Last year, Barnette correctly predicted 63 of the 65 teams in the tournament in his final bracket, including 59 teams perfectly or within one spot of their eventual seeding, making it--as with our 2005 mock draft--the most accurate predictions found anywhere on the internet, mainstream media or not.
Barnette continues to monitor the scores, RPI and which 65 teams will end up in the NCAA tournament in March with his latest weekly projections. Also included are the notes on the bracket with a breakdown of how all the various conferences are faring so far. As he does every day, the major stories flying under the radar in the college world are discussed along with a look at the day's best and worst matchups.
You can read Drew's daily look at the happenings of the NCAA and follow his weekly bracket projections on the BracketExpress section of the site.
NOTES ON THE BRACKET
-This past weekend was a big week (as is every week) and was really the first week of full blown conference play. I realize that for many people it may have been the first week that they really began to intently follow college basketball. I know there were a ton of big games this past week, but everyone needs to realize that games have been played since early November and that last week was just one week of a season that is nearly two months old. This bracket projection (as is the final bracket on Selection Sunday) is a reflection of EVERYTHING that has happened this season, NOT just what happened this past week. That is why some of the selections and seedings will no doubt have many people scratching their heads.
-I would also like to reiterate that this is NOT a prediction of March, but rather a report card of what has happened during the season so far. That is why there are a number of teams whose seeding isnt entirely consistent with what their ability levels might be. If a team appears to be very good, but hasnt really done much on the court to build their resume due to a weak out of conference schedule, their current projected seed reflects that. If they get the big wins in conference play then their seed will certainly improve, but their projected seed wont reflect that until it happens. A more detailed description of the bracket can be seen below in the CONFERENCE RUNDOWN.
-AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to all 31 conference champions. All projected champions are either currently in first place in the conference standings or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are (Duke, Memphis, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Bucknell, George Washington, Old Dominion, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Hawaii, Air Force, Southern Illinois, Winthrop, Western Kentucky, Davidson, Ohio, Manhattan, Northwestern State, Penn, Montana, Samford, Oral Roberts, Fairleigh Dickinson, Albany, Southern, Florida Atlantic, Delaware State, UC Irvine
-Many in the media refer to these games as Guarantee Games. I like to call them Buy Games, though. The reason for that is that a heavyweight team from a heavyweight conference such as Louisville will pay $50,000 or so out to a lightweight from a lightweight conference such as Chicago State to come play them at home. This basically assures Louisville two things, a win and a sellout crowd that more than offsets the $50,000 they paid to Chicago State. Several major conference teams love to schedule buy games because it makes them money and gets them wins. The problem with scheduling Buy Games is that to the selection committee a win that is bought is worth about 1/10th (if that) as much as a win that is earned. I can completely understand playing a few of these, but there are teams out there that played too many. As a result, they dont have much of an NCAA Tournament resume right now, which is why you see some heavyweights seeded pretty poorly in this projection. Until they get into conference play and earn some wins, their projection will not improve. Its obvious that many of these teams will likely do that, but their projected seed will not reflect that until it happens.
Another problem with playing too many Buy Games is that it puts more pressure on a team to perform in conference. Iowa State, Michigan State and Duke played reasonably tough out of conference schedules and were successful in them for the most part. If they struggle to do well in conference they have some out of conference success to fall back on which will help their seed and their bid. Louisville, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Florida State and dozens of others played out of conference schedules where maybe all but one or two of the games were Buy Games. As a result, they HAVE to do well in conference or they arent going anywhere.
Something to keep in mind when it comes to the selection committee: Who you win against is far more important than how many you win.
Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Auburn, Michigan, Wichita State, Bradley, Xavier, Georgetown, Northern Illinois, Buffalo, Colorado State, Saint Joseph's, Creighton, George Mason
-This is one of the strongest conferences in the country, especially at the top of the league. Michigan State was very impressive out of conference, but lost on the road to Wisconsin and Illinois in their home openers.
Illinois was unbeaten on the year and 65-4 in their last 69 games entering their game against Iowa Saturday, but came out of there with a loss. It was a massive win for Iowa, who has had trouble in conference play in the past.
