble: San Diego State, New Mexico, BYU*, UNLV
Skinny: I've been saying it all year - the Mountain West deserves three bids. They are rated just a shade below the SEC, which will get four or five bids. If BYU can sweep Wyoming and Air Force they should be in as well. New Mexico and SDSU are definitely tournament quality, but neither has a marquee nonconference win. I think one of those two teams has to win the MWC tourney to get a third bid.
In: Washington Arizona State, California, UCLA, Arizona
Skinny: I don't even consider USC on the bubble right now. They are 1-6 in their last seven and their best nonconference win was against…wait for it…North Dakota State (No. 62). I think the top five in the Pac-10 are securely in and each one will be a very tough out.
Bubble: South Carolina*, Tennessee*, Kentucky*, Florida, Auburn
Skinny: Nothing is for certain (besides LSU) from this conference and I have actually dropped a bid for the SEC from my original projections. I think they only get four teams, but all of them have work left to do. Florida - contrary to popular belief - does not deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. No chance. Kentucky's best nonconference win was West Virginia and they are 3-6 in their last nine. USC played the third-worst (335 of 338 teams) nonconference schedule in the country. Auburn is coming on strong but has a lot of work to do. Tennessee has played a great schedule but is just 5-9 (2-5 nonconference) against the Top 65. I am projecting that South Carolina beats Tennessee this Thursday. If so, they get the nod over Florida. But, in reality, neither of them deserves a bid. The SEC blows.
Bubble: Davidson*, Chattanooga, Charleston
Skinny: Davidson definitely needs to win its conference tournament to get into the Big Dance. If they don't, then the selection committee is full of $hit when they say that last year's tournament performance has no impact on this year's field.
Bubble: St. Mary's*
Skinny: Gonzaga is in and I think that St. Mary's has it all but locked up right now. They got their win over Utah State in the Bracket Buster and I think they'll get some consideration for playing Gonzaga tough without Patty Mills. Nothing is official yet, but the Gaels hope to get him back for their opening round WCC tourney game. As long as they don't get bounced in the first round they should be 98 percent in.
In some ways I actually think Patty Mills' injury helps the Gaels, because they can always fall back on that to the selection committee. But St. Mary's is in, regardless. They played a very solid nonconference schedule (No. 95) and logged some quality wins in that stretch, including games over Providence, SDSU, and Oregon. A Bracket Buster win over Utah State (the game is at SMC) would move them into the "In" category.
Bubble: Utah State, Nevada, New Mexico State*
Skinny: Right now I'll give the nod to Utah State. But I really don't think that they are going to win their conference tournament. The trouble is that no one is playing well enough right now for me to get on their coattails. But, again, for now I'll put Utah State in.
Other Automatic Bids (15):
America East (1) - Vermont
Atlantic Sun (1) - East Tennessee State
Big Sky (1) - Weber State
Big South (1) - VMI
Big West (1) - Long Beach State
Colonial (1) - VCU
Ivy League (1) - Cornell
MAC (1) - Miami, OH
MEAC (1) - Morgan State
NEC (1) - Robert Morris
OVC (1) - UT-Martin
Patriot (1) - American
Southland (1) - Stephen F. Austin
Summit (1) - North Dakota State
Sun Belt (1) - Western Kentucky