Selection Sunday is about a month away, and the picture for who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament is becoming more clear.
In general, most of the 68 spots are fairly certain. Of the 32 conferences, we’ve tabbed 20 as being one-bid leagues, determined solely by conference tournaments. On the other end of the spectrum, at least 30 teams are safely in the field barring a total collapse between now and March 17.
That leaves the bubble, where every win and loss is magnified and every result from November and December takes on a renewed significance.
Here’s our look at the NCAA Tournament field for 2013. This is not intended to be a prediction, per se, but a snapshot at how the field may look right now.
We looked at RPI, strength of schedule, good wins and bad losses in our projections. You will also see references to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The selection committee does not use them as a reference, but we include them as an added resource.
NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET PROJECTIONS: FEB. 14
TOP FOUR SEEDS
In: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia
Worth a mention: Florida State, Maryland
Bubble notes: Virginia is new to the field this week. The Cavs have one horrible loss, to Old Dominion (RPI 314), and five other losses to team ranked lower than 100 in the RPI, but this team has played very well since league play began and also has a win at Wisconsin (RPI 33). Virginia's RPI is troubling (71), but we are willing to overlook as long as the Cavs keep playing well. North Carolina is in the field, but the Tar Heels don't have too much to brag about other than a solid RPI (36) and a win at home over UNLV (RPI 25). It helps that five of their seven losses came against tems ranked in the top 20 in the RPI.
Atlantic 10 (5)
In: Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Worth a mention: Charlotte, UMass, Xavier
Bubble notes: No changes in the A-10 this week. UMass is getting close. The Minutemen have won four of five to improve to 6–3 in the league. They do, however, only have one top-75 RPI win, at No. 32 La Salle. Charlotte is making a late charge. The 49ers' RPI is up to 48 after Wednesday's huge win at Butler. They now have three top-50 wins and only of their losses, at George Washington is to a team outside the top 100. Temple has played three straight one-point games, with wins over Dayton and Charlotte and a loss to Saint Joseph's. The Owls' December win vs. Syracuse at MSG will keep them in the field barring a collapse. Saint Louis, with six straight wins, is in good shape. The Billikens will have an opportunity to improve their seed in the next few weeks, with a home game vs. VCU and a trip to Butler.
Big 12 (6)
In: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes:Baylor has won two straight, but those have come against Texas Tech and West Virginia at home. Beginning on Saturday, the Bears have a three-game stretch with games at Kansas State, at home vs. Iowa State and at Oklahoma. They might need to win two of those three. Currently, Scott Drew's team has two top-50 RPI wins and has losses at home to Northwestern (RPI 98) and College of Charleston (RPI 140). Iowa State remained in the field desite losing at Texas (in overtime) on Wednesday night. The Cyclones still don't have a win away from home vs. a top-150 team. The do have two top-25 home wins and five of their eight losses have come against teams ranked in the top 40.
Big East (7)
In: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Worth a mention: St. John’s, Villanova
Bubble notes: Outside of that magical five-day stretch when Villanova beat Louisville and Syracuse, this team has done nothing to suggest its NCAA Tournament-worthy. They only have two other top-100 RPI wins, vs. St. John's (RPI 54) and Saint Joseph's (RPI 84). Their best road win is at No. 122 South Florida. St. John's is hanging around. The Red Storm have three top-50 wins, highlighted by the Jan. 5 vicory at Cincinnati. They already have nine losses, including two bad ones — at San Francisco (RPI 129) and vs. UNC Asheville (162).
Big Ten (7)
In: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Iowa
Bubble notes:Illinois solidified its resume with two huge wins last week, vs. Indiana and at Minnesota. The Fighting Illini are only 4–7 in the Big Ten, but they have a strong RPI (27) and five top-25 wins, including three away from home. Minnesota continues to struggle — the Gophers have lost six of eight — but is still in solid shape. Tubby Smith's club has three top-35 wins and six of its seven losses have come against top-35 RPI teams. Iowa is 15–9 overall and 4–7 in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes' schedule softens up down the stretch. Don't be surprised if this team plays its way into the field.
Related: Key stats from Feb. 4-10
Conference USA (1)
Worth a mention: Southern Miss
Bubble notes:Southern Miss beat Tulane on Wednesday to improve to 16–6 vs. Division I teams, but the Golden Eagles have no top-100 wins. They will have to win the league tournament.
Missouri Valley (2)
In: Creighton, Wichita State
Worth a mention: Indiana State,
Bubble notes:Indiana State will have one of the strangest resumes in recent memory. The Sycamores have four top-50 wins and four losses vs. teams ranked 150 or lower. That is hard to do. Their loss at Bradley on Tuesday knocked them out of the field for the week. Creighton is trending in the wrong direction. The Bluejays have lost three straight and now have five losses in the Valley. Their RPI is still solid, and they have still highly ranked by KenPom.com (23) and ESPN's BPI (18).
Mountain West (5)
In: Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Air Force, Wyoming
Bubble notes: Boise State is playing good basketball — the Broncos sandwiched wins vs. UNLV and Wyoming around a one-point loss at San Diego State — and snuck back into the field this week. They have an opportunity to solidify their resume this weekend at New Mexico, and still have dates with Colorado State at home and at UNLV. Wyoming has two solid wins (Colorado and San Diego State, both at home), but the Cowobys are 3–7 in the Mountain West. They need to finish strong.
In: Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Worth a mention: Arizona State, Cal, Stanford
Bubble notes: Colorado has solidfied its resume in the past few weeks with five wins in its last six games. The Buffaloes, coming off wins at Oregon and Oregon State, have a rock-solid RPI of 18. Arizona State played its way out of the field this week by losing at Utah. The Sun Devils have lost three of four and don't have any top-150 wins on the road. They do, however, play four of their final six games on the road — which could be good (if they win some) or bad (if they play their way out of the field). Stanford is making a late charge. The Cardinal have won four of five to improve to 6–5 in the league. They don't, however, have many quality wins — only one vs. a top-50 team (Oregon at home without Dominic Artis). Stanford can pad its resume in the next two weeks with a win at home vs. UCLA and at Oregon on Feb. 23. Cal deserves to be in the discussion after its upset win at Arizona last weekend. If the Bears (RPI 61, BPI 57) sweep UCLA and USC this weekend, they could sneak into the field.
In: Florida, Kentucky Ole Miss, Missouri
Worth a mention: Alabama
Bubble notes:Kentucky was seemingly in great shape after winning five-straight games, but the Wildcats could be in a bit of trouble now that Nerlens Noel is out of action. Also, their "quality" win at Ole Miss doesn't look as impressive now. The Rebels have lost four of their last five and are playing their way back to the bubble. They only have one top-50 RPI win, but still have decent compture numbers (RPI 51, BPI 34, KenPom 37). Alabama has an impressive league record (8–3), but only one of those eight wins has come against a team ranked higher than 75 in the RPI. The Crimson Tide have to keep on winning to remain in the discussion.
West Coast (2)
In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary's
Worth a mention: BYU
Bubble notes: Saint Mary’s has a great opportunity to solidify its spot in the field on Thursday night when Gonzaga comes to town. If the Gaels lose that game, they figure to be sweating on Selection Sunday.
One-bid conference projections
Florida Gulf Coast
Long Beach State
Stephen F. Austin