Dozens of spots are for the taking as the calendar nears March
Selection Sunday is about six weeks away, but the picture for who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament is starting to take shape.
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. 6
TOP FOUR SEEDS
In: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State
Worth a mention: Florida State, Maryland, Virginia
Bubble notes: Maryland remains on the outside looking in. The Terps' RPI is 66, and their only good win is vs. NC State at home. Virginia had a four-game winning streak snapped at Georgia Tech last weekend. That was a troubling loss — the Cavs' sixth to team ranked 100th or worse in the RPI. North Carolina has only one top-50 RPI win, vs. UNLV at home. Florida State already has nine losses and only has one top-50 win (BYU).
Atlantic 10 (5)
In: Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Worth a mention: UMass, Xavier
Bubble notes: Saint Louis is new to the field this week. The Billikens crushed Butler last Thursday and followed up with a convincing win over Dayton. SLU's RPI is 57 and it has two top-50 wins. The loss at home to Rhode Island is the biggest blemish on the resume. La Salle bounced back from a loss at home to UMass on Thursday by winning at George Washington over the weekend. The Explorers have a strong RPI (27) and two top-50 wins. Barring a late-season slide, Temple should remain in the field thanks in large part to its win over Syracuse at MSG. The Owls have a couple of bad home losses — vs. Canisius in December and St. Bonaventure last week. UMass is in the discussion because of a realtively solid RPI (52) and that road win over La Salle last week. The Minutemen have a lot of work ahead of them.
Big 12 (5)
In: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: Baylor remained in the field this week despite losing three straight — vs. OU, at Iowa State and at Oklahoma State in a heartbreaker Wednesday night. The Bears have some solid wins (at Kentucky, vs. Oklahoma State), and their RPI is a respectable 49. Iowa State padded its resume with wins over Baylor and Oklahoma to improve to 6–3 in the Big 12. The Cyclones' RPI is 36. With a win at Kansas in its back pocket, Oklahoma State should have nothing to worry about down the stretch — barring an implosion.
Big East (7)
In: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Worth a mention: St. John’s, Villanova
Bubble notes: Villanova followed up its two wins at home vs. top-10 RPI foes (Louisville and Syracuse) by losing at Notre Dame and at home vs. Providence. The Wildcats (RPI 65) bounced back with a win at DePaul, but their resume has too many stains at this point. St. John’s beat UConn Wednesday night to improve to 7–4 in the league. The Red Storm (RPI 55) have one really good win (at Cincinnati) and several bad losses (at San Francisco and at home vs. UNC Asheville. Pittsburgh put itself in great position by beating Syracuse on Saturday (and not losing to Seton Hall on Monday).
Big Ten (7)
In: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue
Bubble notes: Iowa is good enough to play in the NCAA Touranment, but the Hawkeyes lack an NCAA Tournament resume. They dropped to 3–7 in the Big Ten with a loss on Wednesday at Wisconsin. They do have a home win vs. the Badgers, but their other two wins in the league came against Northwestern (on the road) and Penn State. Illinois is still in the field despite a 2–7 record in the league — but the Fighting Illini are on the thin ice. They have three top-20 RPI wins, including two away from home (Butler on a neutral court, at Gonzaga). Illinois hosts Indiana this weekend and then visits Minnesota. Winning one of those two would really help. Northwestern has a bad RPI (85) and a lot of losses (10), but the Wildcats are hanging around. Baylor's struggles have weakened Northwestern's resume (the Cats won in Waco). Purdue is 5–5 in the league with an RPI of 119 and only one top-80 win.
Related: Key stats from Jan. 21-27
Conference USA (1)
Worth a mention: Southern Miss
Bubble notes: Southern Miss lost at UCF on Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles' first defeat in league play. It was enough to knock them out of the field. They are 16–4 against Division I opponents but have no wins against top-100 RPI teams. That is just tough to overlook. USM hosts Memphis this weekend. Memphis is 19–3 but lacks quality wins — but also has no bad losses.
Missouri Valley (3)
In: Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State
Worth a mention: None
Bubble notes: The Valley is a mess. Indiana State sandwiched huge wins over Wichita State (on the road) and Creighton (at home) around a loss at Drake (RPI 147). The Sycamores have eight losses, including four to teams ranked 130 or worse in the RPI, but they also have four top-50 RPI wins. Their profile is very interesting. Wichita State has lost three straight games but still has a solid RPI (38) and three top-60 wins. The Shockers, however, must start playing better ball.
Mountain West (4)
In: Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Boise State, Wyoming
Bubble notes: Boise State is out this week after losing three of its last four — including by one point at San Diego State on Wednesday night— to drop to 3–5 in the league. The Broncos' RPI is 53 and they have two top-40 RPI wins (at Creighton, 34; vs. UNLV, 20). A very weak non-conference schedule has hurt their profile. Wyoming has lost four straight in the league and its RPI is down to 63. The Cowboys also don't have a top-125 RPI win away from home. UNLV has been a disappointment, but the Rebels aren't in any danger of missing the field — yet.
In: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Worth a mention: Washington
Bubble notes: Colorado is 4–5 in the league and lost at Utah over the weekend, but the Buffaloes still have a strong RPI (26) and five wins vs. top 70 RPI teams. They probably can't afford get swept this weekend by Oregon and Oregon State. Arizona State has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises. The Sun Devils are 6–3 in the Pac-12 and only have one bad loss, vs. DePaul at home. They might need to sweep Cal and Stanford at home to remain in the field next week. Washington is barely in the discussion. The Huskies are 5–4 in the league with an RPI of 69. They have lost four of five and play at UCLA on Thursday night.
In: Florida, Kentucky Ole Miss, Missouri
Worth a mention: Alabama, Arkansas
Bubble notes: Kentucky is playing very well of late. The Wildcats have won four straight to improve to 7–2 in the SEC. The RPI is solid (43), but they are lacking in qaulity wins. UK still has two games with Florida, a home date with Missouri and a visit to emerging Arkansas on the slate. Alabama's resume took a huge hit Wednesday night with a loss at Auburn. The Crimson Tide also have three damaging losses at home — to Dayton (RPI 103), Tulane (166) and Mercer (173). Also, they have only one top-60 win, vs. Kentucky (46). Arkansas's RPI is up to 77 after Tuesday's big win over Florida. The Hogs have the talent to get on a roll in the month of the season, but they can't afford any bad losses to remain in the picture.
West Coast (2)
In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary's
Worth a mention: BYU
Bubble notes: Saint Mary’s has decent computer numbers (60 RPI, 24 KenPom), but only one win vs. a top-90 RPI team (at BYU). The Gaels also have lost two games, on a neutral court, to teams ranked lower than 100th. They are in the field this week — barely. BYU only has two top-100 wins, both against Santa Clara (RPI 84).
One-bid conference projections
|Conference||Projected winner||Conference||Projected winner|
|America East||Stony Brook||MEAC||Norfolk State|
|Atlantic Sun||Florida Gulf Coast||Northeast||Bryant|
|Big Sky||Montana||Ohio Valley||Belmont|
|Big South||Charleston Southern||Patriot||Bucknell|
|Big West||Long Beach State||Southern||Davidson|
|Colonial||Northeastern||Southland||Stephen F. Austin|
|Horizon||Valparaiso||Summit||South Dakota State|
|Ivy||Harvard||Sun Belt||Middle Tennessee|