Wisconsin has an incredible four wins against the RPI top 25 right now. They are #3 in the RPI and have an SOS of #9. They showed this weekend that they are extremely tough to beat at home.
Indiana is unbeaten in league play is well at 2-0.
-The Big East has nine teams projected in currently. I doubt theyll get that many in in the end however. The reason is that every time a game is played, someone loses, which makes it impossible for ALL the teams to continue to win at the same rate they were winning at out of conference.
Cincinnati is one of the biggest surprises in the conference. They are also one of the best teams, but for whatever reason havent broken into the rankings yet. They are on a nine game win streak and are 2-0 in league play with wins over DePaul and Marquette
Marquette didnt do poorly out of conference, but they didnt do anything overly impressive either. They got off to a good start though by handing Connecticut their first loss of the year in the conference opener.
Louisville struggled, but got past Providence to even their conference record at 1-1. It was their biggest win on the season so far and theyll need to get some more if they want to show they are tournament worthy
West Virginia is on a roll. Their RPI is low, but that is due largely to some of the very weak teams they played out of conference. They got a big win on the road against Villanova over the weekend. That could turn out to be one of their biggest wins of the season. Their RPI should improve very rapidly.
Pittsburgh is unbeaten on the year as well. They started off with a weak schedule, but they have proven that they are among the best in the country by getting wins against Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
-Duke is undefeated on the year, #1 in the RPI and has played one of the toughest schedules so far. They have notable OOC wins against Memphis and Indiana and are off to a 2-0 start in conference play with an early win over Virginia Tech and a decisive win on the road against Wake Forest the other night.
Georgia Tech is also 2-0 in league play and just got a big win at home against Boston College, but a sub-par showing out of conference is what is currently keeping them out of the projections.
The only other unbeaten team in conference play is North Carolina (1-0) who beat a very good NC State team over the weekend.
Miami, FL struggled in the out of conference portion of their schedule, but played well against some good teams and just got a massive win against a good Maryland team to even their ACC record at 1-1. They dont have the wins they need yet to make a case for the tournament, but they are certainly good enough to get them in league play.
Everyone in the conference enters league play with a winning record. Some teams like Florida State, Clemson and Boston College amassed impressive records against weak teams and need to do something in conference play to prove that they are tournament worthy. However, the conference has several big wins overall and will undoubtedly get a handful of teams to the dance.
-As many have noticed, Kansas is not in the bracket. The reason for that is that their RPI is 120 on the year. If the season ended today, they would not even be on the Nitty Gritty report that is submitted to the committee. Common sense would tell you that they are a better team who will probably make the tournament and get a good seed. I agree, especially considering the way that they demolished Kentucky over the weekend. If they continue to play like that, their RPI and quality wins will skyrocket in a hurry. However, they wont be projected into the bracket until it happens. This is not a prediction of the future, but a checkpoint for what has happened so far.
Iowa State is having a big year. They have five wins against the RPI top fifty (most in conference) and two against the RPI top 25. They won their first conference game against Kansas State, but barely. Kansas State played very well out of conference, but that part of their schedule wont challenge them like the remainder of it will. Still, they looked good the other night.
Texas appears to be back. They crushed a Colorado team who had been playing extremely well in the weeks leading up to conference play. They are a likely Pod System team and will contend to be placed in Dallas.
Oklahoma has yet to get a big win this season. They lost to Nebraska over the weekend and really need to turn it on because they dont have anything on the out of conference part of their schedule to indicate that they are a tournament team. The same goes for Texas A&M.
-Kentucky is struggling, but the good news for them is that they get Randolph Morris back for conference play. Since the committee takes injuries and suspensions into consideration they will overlook some of Kentuckys struggles if they prove themselves to be a better team with him in conference.
Florida remains unbeaten on the season and will contend for a #1 seed.
Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Arkansas all have good records, but have not played the toughest of schedules so theyll need to play well in conference to be considered for the tournament.
Georgia lost their opener against Florida, but they are a much improved team from last season who wont be easy to beat.
Tennessee got a big come from behind win at South Carolina. They played a lot of weak teams as well, but they did get a big time win at Texas so they appear to be a solid tourney team for the time being.
