Monday, January 23, 2006

NCAA Tournament projections

Starting today, I will take a look at the teams vying for the NCAA Tournament and predict which teams will be in the field come March. My selections won’t necessarily be how I view the field if the season ended today. For instance, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville all have horrible computer ratings which would probably keep them out of the tournament if the season ended today. However, I anticipate these teams improving their ratings considerably before Selection Sunday. While my picks will be mostly based on the season to date, my goal is to accurately project who will be there in March, not who should be there if the season ended today. As of now, I’ll be listing teams in no particular order. As the season moves along, I’ll start listing teams in order.

Here is how I view the field right now (in no particular order):

1 ACC Duke
2 SEC Florida
3 Big East UCONN
4 Big 12 Texas
5 Big Ten Illinois
6 Pac-10 Washington
7 MVC N. Iowa
8 MWC Air Force
9 WAC Nevada
10 A-10 Xavier
11 Colonial George Mason
12 MAC Kent St.
13 WCC Gonzaga
14 C-USA Memphis
15 Sun Belt W. Kentucky
16 Horizon Wisconsin-Mil.
17 MAAC Manhattan
18 Big Sky Montana
19 MCC Oral Roberts
20 Big West UC-Irvine
21 OVC Samford
22 Ivy Penn
23 Southern Davidson
24 Patriot Bucknell
25 Southland Northwestern St.
26 Northeast Sacred Heart
27 AEC Albany
28 Big South Winthrop
29 Atl. Sun E. Tennessee St.
30 SWAC Southern
31 MEAC Delaware St.
32 At-Large Louisville
33 At-Large Syracuse
34 At-Large Villanova
35 At-Large Pittsburgh
36 At-Large W. Virginia
37 At-Large Cincinnati
38 At-Large Marquette
39 At-Large Georgetown
40 At-Large NC State
41 At-Large Boston College
42 At-Large N. Carolina
43 At-Large Maryland
44 At-Large Wake Forest
45 At-Large MSU
46 At-Large Indiana
47 At-Large Michigan
48 At-Large Ohio St.
49 At-Large Wisconsin
50 At-Large Iowa
51 At-Large Kentucky
52 At-Large Tennessee
53 At-Large LSU
54 At-Large Vanderbilt
55 At-Large Oklahoma
56 At-Large Kansas
57 At-Large Colorado
58 At-Large Iowa St.
59 At-Large Arizona
60 At-Large UCLA
61 At-Large UAB
62 At-Large GW
63 At-Large Wichita St.
64 At-Large Creighton
65 At-Large Missouri St.

This is the easiest time of the year to project the tournament because we can pencil in teams like Nevada, Gonzaga, and Air Force as the recipients of the automatic bids from their conferences. Once March hits and some of these teams lose in their conference tournaments, then it becomes difficult to decide which teams get bumped from the field.

The last five teams in the tourney right now:

1. Louisville
Rick Pitino is in danger of missing the tournament. If Louisville doesn’t go 3-1 in its next four games, then it will be out of the field. Louisville is 1-4 in the Big East with a deplorable RPI rating of 82. The Cardinals have only beaten two teams in the top 100 (Miami Fl and Akron). This very well could be the last week that I have this team in the field.

2. Wake Forest
Wake is also 1-4 in conference play but unlike Louisville, Wake could easily go 4-0 in its next four games. Wake also has the good fortune of playing in the best conference in America where anything less than six bids would be a travesty. Wake is probably the 6th team out of the ACC. Its RPI of 62 will likely rise with the rigors of ACC play. Wake has two good non-conference wins in beating Wisconsin and George Mason. Wake’s fortunes look bleak now but I think they will turn around quickly.

3. Iowa St.
ISU did everything it needed to do in the non-conference. It beat N. Iowa, Iowa, Colorado St., and Northwestern St. However, two bad losses to Texas Tech and Texas A&M have basically derailed ISU’s tourney hopes. If the Cyclones don’t go at least 2-2 in their next four, they will be on the outside looking in.

4. Colorado
There are some teams that I don’t have in the field right now that I think are better than Colorado. However, the Buffaloes understand how to get to the tourney. They are 3-2 in the Big XII and could easily win their next two games. They don’t have a great computer rating but in looking at their remaining conference games, Colorado could easily go 10-6.

5. Missouri St.
To date, the MVC has done enough to get four teams in. I think that’ll change by the end of the season. There will probably only be three bids for the conference. However, as of now, four teams have done enough to get into the tourney. Missouri St. barely edges out S. Illinois for the conference’s fourth and final bid. Missouri St. should win its next four games before embarking on a season-deciding stretch of games to end the season.

