For the third straight set of projections, UConn tops the charts. This pick was solidified by exemplary defense as well as two subtractions from the UNC roster (Marcus Ginyard ruled out by injury and Will Graves suspended for reasons that Roy Williams decided not to elaborate).
Though they have only one loss (to Arkansas), Oklahoma remains on the 2-line. Due to a matchup conflict, I placed them in the 6th overall spot, though we project them to be higher than Louisville, who greeted February with a setback on Monday and an uninspiring performance on Sunday.
In terms of whose stock rose, look no further than the Tigers of Memphis and Missouri.
* I expected Memphis to be competitive against Gonzaga, but I did not expect to punish and demoralize the Bulldogs. John Calipari's management of Tyreke Evans - who came in with a selfish tag and is suddenly one of the best floor generals in the country since his move to the point – is worthy of Hall of Fame consideration on its face.
* As for Missouri, they are living up to their gaudy eye test metrics (top 25 national rating in offensive and defensive efficiency). Because they are now the 3rd team in the Big XII, they will be the hunted and will not catch teams off guard.
Meanwhile, stock is plummeting in Austin, Lafayette, Las Vegas and State College.
* On the heels of three consecutive conference losses to teams not named Oklahoma or Kansas, Texas is in the midst of an identity crisis and it is due in part to being banged up and not having an NBA-caliber point guard in the backcourt. However, this is why Rick Barnes gets paid the big bucks. He will have this team turned around, though it may not be immediate.
* While I do not think Robbie Hummel is the best player for the Boilermakers, his absence has been felt in two losses this week. If he remains out, expect more of the same. The beneficiaries of this loss will no doubt be Ohio State, Illinois and Minnesota, who are all battling for a 'protected' seed (i.e. 4 seed or better).
* UNLV is playing awful. When you lose close games, the finger will undoubtedly be in the direction of either the best player or the point guard. In this case, it's the same player. Yeah, I'm calling you out Wink Adams. Another week like this and my stretch of a Mountain West championship becomes no more. Utah is starting to normalize.
* As highlighted by other folks, in a week that Penn State needed a split, the Nittany Lions came out empty-handed and they have three halves of utter futility to thank for it. After winning unexpectedly in East Lansing, Penn State tanked against fellow bubble teams with back-to-back double-digit losses. That's toxic for a resume and I cannot emphasize that enough.
Moving down to the last four in, I went in with the notion that I am choosing the best 34 at-large teams. Miami-FL may finish 7-9 in the ACC and may garner serious at-large consideration, especially if Kentucky (who they defeated at Rupp Arena) rights the ship and Ohio State (who they would have beaten had Jack McClinton not been wrongfully ejected) continues to play well. In the end, it came down to Arizona and Kansas State. While I think that it is slightly irresponsible to have six from the PAC 10, Arizona has a better resume than Kansas State.
On a final note, Georgetown, who was a protected seed, is out of the field. The tipping point was an overtime loss against Cincinnati, which I happened to attend. If the Hoyas can go 8-10 in the Big East given their tougher than average schedule with a semifinal run at Madison Square Garden, they carry a strong argument for an at-large bid. At this point, however, it is unrealistic to see Georgetown win four of their last seven and win at least two at MSG.
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1: UConn (Big East), North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke (ACC)
2: Louisville, Oklahoma (Big XII), Michigan State (Big Ten), Wake Forest
3: Memphis (C-USA), Villanova, Clemson, UCLA
4: Marquette, Xavier (A-10), Kansas, Ohio State
5: Butler (Horizon), Syracuse, Illinois, Purdue
6: Minnesota, Washington, Gonzaga (WCC), Missouri
7: Arizona State, Florida State, West Virginia, Texas
8: Tennessee (SEC), Davidson (Southern), California, Florida
9: Boston College, Dayton, Virginia Tech, UNLV (MWC)
10: Utah State (WAC), LSU, USC, Utah
11: Cincinnati, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Miami-FL
12: Siena (Metro Atlantic), BYU, Kentucky, Arizona
13: Creighton (MVC), VCU (CAA), Buffalo (MAC), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
14: Stephen F. Austin (Southland), North Dakota State (Summit), Vermont (America East), Cornell (Ivy)
15: VMI (Big South), American (Patriot), Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley), Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
16: Weber State (Big Sky), Long Beach State (Big West), Morgan State (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Alabama State (SWAC)
IN: Wisconsin, BYU, Miami-FL, Cincinnati, Creighton, Tennessee-Martin
OUT: Penn State, Georgetown, Northern Iowa, St. Mary's, Providence, Austin Peay
Last Four In: Miami-FL, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Arizona
Last Four Out: Kansas State, Mississippi State, San Diego State, Michigan
Next Four Out: Penn State, Georgetown, St. Mary's, Nebraska
Seeding Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Big East: 8/16
Big Ten: 6/11
Big XII: 4/12
Mountain West: 3/9