If the games were only 36 minutes long, LSU would probably be ranked #1 in the country. Theyve blown leads against Ohio State, Cincinnati and Connecticut late in the game. They are a young team and are better than their record. They wont be an automatic win by any means and they are good enough to play their way into strong tournament consideration.
-A lot of the teams in this conference scheduled weak out of conference. In fact I think too many of them scheduled too weak. Its okay to buy a few wins, but I think this conference bought too many and it could end up costing them a bid or two.
Washington State is an early surprise. They are 9-3 on the year and just got a huge win against Washington. For the past two years they have competed in a lot of games, but werent able to get over the top. Theyre getting it done this year though and have made it obvious that they are good enough to contend for the tournament.
Speaking of Washington, they are 1-2 in league play with both losses coming at home. They were unbeaten out of conference, but they only had one really good win and that was against an injury ridden Gonzaga team. Theyll have to do well in conference to make a case for a good seed.
UCLA is having a big year and will contend for the pod system and a spot in San Diego. The same can be said about Arizona, who struggled out of conference against some weak teams, but still managed wins and is playing well in the league right now. .
Cal and USC have good records and could get themselves in. USC has a nice win over North Carolina, but other than that their schedule was weak and theyll need to finish well in the conference standings to get in. The same goes for Cal.
-Memphis is dominating the league and should be OK for a #1 seed if they can win out. UAB and Houston have some pretty decent teams and did reasonably well out of conference. Both will contend for the NCAA Tournament and both have a good shot at making it along with Memphis. However, Memphis is clearly dominant. The problem is that just one loss could result in them not getting a #1 seed, but the Tigers will get a good seed so long as they dont lose too many games.
-Southern Illinois is the only unbeaten team in league play. They got off to an abysmal start, but have been playing well since then and if it continues the committee wont punish them so much for what happened early in November. They have still yet to earn an RPI top fifty win.
Northern Iowa appears to have the best team. They have a big OOC win against Iowa, are 4-1 in league play and 12-2 on the year. If they finish at or near the top of the league they should be looking at an at large bid as well as a pretty good seed.
Indiana State is falling apart. They won their first seven games, but have lost five in a row since then. They are just 1-4 in league play. At one time they looked like a good candidate for an at large, but not anymore.
Missouri State is another tough team. The problem for them is that they dont have any good out of conference wins, but if they can finish at or near the top of the league they should be okay for a bid.
Bradley is sensational at home, but poor on the road. They do have some really good wins, but theyll need to get some on the road if they want to make it to the dance. Getting Patrick OBryant back from an 8 game suspension means that the committee might have to take that into consideration if they do well in-conference.
-Like most recent years, this is Gonzaga and seven also-rans. The Zags have the big time wins they need out of conference to get a very high seed and won at Saint Marys in their conference opener, who is probably the strongest team in the league besides Gonzaga. Dont be surprised if they run the table.
-This league has a pretty good overall record, but they collectively amassed it against weak competition. The only two teams with good wins are Dayton who beat Cincinnati and George Washington who beat Maryland. Dayton is not anywhere close to the tournament picture right now with five straight losses and GWs schedule was so weak that their RPI is only 78 despite the fact that they have just one loss on the year. Saint Josephs played a tough schedule and has what looks to be a nice win against Kansas, but that is really the only good win they got. They are 1-1 in league play with a loss to Xavier. This league will probably send more than one team and the RPIs will probably go up a little bit due to the overall conference record, but nearly every team is looking at needing to win a minimum of 12 league games to get any consideration.
-Like most years, Hawaii is great at home and terrible on the road. They are 2-0 in conference play and 8-4 on the year with wins against Nevada and Michigan State so its hard to keep them out of the bracket. However, its unlikely theyll remain at the top of the league because they do have to play games on the road. Theyll need SOME road wins if they want to get to the tournament.
Nevada is probably the best team, but they have really struggled lately. They lost at Saint Marys and at Hawaii in close games, but then struggled to beat a very weak San Jose State team. If they win the regular season title they should be a lock for the tournament, but it wont take too many losses to poison their resume.
Louisiana Tech is unbeaten in league play as well.
-Air Force appears to be the best team. They are 14-1 on the year, but the problem is that their OOC schedule was so weak. Their only loss came at Washington in a game where they really competed.
