NCAA Tournament Field Projections and Predictions, Jan. 27
by Robert Ferringo - 1/27/2012
This week I decided to do something a little different. In past NCAA Tournament field projections and predictions articles I was making blanket predictions about how many teams from each league would find their way into the field. But now that we are approaching February and we are two-thirds through the season I feel comfortable starting to actually project the field.
Below are my current NCAA Tournament Projections and Predictions. I have denoted the teams that I think will (and should) make the field with an asterisk. Of course, while we are through the majority of the season there is still a lot of ball left to be played. And, of course, those teams holding up the last 5-10 spots can easily tumble out of my projected field (and the actual field) by going in the tank over this last month.
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In fact, as unfair as it is, I have noticed in the past that the selection committee seems to give much more weight to how teams are playing from here on out than they do to what a team was able to accomplish earlier in the year. I don’t agree with that mode of though, but that’s the way it is.
Here are my NCAA Tournament Field Projections and Predictions:
Atlantic-10 (Projected Teams: 4)
In: Xavier*, Temple*
Bubble:St. Joseph’s, Dayton*, St. Louis*
Skinny:This is one of the best conferences in the country right now and there really aren’t any pushovers. Xavier and Temple are already locks. And I think that St. Louis and Dayton, barring collapses, have done enough to punch their tickets. St. Louis has wins over Washington, Villanova and Oklahoma, along with a conference win over Xavier. And they don’t have a single bad loss this year. Dayton is 9-3 in its last 12 and has been playing very good ball. They also have wins over Minnesota and Alabama, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of BCS bubble teams. In the end I think that the A-10 should take advantage of what has been a pathetic year for the BCS leagues. At least they should anyway.
ACC (Projected Teams: 4)
In: Duke*, North Carolina*, Virginia*, Florida State*
Bubble: Miami,N.C. State
Skinny: It is safe to say that Florida State punched its ticket last week with wins over Duke and North Carolina. But the rest of this league is still a cesspool. And I feel like the demise of this conference over the past four years is one of the most underrated stories in college basketball. Virginia Tech’s loss to BYU on Wednesday was perhaps the nail in its coffin. N.C. State has started 4-1 in league play, but they have simply beaten up on the bottom feeders. They do have a win over Texas in the nonconference. Miami is on this list solely based on potential. But to this point they haven’t done anything to make me think they are anything but an NIT team.
Big 12 (Projected Teams: 5)
In: Kansas*, Missouri*, Baylor*, Kansas State*
Bubble: Oklahoma State, Texas*, Iowa State
Skinny: Oklahoma State’s win over Missouri was the biggest of the week. But they aren’t in the discussion yet. They need to beat A&M and Tech over the next week AND probably upset Baylor at home as well. The Cowboys are just 10-10 on the year so you can only take them so seriously. Texas has games against Baylor and Missouri coming up and a win there would probably seal the deal for them, barring a collapse (which is still possible). Wins over Temple and UCLA in the nonconference keep looking better and better. Iowa State has wins over Texas and Ok. State, but they don’t have the nonconference resume to get in the field. But, again, with Kansas, K-State, Baylor and Missouri in the league they have plenty of chances to get a significant win.
Big East (Projected Teams: 7)
In: Syracuse*, Louisville*, Marquette*, Connecticut*, Georgetown*, West Virginia*
Bubble: Cincinnati*, Seton Hall, Notre Dame
Skinny:Again – this league is a total disaster. The teams that are “in” are all solid. But the bubble for this league is in a constant state of flux. The Irish are awful. But they have played their way onto the bubble because they have wins over Syracuse and Louisville this year. (Compare that to a team like Iowa State that is probably a better team but doesn’t have the resume.) Seton Hall’s bandwagon has crashed and caught fire. They have lost three straight to USF, Villanova and Notre Dame, and those are three wins they absolutely had to have. But they still have, by far, the best nonconference resume of any of the bubble teams in this league. Cincinnati has a soft spot in its schedule and needs to win three of four of its next five to really secure its place.
