Monday, February 05, 2007

NCAA Tournament Projections (Week of February 4)

Another week like this one and we won’t even need to wait until March to know the NCAA Tournament field. As I see things now, there are no more than 70 teams fighting for 65 spots. I regretfully left out BYU and Kansas St. this week. Both have favorable schedules the rest of the way. I think some of the teams that I have in the tournament right now will knock each other out opening up a path for BYU and Kansas St. to make it. Both are short on impressive wins but their RPIs are pretty good and they will both certainly finish with gaudy records.

A team to keep an eye on over the next few weeks is Tennessee. No team in college basketball has a harder remaining schedule. It would not surprise me if the Vols ended up 7-9 in the SEC. With victories over Memphis, Oklahoma St., and Texas, it would be hard to keep them out. I’m just not sure that a team with a 7-9 conference record can get in.

My tournament projections are based on putting in the teams that deserve to be in the tournament regardless of conference affiliation and/or mid-major/major status. The Selection Committee did a horrific job last season so I will no longer try to guess what they are going to do. If I picked teams based on which teams I think the Committee will put in, I would have to intentionally pick teams that I don’t feel deserve a bid since that seems to be what the Committee does. Here is how I view the field right now (in no particular order):

Changes from last week:

In: Virginia, Alabama, and Illinois

Out: Drexel, Northern Iowa, and Georgia Tech

1 ACC North Carolina
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East Pittsburgh
4 Big 12 Kansas
5 Big Ten Wisconsin
6 Pac-10 UCLA
7 MVC S. Illinois
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial VCU
12 MAC Toledo
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt Western Kentucky
16 Horizon Butler
17 MAAC Marist
18 Big Sky Weber St.
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West Long Beach St.
21 OVC Austin Peay
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Appalachian St.
24 Patriot Holy Cross
25 Southland Texas A&M Corpus Christi
26 Northeast Central Connecticut St.
27 AEC Vermont
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun Belmont
30 SWAC Jackson St.
31 MEAC Delaware St.
32 At-Large Duke
33 At-Large Virginia
34 At-Large Clemson
35 At-Large Virginia Tech
36 At-Large Florida St.
37 At-Large Boston College
38 At-Large Maryland
39 At-Large Tennessee
40 At-Large Kentucky
41 At-Large Arkansas
42 At-Large Georgia
43 At-Large Alabama
44 At-Large Villanova
45 At-Large Marquette
46 At-Large West Virginia
47 At-Large Illinois
48 At-Large Georgetown
49 At-Large Notre Dame
50 At-Large Oklahoma St.
51 At-Large Texas
52 At-Large Texas A&M
53 At-Large Texas Tech
54 At-Large Ohio St.
55 At-Large Indiana
56 At-Large Michigan St.
57 At-Large Arizona
58 At-Large Oregon
59 At-Large Washington St.
60 At-Large USC
61 At-Large UNLV
62 At-Large Vanderbilt
63 At-Large Missouri St.
64 At-Large Stanford
65 At-Large Creighton

This projected field assumes that there are no upsets in the conference tournaments. There could be five or more teams that make the tournament who wouldn't have otherwise made it just from the conference tournaments alone. That would push five of my "projected" teams out of the field. Come conference tournament time, the last two or three teams that I have in the tourney will probably get pushed out by upsets, if not more.

The last five teams in the tourney right now:

1. Georgia

RPI rating: 46
Pomeroy rating: 28

Quality wins: Gonzaga (neutral), Vanderbilt, @ Arkansas, andKentucky
Bad losses: none

If Georgia wins the games it’s supposed to win and loses the games it’s supposed to lose, it’ll finish the season 17-11 (9-7). I don’t think that’ll be enough. Georgia will have to upset Florida, Kentucky or Tennessee to get to 18-10. Anything short of that may send Georgia to the NIT.

2. Maryland

RPI rating: 30
Pomeroy rating: 23

Quality wins: Michigan St. (neutral), @ Illinois, Clemson, and Georgia Tech
Bad losses: Miami (FL)

I’m starting to think that two of the following teams will not make the tournament: Maryland, Clemson, Florida St., Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Right now, I think Maryland and Clemson will be the odd teams out. The Terps are 3-5 in the ACC with a brutal remaining schedule. I don’t see Maryland getting to 8-8 in the ACC. Should that happen, though, victories over MSU and Illinois would bode well in a straight-up comparison between those schools.

3. Illinois

RPI rating: 44
Pomeroy rating: 37

Quality wins: Bradley (neutral), Michigan St., and Indiana
Bad losses: none

Illinois has quietly become the fourth team out of the Big Ten. Outside of Alabama, Illinois probably has the least impressive resume of all bubble teams but the Illini survived the early Big Ten schedule to set up a soft final six games. Illinois could be playing Iowa in the season finale for its tenth conference win.