Colorado State was great out of conference, but has lost their first two conference games. They appeared to be an at large candidate and still could be, but they must dominate the rest of the way.
-After some disappointing play and inconsistency out of conference Old Dominion appears to have their stride back. If they were to win the regular season championship and avoid any bad losses theyd likely be in the tournament with or without the automatic tournament bid.
George Mason is very hot right now as well. Theyve won six of their last seven with their only loss being by one point to Mississippi State. They too could get to the dance without the automatic IF they win the league and avoid any losses to sub 100 RPI teams.
UNC Wilmington, Hofstra and Drexel all only have one loss in league play as well.
-Bucknell was probably happier than anyone that conference play was beginning after playing such a tough OOC schedule and so many road games. Life is certainly easier for them now that league play has begun. They have the wins they need to get an at large so long as they dont lose more than one or two league games. In fact two losses would really be pushing it. They appear to be way undermatched though so dont be surprised if they run the table.
-The East Division is beating up on the west. Miami, OH, Ohio, Akron and Kent State are all 2-0 on league play while no one in the West is unbeaten. Ohio has a good team and had a nice come from behind win against Ball State over the weekend. They dont have any poor losses, but the problem is they dont have any good wins. They were crushed by Cincinnati and led Kentucky most of the way, but couldnt hold on. That makes getting an at large bid tough. It can be done though, but theyll have to win the division and avoid any poor losses.
Buffalo had just one loss entering conference play, but like Ohio had no good wins other than a home win against Rutgers. Their RPI is a respectable 56, but because they dont have any big wins any loss is a damaging loss. They fell to Northern Illinois in overtime over the weekend.
-Wisconsin Milwaukee is having a big year. They dont have any good wins to warrant a really good seed, but their RPI is #17 and they should be okay for an at large bid if they can avoid losing more than two games in conference play. That may sound difficult, but this is a league has dominated in recent years. They are 4-0 in conference play now. Wright State is also unbeaten at 3-0, but theyve been winning against teams who are more toward the bottom and didnt do anything out of conference that would warrant an at large bid.
-Iona had the most impressive out of conference portion to the season and even has themselves in a position to get an at large if they can dominate the conference. Their backs are against the wall as far as that goes though because they lost their league opener to rival Manhattan. Manhattan is an interesting case. They lost their first four games of the year and appeared to be going nowhere. However, they have won eight in a row since then including a road win against a good Iona team. They are 4-0 in conference play and look to be the best team on the floor right now.
-Winthrop played very well against Memphis over the weekend, but werent able to pull off the upset. Its a shame they didnt play like that against Alabama, South Carolina or Auburn because they probably would have won against those teams. They are still the hands down favorite to win the league. Dont be surprised if they run the table. They do have a nice win against Marquette, but theyll probably need the automatic bid to get them to the dance.
-Western Kentucky clearly appears to be the best team and the conference is really theirs to lose. They have a good win on the road against UAB and came close to getting wins against Georgia and Arizona, but failed to win either one. If they can get a good Bracket Buster opponent and dominate conference play they might be candidates for an at large bid. They blew out Middle Tennessee in their last game after their defense kept MTSU from scoring a field goal in 17 minutes of play in the second half.
Arkansas Little Rock, Denver and South Alabama are all unbeaten in conference play as well. South Alabama managed a good win against Houston, but they have a worse loss to Alabama State. Its hard to imagine any of those teams getting an at large bid despite the fact that they are off to good starts.
-Davidson clearly appears to be the best team. They ran the table during the regular season last year, but failed to win a conference tournament game and didnt go to the NCAA due to a weak out of conference season. They did a little better this year and could get in if they run the table again, but it isnt a sure thing by any means. They do have a win against Saint Josephs, but that alone wont get them in. Its unfortunate that they arent participating in the Bracket Buster.
-Samford and Murray State are both 5-1 in league play. Samford beat Murray head to head earlier this year in a game that probably surprised a lot of people. This league is playing 20 conference games, so they began earlier and are deeper into league play than most of the other leagues.
