Sunday, March 15, 2009

Final 2009 NCAA Tournament Projections

Before I get started with my projections, I want to quickly address Michigan’s standing as a bubble team. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve repeatedly stated that Michigan needed to win its season-finale at Minnesota and a first round game in the Big Ten Tournament to lock-up a bid. A loss in the first round would’ve put Michigan squarely on the bubble. Michigan won the season-finale at Minnesota and then beat Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. At that point, they were “locks.” Some cautious fans—and I do understand the caution considering Michigan’s 11-year absence from the tourney—still worried or are still worrying about Michigan’s fate. These fans cited the possibility of absolute mayhem in the conference tournaments that could steal so many bids that Michigan could get phased out. That was never a possibility. This has been one of the craziest conference tournament seasons ever. The absolute worst case scenario for bubble teams pretty much happened with five teams (USC, Temple, Cleveland St., Mississippi St., and Maryland) stealing bids by securing automatic bids or playing their way into the tourney. Still, even with that near-worst case scenario, Michigan is still not among the last few teams in the field.

On to the projections…Obviously, my goal is to get the entire 65-team field correct. I’ve missed once in each of the last two seasons. It will take some good fortune to get the field right this season because the last two spots are toss-ups. My intentions are for this to be my projections so I haven’t looked at Joe Lunardi’s projections or any of the other projections that are out there. Wish me luck!

Final 65-team NCAA Tournament Projection:

1 ACC Duke
2 SEC Mississippi St.
3 Big East Louisville
4 Big 12 Missouri
5 Big Ten Purdue
6 Pac-10USC
7 MVC N. Iowa
8 MWC Utah
9 WAC Utah St.
10 A-10Temple
11 Colonial VCU
12 MAC Akron
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt Western Kentucky
16 Horizon Cleveland St.
17 MAAC Siena
18 Big Sky Portland St.
19 MCC North Dakota St.
20 Big West Cal St. Northridge
21 OVC Morehead St.
22 Ivy Cornell
23 Southern Chattanooga
24 Patriot American
25 Southland Stephen F. Austin
26 Northeast Robert Morris
27 AEC Binghamton
28 Big South Radford
29 Atl. Sun E. Tennessee St.
30 SWAC Alabama St.
31 MEAC Morgan St.
32 At-Large ACC North Carolina
33 At-Large ACC Wake Forest
34 At-Large ACC Florida St.
35 At-Large ACC Clemson
36 At-Large ACC Boston College
37 At-Large ACC Maryland*
38 At-Large Big East Pittsburgh
39 At-Large Big East Villanova
40 At-Large Big East Syracuse
41 At-Large Big East Marquette
42 At-Large Big East West Virginia
43 At-Large Big East Connecticut
44 At-Large Big Ten Michigan St.
45 At-Large Big Ten Wisconsin*
46 At-Large Big Ten Ohio St.
47 At-Large Big Ten Michigan
48 At-Large Big Ten Minnesota*
49 At-Large Big Ten Illinois
50 At-Large Big XII Kansas
51 At-Large Big XII Missouri
52 At-Large Big XII Oklahoma St.
53 At-Large Big XII Texas A&M
54 At-Large Big XII Texas
55 At-Large SEC Tennessee
56 At-Large SEC LSU
57 At-Large Pac 10 Washingon
58 At-Large Pac 10 Arizona St.
59 At-Large Pac 10 California
60 At-Large Pac 10 UCLA
61 At-Large Horizon Butler
62 At-Large MWC San Diego St.*
63 At-Large MWC BYU
64 At-Large A10 Xavier
65 At-Large A10 Dayton

* Last Four “IN”

Last Two Spots

San Diego St. and Maryland

I believe the last two spots in the tournament will come down to two of the following four teams:

St. Mary’s
San Diego St.