4. Michigan St.

RPI rating: 38
Pomeroy rating: 17

Quality wins: Texas (neutral), Bradley, and BYU.
Bad losses: @ Iowa

I’m convinced that Michigan St. is one of the top 40 teams in the country. Sparty’s only bad loss was at an improving Iowa team without the services of Raymar Morgan. MSU’s problem is the killer remaining schedule. Sparty has to play Wisconsin (2), Indiana, Michigan (2), Purdue and Iowa. A home win over Michigan is a lock of locks but the rest are going to be difficult. I think State has to win five of those games to guarantee a spot. That will be a tall order.

5. Alabama

RPI rating: 26
Pomeroy rating: 59

Quality wins: Xavier (neutral) and Georgia
Bad losses: @ Auburn

Alabama has two wins in the RPI 80 and zero wins in the RPI 40. The Tide probably has the least impressive resume of all bubble teams. Alabama has been ranked virtually the whole season but I question whether or not the pollsters have been paying attention. I can’t think of a compelling reason why ‘Bama should be ranked. Fortunately for Alabama, it has the easiest remaining schedule of any major college basketball team. The Tide get to play Mississippi (2), Mississippi St. (2), and Auburn. If ‘Bama can go 5-0 in those games it’ll be guaranteed nine wins in the conference. I’m not sure that will get them in so a win over Florida, Tennessee, or Kentucky will likely be a necessity.

On the outside looking in:

1. Kansas St.

RPI rating: 41
Pomeroy rating: 50

Quality wins: USC (neutral) and @ Texas
Bad losses: @ New Mexico, @ Colorado St., and @ California

Kansas St.’s resume is very poor. It has zero wins in the RPI 45 and just two wins in the RPI 85. The Wildcats have beaten up on the Big XII’s weaklings to get to 6-2 in the conference. Ten or eleven wins in the conference is definitely a possibility considering KSU still has some bad teams left on the schedule. There is precedent for a team to get left out of the NCAA Tournament with 10 conference wins. KSU could be another. Eleven wins would be a lock. I think it’s very possible. I can’t say that KSU will have proven it deserves a spot in the Tournament but I’m predicting it will make it.

2. BYU

RPI rating: 29
Pomeroy rating: 51

Quality wins: Air Force and UNLV
Bad losses: @ Boise St., @ Lamar, and @ Colorado St.

No team had a bigger week than BYU. In fact, no team has had a more important victory all season than BYU’s romp of UNLV. Up until that victory, BYU’s resume was short on quality wins. Only Air Force and UNLV remained on the schedule in terms of games that could increase BYU’s profile. I think BYU will receive an at-large bid assuming it continues to win against the weaker teams in its conference.

3. Syracuse

RPI rating: 58
Pomeroy rating: 44

Quality wins: @ Marquette, Hofstra, and Villanova
Bad losses: @ St. John’s

Syracuse is in a similar position as Kansas St. The ‘Cuse have an extremely unimpressive resume but a weak Big East schedule gives them a good shot at 10 wins in the conference. I haven’t seen enough of Syracuse to know whether they are a top 40 team but I don’t believe their resume is anywhere near the top 40 right now.

4. Purdue

RPI rating: 47
Pomeroy rating: 45

Quality wins: Virginia, Michigan, and Illinois
Bad losses: @ Minnesota

I think the Big Ten will get five teams. Out of Purdue, MSU, and Illinois, I think two will make it. Purdue has the worst RPI of the two. Purdue will also have a very difficult time going better than 8-8 in the conference. As it stands now, I think Purdue is the odd team out.

5. Georgia Tech

RPI rating: 59
Pomeroy rating: 19

Quality wins: Purdue (neutral), Memphis (neutral), Georgia, Duke, Florida St., and Clemson
Bad losses: @ Miami (FL) and @ Wake Forest

No bubble team has a better collection of wins. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech has virtually no chance in finishing .500 in the ACC. Unless the Yellow Jackets can pull of an upset or two along the way, it will be the favorite to win the NIT.

6. Louisville
7. Providence
8. Hofstra
9. Drexel
10. N. Iowa
11. Bradley

Highest rated RPI teams projected “out” of the tournament

#29 BYU
#41 Kansas St.
#47 Purdue
#49 Bradley
#51 Providence
#55 Drexel
#56 Northern Iowa
#57 Michigan
#58 Syracuse
#59 Georgia Tech
#60 Wichita St.
#61 Louisville
#62 California
#63 Old Dominion
#64 Davidson
#65 Mississippi

Lowest rated RPI teams projected “in” the tournament as at-large selections

#54 Texas
#50 Vanderbilt
#46 Georgia
#45 USC
#44 Illinois
#43 Notre Dame
#40 West Virginia
#39 Virginia
#38 Michigan St.
#37 Georgetown
#36 Virginia Tech
#35 Stanford
#34 Arkansas
#33 Texas Tech
#32 Washington St.
#31 Missouri St.

Here is a breakdown of conferences with multiple bids (in no particular order):

ACC (8)

Va. Tech

Big East (6)

W. Virginia
Notre Dame

SEC (7)


Pac-10 (6)


Big XII (5)

Oklahoma St.
Texas Tech
Texas A&M

Big Ten (5)

Ohio State

MVC (3)

Missouri St.
S. Illinois

MWC (2)

Air Force

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