In the last two weeks, the three best teams -- Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse -- have begun separating themselves from the pack. The most plausible situation is that if Duke wins the ACC regular season and conference tournament, then they will be the final #1 seed. Not far behind are Texas and Michigan State. Both have undergone a rough stretch, but both have not yet waved a white flag and will be in the hunt for a #1 seed all season. Unlike many projections we are seeing, we have left Georgetown off of the top two seed lines because they lack depth and are susceptible to performances like the one against South Florida.
The toughest problem in this bracket was selecting the final three protected seeds (i.e., teams 14-16). BYU, Maryland, and Wake Forest all lack the portfolio of a team that qualifies for that seeding. It is logical to think that the best team in the Mountain West and second-best team in the ACC are good enough for the #4 seed.
In the A-10, we sense that 4 teams in is a plausible option, but 5 (if we would have included Charlotte or Dayton) is too many. Though Charlotte has impressed of late, we are predicting that they will lose at least 3 games before the A-10 tournament. Further, it's worth noting that Louisville was missing 3 guards in their game against Charlotte earlier this year.
In C-USA, UTEP replaces Memphis as the at-large bid. In a two-week span, UTEP won in double OT at UAB and held serve at home against Houston and Tulsa. The Miners play great team defense and have played some of their best games away from home.
In the Pac-10, it has become increasingly clear that no one can predict this conference. That said, we are erring on the side of an at-large bid being stolen during their conference tournament.
Meanwhile, you will see that UConn is in our tournament field. We expect them to go 9-9 in Big East play, which is somewhat of a stretch. In the end, their SOS, name recognition and talent will get them in similar to the way that Arizona got in last year.
Among our last four in, Minnesota and UTEP were relatively simple choices. We think Mississippi State will right the ship and win 10 games in conference which should be enough. The final spot came down to Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, St. Mary's, and UAB. Given their relatively weak ACC schedule and their poor OOC SOS, the Hokies need to go 10-6 in conference, or go 9-7 with a signature win. We don't think they will do either. St. Mary's has some decent wins, but to be in the tournament, you have to beat tournament teams. As for UAB, though we called it, their recent form and results has us concerned. Ole Miss showed a lot of character in their comeback win against Alabama, and that was enough (along with a neutral court win against Kansas St.) to hang on by a thread.
Last Four In: Minnesota, UTEP, Mississippi St., Ole Miss
Last Four Out: Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s, UAB, South Florida
Next Four Out: Charlotte, Dayton, Cincinnati, North Carolina
Conference Breakdown (multiple bid conferences only)
Big East (8) -- Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Louisville, UConn
Big XII (6) -- Kansas, Texas, Kansas St., Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri
ACC (6) -- Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida St.
SEC (6) -- Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi St., Ole Miss
Big Ten (6) -- Michigan St., Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio St., Illinois, Minnesota
A10 (4) -- Temple, Rhode Island, Xavier, Richmond
Mountain West (3) -- BYU, New Mexico, UNLV
C-USA (2) -- UTEP, Tulsa
Pac-10 (2) -- California, Washington
1: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke
2: Michigan St., Texas, Wisconsin, Villanova
3: Purdue, Georgetown, West Virginia, Kansas St.
4: Ohio St., BYU, Maryland, Wake Forest
5: Baylor, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh
6: Gonzaga, New Mexico, Temple, Georgia Tech
7: UNLV, Tennessee, Missouri, Cornell
8: Butler, Florida, Northern Iowa, Marquette
9: Clemson, Xavier, Rhode Island, California
10: Florida St., Siena, Louisville, Illinois
11: Richmond, Old Dominion, UConn, Mississippi St.
12: Minnesota, Utah St., UTEP, Ole Miss
13: Washington, Tulsa, Kent St., Murray St.
14: Charleston, Oakland, Sam Houston St., Coastal Carolina
15: UCSB, Middle Tennessee St., Montana, Morgan St.
16: Belmont, Stony Brook, Lehigh, Robert Morris, Jackson St.
Next Update: After games ending on February 21
(Bracket to be posted soon)