Maryland has the worst RPI of the bunch. However, Maryland has wins over North Carolina (#1 seed) and Michigan St. (#2 seed). The Terps also played in the toughest conference and had additional wins over Wake Forest and Michigan. Maryland had three wins over teams in the RPI 25 and Creighton didn’t even play a team in the RPI 25. Even though Creighton has the better RPI, I think Maryland is the stronger team and wins the head-to-head comparison. I also think San Diego St. wins a comparison with Creighton. I also think the committee will rate St. Mary’s with a healthy Patty Mills over Creighton. So, I feel comfortable eliminating Creighton from the group.

That leaves Maryland, San Diego St., and St. Mary’s. Nobody knows how the selection committee will choose to rate St. Mary’s. It will be forced to decide how much of an impact the loss of Patty Mills had on St. Mary’s season. I don’t envy the committee’s decision. Mills is a superstar. However, Maryland’s quality wins will likely trump the return of Mills in the committee’s eyes. So, one of the final two bids will likely go to Maryland.

That leaves a battle between St. Mary’s and San Diego St. This is a tough one because these two teams played earlier in the season with St. Mary’s winning by three at San Diego St. That St. Mary’s team had a healthy Patty Mills. The reason why this is such a tough decision is because despite the result of that head-to-head matchup, I think San Diego St. has a better resume. Both teams finished 12-5 in their respective conferences. However, San Diego St. plays in the MWC which is #8 in the RPI. St. Mary’s plays in the WCC which is #14. San Diego St. also has an RPI of 35—11 spots better than St. Mary’s. San Diego St. has the 51st SOS in the country. St. Mary’s is woefully low at 148th. San Diego St. won six games against the RPI 100. St. Mary’s won three games. It would not surprise me at all to see St. Mary’s in over San Diego St. The committee has an easy “out” by simply saying that a healthy Patty Mills trumps everything. However, in my opinion, SDSU should get in over St. Mary’s so I’m giving SDSU the last spot in my projections.

The rest of the bubblers:

Penn St—The seven teams I have in the tournament from the Big Ten have an RPI of 45 or better. Those teams also all have a SOS of 35 or better. Penn St’s RPI is 70 and SOS is 93. There is a clear cutoff between those seven teams and Penn St. and I don’t think there’s any way the Nittany Lions get in.

Arizona—The Wildcats were a committee-favorite last year with a pretty weak resume. The difference this year is the absence of the #2 SOS. Arizona could’ve—and likely would’ve—played its way in with a win over Arizona St. in the first round of the Pac 10 Tournament but that didn’t happen.

Florida/S. Carolina/Auburn—Florida has no business being in the tournament with its resume. I know the committee says that it doesn’t pay attention to conference affiliation but I don’t believe it’s possible to avoid the subconscious conference-related biases that come into play. I think the committee would’ve felt compelled to put more than two teams into the tourney from the SEC. So, Mississippi State’s surprising automatic-bid probably put an end to Florida, S. Carolina, and Auburn’s candidacies. If any team gets in from this group, it should be Auburn.

Best Guess Seeding Projections:


N. Carolina


Michigan St.




Wake Forest


Florida St.


Arizona St.
Oklahoma St.




Ohio St.
Utah St.


Texas A&M






Mississippi St.


Northern Iowa
Cleveland St.


Portland St.


Robert Morris
Morgan St.
E. Tenn. St


Morehead St.
Alabama St.

Best RPI among at-large teams projected “OUT” of the tournament

#39 Creighton
#47 UAB
#48 Illinois St.
#50 Niagara
#51 George Mason
#52 Florida
#54 Baylor
#57 Tulsa
#59 Virginia Tech
#60 Georgetown

Lowest RPI among at-large teams projected “IN” the tournament

#58 Boston College
#55 Maryland
#46 St. Mary’s
#45 Wisconsin
#44 Michigan
#42 Texas
#41 Minnesota
#40 California
#37 LSU
#36 Texas A&M

Breakdown of conferences with multiple bids (in no particular order):

Big Ten (7)

Big East (7)

ACC (7)

Big XII (6)

Pac 10 (5)

A10 (3)

MWC (3)

SEC (3)

No comments:


Powered by Blogger