The teams waiting in the wings:

The problem with making a case against a team like Louisville, Wake Forest, or Kansas is making the case for another team. I don’t have Louisville in the tournament because of how impressive its been this season. I have them in because no other teams have accomplished enough to merit a selection. That may change in the next week or two but there are only about 36 worthy teams for the 34 at-large bids. Here are the 16 teams (in no particular order) that have at least a small chance of working their way into the field should Louisville continue its slide and other teams falter:

1. Old Dominion
Old Dominion has a respectable resume and up until this past week was almost a lock to get the automatic bid for the Colonial Conference. That was until George Mason made it clear that they were the team to beat. If OD doesn’t win the conference, they might have a good enough resume to get an at-large bid.

2. Arkansas
The SEC is weak this year which makes more than five bids highly unlikely. Arkansas will probably be the odd team out unless they can finish 10-6 or better in the conference. Arkansas has had an impressive non-conference resume in beating Kansas, Missouri, Missouri St., and Texas Tech. Its RPI rating is on the borderline at 43. The Hogs stand at 2-3 in the SEC right now which means they would likely be left out.

3. S. Illinois
Believe it or not, the Missouri Valley Conference is the fifth strongest conference in America according to the RPI. That means they are ahead of the Pac-10 and the Big XII. S. Illinois started out 6-0 in conference play. At that point, I had them winning the MVC’s automatic bid. However, they lost two of three and now stand as the odd team out. I see four MVC teams getting into the tourney. S. Illinois has the least impressive non-conference slate so they are left out. However, a few wins could put this team right back in the field. I have Missouri St. in ahead of S. Illinois because of two things. 1). Missouri St. beat S. Illinois, and 2). Missouri St. has zero bad losses while S. Illinois lost to Monmouth and Alaska-Anchorage.

4. Oklahoma St.
I had OSU in the field before it lost to Colorado on Saturday. In fact, after that game, I switched OSU and Colorado. Those teams along with Iowa St. are so close in terms of resume and ability. I don’t believe the Big XII will get more than five teams into the tourney which means one of those three teams is out if not two. OSU has the worst RPI rating of the three. They have also fizzled in the conference. Iowa St.’s wins over N. Iowa and Iowa are keeping them afloat. If Iowa St. loses to Missouri this week, they will be on the outside looking in.

5. Florida St.
We’re starting to get into the group of teams that really have no chance of getting in. FSU has a high Pomeroy rating at 29 but its RPI rating is 99. This team will be an afterthought in just two weeks as the ACC schedule sends this team packing.

6 Kansas St.
7 NC Wilmington
8 California
9 Rutgers
10 Washington St.
11 Missouri
12 Miami (Fl)
13 USC
14 Notre Dame
15 Alabama
16 Georgia
17 Virginia

Most of these teams will fade away as a result of their conference schedules. The teams that really have a chance of rocketing into contention are Missouri, Miami, NC Wilmington and Georgia/Alabama. I don’t think any of those teams will make the tourney but the conference slate is a whole new season. Teams can erase early season misery by simply going 10-6 in conference. If any of these teams can do that, they may sneak in. NC Wilmington is a different story. Wilmington is a mid-major that will have good computer ratings and an impressive overall record. However, with no good non-conference wins, they will likely have to win the Colonial tournament.

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

ACC (6)
NC State
Boston College
N. Carolina
Wake Forest

SEC (5)

Big East (9)
W. Virginia

Big 12 (5)
Iowa St.

Big Ten (7)
Ohio St.

Pac-10 (3)

C-USA (2)

A-10 (2)

MVC (4)
N. Iowa
Wichita St.
Missouri St.

Here are a couple predictions for the end of the season:

-The Big East will get eight teams into the tournament with Louisville or Georgetown not getting in.

-The MVC will get three bids (one automatic and two at-large bids) with Missouri St. being the odd team out.

-The Big XII will only get four bids with Iowa St. and Oklahoma St. both missing the tournament.

-Don’t be surprised if California or Stanford goes 10-6 in the Pac-10 and steals a bid despite a miserable resume.

-If Michigan goes 8-8 in the Big Ten, it’ll make the tourney. If Michigan goes 7-9, it’ll be NIT bound. It seems like a 50/50 proposition either way.

Each week I'll update my projection with an explanation of why I've dropped or added teams to the field.


Anonymous said...

You forgot MSU

Anonymous said...

My fault, I only looked in the conference breakdowns.

Anonymous said...


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Take care,


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