Big Ten (Projected Teams: 8)
In: Ohio State*, Purdue*, Wisconsin*, Michigan*, Indiana*, Michigan State*
Bubble: Illinois*, Minnesota*
Skinny:This is the best conference in the country from top to bottom and they will likely end up with the most overall bids. Illinois has been very inconsistent and they have that bizarre loss to Penn State on Jan. 19. They still have work to do. So does Minnesota. But they have won three of four and appear to be playing better. Those two have a crucial clash this Saturday. An Illini win would give them a season sweep. Northwestern is off the bubble. That team is a joke.
Conference USA (Projected Teams: 2)
Bubble: Marshall, Central Florida*, Tulsa, Southern Miss, Memphis*
Skinny:I have taken some bids away from some of the major conferences and this conference could be one of the beneficiaries. I am predicting that Central Florida will win the conference tournament. I am also predicting that Memphis will steal one of the last at-large bids. They don’t have anything to justify a bid beyond their name recognition. But in a year like this – with such a feeble field – that may be enough. Southern Miss has won 14 of 15 games. They don’t have a terrible nonconference resume but they have at least gotten themselves in the conversation.
Missouri Valley (Projected Teams: 2)
In:Creighton*, Wichita State*
Bubble: Northern Iowa, Indiana State
Skinny:Indiana State (over Vanderbilt) and Northern Iowa (over Iowa State) are clinging to the good nonconference wins that a team like Memphis doesn’t have. But I don’t think that will be enough.
Mountain West (Projected Teams: 3)
In: UNLV*, San Diego State*, New Mexico*
Skinny:This conference is rated above the Missouri Valley, A-10 and Pac-12, so they will garner at least three bids. The top three teams in this league are locks. Wyoming is a fringe bubble team at best. But if they can steal two or three wins over those top three teams you never know what can happen.
Pac-12 (Projected Teams: 4)
Bubble: Washington, Stanford*, Arizona*, Oregon State, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA*
Skinny:People can rag on this conference all they want. But with the exception of Duke and UNC, the Pac-12 is head-and-shoulders above the ACC. This league has five teams rated in the Top 70, and then Colorado (78), Washington (80) and Oregon (104) at the top of the standings. Honestly, at this point I’m just guessing which four teams will make it. But as much flak as this league is getting I just don’t think that the selection committee will ignore the names (and markets) of these schools.
SEC (Projected Teams: 5)
In:Alabama*, Kentucky*, Vanderbilt*, Florida*, Mississippi State*
Skinny:Arkansas’s win over Michigan got them a spot on the bubble. But I don’t think it will be enough to make people forget that they played one of the worst nonconference schedules in the country. Tennessee beat Connecticut and Florida, and they had near-misses against Kentucky and Mississippi State. But they are just 9-11 overall and 1-4 in league play so they don’t get any consideration yet.
WAC (Projected Teams: 1)
Bubble:New Mexico State, Utah State, Nevada*
Skinny:Nevada has established itself as the top dog in this conference so far. And an OT win over Washington is a nice nonconference W. But they lost to UNLV and BYU. A win in either of those games and they may have already punched their ticket. Regardless, I think that they and NMSU will continue their exceptional play. And if they can both make it to the WAC title game that may be enough for both to advance. (But then again, probably not because these leagues out west always get screwed.)
WCC (Projected Teams: 3)
In: Gonzaga*, St. Mary’s*
Skinny:I think that BYU punched its ticket with its win over Virginia Tech. But they have a chance to lock it up this next week with home games against St. Mary’s and Gonzaga. They really can’t afford to get swept there. And I don’t think that they will.
Big West (Projected Teams: 2)
In:Long Beach State*
Skinny:I am projecting that LBSU won’t win their conference tournament. But they have played an outstanding schedule and performed admirably while doing it. Anyone that doesn’t think they are one of the 50 – much less 68 – best teams in the country is an idiot and doesn’t know anything about college basketball.
Automatic Bid Leagues (Projected Teams: 18):
America East – Boston University
Atlantic Sun – Belmont
Big Sky – Weber State
Big South – UNC-Asheville
Colonial – VCU
Horizon – Cleveland State
Ivy League – Harvard
Metro – Iona
Mid-American – Ohio
MEAC – Morgan State
Northeast – Wagner
Ohio Valley – Murray State
Patriot League – Bucknell
Southern – Davidson
Southland – UT-Arlington
SWAC – Mississippi Valley State
Summit – Oral Roberts
Sun Belt – Denver
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