-Northwestern State played a killer out of conference schedule and managed some big wins. Their RPI is currently at #34, but that will drop as conference play continues even if they manage win most or all their games. They could potentially get an at large if they run the table, but I think they were just one big win short. They almost got it in Hawaii in the Rainbow Classic, but lost to Iowa State in double overtime. They are 2-0 in league play. Southeast Louisiana, McNeese State and Nicholls State are all 2-0 in the conference as well.
-Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona are all 2-0 in league play. Amazingly all four of those along with Idaho State have overall winning records on the season. Montana has the best record at 10-2. They got that record against weak competition, but the league is taking care of business against the teams theyve played.
-Pacific has probably had the best overall season so far, but they lost their conference opener to UC Riverside which is why they arent the projected champions right now. UC Irvine is 1-0 and the only team without a conference loss.
-There has only been one league game in which Harvard beat Dartmouth. Penn appears to be the best team in the conference. As you know this league has no tournament so the automatic bid (which is the only bid the league will get) will go to the regular season champion.
-Fairleigh Dickinson, Robert Morris and Central Connecticut are all unbeaten in league play. Wagner appeared to be the best team. They certainly had the most impressive record entering conference play and nearly upset UCLA, but they are just 1-2 in conference with losses to Robert Morris and a very weak Sacred Heart team.
-IUPUI and Oral Roberts are undefeated in league play. They are also both .500 against div1 competition (no one else in the league is). Oral Roberts had a tougher schedule and appears to be the better team for now though.
-Albany began the season 1-5, but played a brutal schedule consisting almost entirely of road games. Theyve gotten off to a 4-0 start in conference. They are the only AE team who is unbeaten in league play. They are also the only team in the conference who has an overall winning record.
-Florida Atlantic has played a very weak schedule and had some very bad losses out of conference, but they are off to a 4-1 start in league play. This conference is looking at one bid and a low seed at that.
-Southern U is 3-0 in league play and just got a big blowout win against rival Grambling. Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State are undefeated in league play as well. Because the majority of the conference was on the receiving end of Buy Games, no one in the league has an overall winning record.
-Delaware State has gotten off to a 2-0 start in conference play, but are just 4-10 on the year. This conference was on the other end of Buy Games throughout almost the entire portion of the OOC schedule.
-Savannah State is 0-15 against div1 and 0-43 against div1 since making the jump to div1 themselves last season. TAMUCC is the best Indy team, but they are nowhere close to getting an at large bid to the dance.
Highlighted Matchups for Monday, 1/9
-CINCINNATI AT CONNECTICUT. Connecticut has struggled in their last two games. They were beaten handily by Marquette in their conference opener and nearly lost at home to LSU this past weekend. Cincinnati is on a roll, but still isn't getting a whole lot of respect by the voters. A win here would not only solidify them as a top notch tournament team, but would indicate that they are good enough to push for the Pod System. Connecticut's RPI is somewhat low right now, but that isn't any big deal because if they win at the level they're expected to win at it will catch up with their national ranking in a hurry.
-TEXAS AT IOWA STATE. These are probably the two best teams in the league. Both have big wins and both will contend for and could make the pod system. Iowa State is very tough to beat at home. Texas struggled against Duke and Tennessee, but won against a very tough Memphis team and appears to once again be playing like one of the best teams in the nation. Iowa State has some good wins as well, but hasn't been getting the respect of the voters. If they win today that will certainly change though.
-GONZAGA AT SANTA CLARA. In the WCC, hosting Gonzaga is usually the biggest home game of the season. These two teams have a recent history of dislike. Santa Clara has also showed that they can play well against big teams. They are inconsistent, but they should bring their A game against the Zags.
-THE CITADEL AT DAVIDSON. This is a pretty big mismatch. Davidson shouldn't have any trouble improving to 2-0 in conference play.
-UC DAVIS AT LOUISVILLE. This is Louisville's final out of conference game. A win will get them to 13-2 on the year. Hopefully they will enjoy their final cupcake.
-EASTERN KENTUCKY AT XAVIER. Like Louisville, Xavier is probably stuffed from all the cupcakes they've been eating. The problem they have is that they won't be getting shots at quality wins every other time they take the floor like the major conference teams get. They'll have to dominate the Atlantic Ten to get a bid.