Saturday, November 17, 2007

2008 NCAA Tournament Projections - November 17, 2007

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This projection is based on information known prior to the start of the season.]

Believe it or not, college basketball has returned. Despite losing their top scorer (Arron Afflalo), UCLA is my preseason favorite to cut down the nets in San Antonio. The Bruins are paced by shifty point guard Darren Collison and potent forward Kevin Love. Based on these pre-season seedings, North Carolina, Kansas and Memphis are expected to join UCLA on the River Walk.

In terms of power by conference, the Pac-10 has the potential to advance 70% of its teams to the Big Dance. To put things in perspective, six teams were ranked in the Blue Ribbon Yearbook’s preseason top 25. Meanwhile, the early season performances of the lower-tier Big East teams may have March repercussions. The conference has to be heartened by Providence’s upset blasting of predicted SEC West frontrunner Arkansas as well as Syracuse’s tight victory against a good St. Joseph’s team. As for the SEC, two-time national champions Florida have been stripped of their core and it’s finally time for Tennessee to take hold of the conference. The ACC, Big East and Big XII are projected to advance five teams each from their conferences.

Moving outside of the BCS conferences, Memphis is in a class by itself, a few steps ahead of Gonzaga, Butler and Xavier. Two teams returning five starters – George Mason and Davidson – boast talented squads who are both well-coached and experienced.

The biggest surprise at-large team is Duquesne of the Atlantic 10 Conference. In his second year at Duquesne, head coach Ron Everhart now has brought in a host of transfers including Shawn James, who led the nation in blocked shots (6.5) in 2005-2006 while at Northeastern. This interior force will surely change games.

As for the 65th spot, it will be a scrum. While I think Utah State will make the field of 65, the final team could include the #2 team from either the Missouri Valley or the Mountain West, or the Tournament Selection Committee could select a more visible team such as Washington, Missouri or Maryland.

The Seedings
1: UCLA (Pac-10), North Carolina (ACC), Kansas (Big XII), Memphis (C-USA)
2: Tennessee (SEC), Louisville (Big East), Georgetown, Michigan State (Big Ten)
3: Oregon, Indiana, Duke, Texas
4: Marquette, Southern California, Arkansas, North Carolina State
5: Connecticut, Florida, Kansas State, Syracuse
6: Gonzaga (West Coast), Butler (Horizon), Kentucky, Xavier (Atlantic 10)
7: Stanford, Georgia, Clemson, George Mason (Colonial)
8: Villanova, Ohio State, St. Joseph’s, Mississippi State
9: Davidson (Southern), Texas A&M, Arizona, Alabama-Birmingham
10: New Mexico State (WAC), Wisconsin, Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley), Virginia Commonwealth
11: Washington State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma
12: Illinois, Utah (Mountain West), Kent State (Mid-American), Duquesne
13: Providence, Utah State, Holy Cross (Patriot), New Orleans (Sun Belt)
14: Vermont (America East), Loyola-MD (Metro Atlantic), Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), Yale (Ivy)
15: Oakland (Summit) East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Northwestern State (Southland), Winthrop (Big South)
16: UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), Hampton (MEAC), Montana (Big Sky), Sacred Heart (Northeast), Grambling (SWAC)

Last Four In: Illinois, Duquesne, Providence, Utah State
Last Four Out: Bradley, Washington, Missouri, Brigham Young
Next Four Out: Maryland, Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Saint Louis

Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Pac-10: 6/10 – UCLA, Oregon, Southern California, Stanford, Arizona, Washington State
Big East: 8/16 – Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette, Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Providence
SEC: 6/12 – Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi State
Big Ten: 5/11 – Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois
ACC: 5/12 – North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State, Clemson, Virginia
Big XII: 5/12 – Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma
A-10: 3/14 – Xavier, St. Joseph’s, Duquesne
WAC: 2/9 – New Mexico State, Utah State
C-USA: 2/12 – Memphis, Alabama-Birmingham
Colonial: 2/12 – George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth

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