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 teams that are on the inside and outside of the bubble right now. Teams contending for a #1 seed and favorable placement in the tournament are the focal point of this week's edition.
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
-Let me reiterate that this is not a reflection of what the bracket will look like on Selection Sunday, but rather a report card of what has already happened this season.
-All the teams were selected and seeded using the exact same criteria that the selection committee will use.
AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to all 31 conference champions regardless of how good or bad the league is. All of the projected conference champions are either in first place or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are Duke, Connecticut, Memphis, Texas, Gonzaga, Iowa Tennessee, UCLA, Northern Iowa, George Washington, Bucknell, George Mason, Nevada, Wisconsin Milwaukee, San Diego State, Western Kentucky, Iona, Akron, Northwestern State, Murray State, Winthrop, Pacific, Penn, Albany, IUPUI, Northern Arizona, Fairleigh Dickinson, Georgia Southern, Delaware State, Southern and Lipscomb.
LAST TEAMS IN
-Arizona, Colorado, UAB, UNC Wilmington and Arkansas were the last teams in.
Arkansas was actually the last team selected, but is seeded #11 instead of #12 because they needed to be moved to avoid a potential conference matchup before the Elite Eight. All of those teams, especially Arkansas, have multiple reasons as to why they should be left out, but I just believe there is less wrong with them than anyone else that I didnt take.
-Colorado fought hard to get into the rankings, and then proved themselves to be unworthy of it by losing two straight games. Not only will they drop out of the rankings, but their profile will take a dive as well. They are way too close to the bubble for comfort and need to string together some wins to get themselves safely inside it.
-Arizona ended a three game losing streak by winning two straight against Oregon and Oregon State. None of those teams are anywhere close to tournament worthy and Arizona is still desperately lacking in quality wins, but their high RPI will get them serious consideration as long as they win at a good enough rate to maintain it. Its in the teens now and if they do win their RPI will stay the same or close to it and theyll be fine. If they dont, then their RPI will drop and it wont be an issue anymore anyway.
-UAB was embarrassed against UTEP last week and fell behind them in the conference standings. Its never good to be behind a team in your own conference who is not in the tournament picture, but seeing as how UAB had won so many games before that and that other than being behind UTEP their profile is pretty solid I think theyd be okay. UTEP has yet to play Memphis, so if UAB can keep winning chances are theyll catch UTEP in the standings once again. With senior forward Demario Eddins out for the season, though, they will have to continue to prove to the committee that they can win without him.
-UNC Wilmington has a good record and is second in the Colonial Standings, but the main issue they have is a lack of quality wins. They are on shaky ground and any loss could turn out to be damaging.
-There is not really anything that is impressive about Arkansas, but at least they have a few wins against good RPI teams. Although none have come recently, they did beat Kansas and Missouri State. It is worth noting that Kansas was not nearly the team they are now when Arkansas beat them back in November, so Arkansas wouldnt get the same credit for beating them as they would had they played them later on.
-Iowa State, Cincinnati, Louisville, Hofstra and Utah State were all considered, but not selected.
Iowa State does have some good RPI wins against Iowa and Northern Iowa, but thats really all they have. Both those wins came at home as well. They also have another win against Colorado that also came at home. If the Cyclones were to be selected it would be because of those wins. Here are some reasons why they wouldnt be taken; they are 4-6 in the conference and just 13-9 on the year. Theyve also lost 4 of their last 6, are just 4-6 in Big 12 play, are behind Nebraska and Texas A&M in the conference standings, and have an RPI in the 60s. They still have enough good wins to play their way back inside the bubble, but they cant seem to take care of business against the teams that arent in the tournament picture as much as they should and that is what is killing them.
-Hofstra has an impressive record, but an unimpressive RPI and a horrible strength of schedule. They should get serious consideration anyway and will likely be selected if they win out and avoid a loss to a poor RPI team in the conference tournament, but as of now their schedule is holding them back.
-Cincinnati has a profile that indicates they are tournament worthy, but the problem is that they were 13-2 with Armein Kirkland and are now just 3-6 without him. With that drastic a change the committee will overemphasize what they've done without him and underemphasize what they did with him. We saw this two seasons ago when LSU was hit by the injury bug.
-Louisville and Utah State simply havent done enough.
-West Virginia is very strong and could move into a #1 seed if they can win the Big East regular season title. They have just one conference loss, and that was on the road to Pittsburgh. They are currently tied for the lead with Villanova and Connecticut and actually have a win against Villanova at Villanova. They have an amazing five wins against the RPI top 25 and four of those came on the road. I dont think anyone else has that many high quality road wins. Because the Big East is too bloated for its own good none of the schedules are balanced because every team plays different three different sets of teams home and home and some teams never face each other at all. West Virginia will face Connecticut and Pitt between now and the end of the season though.
-Villanova and Connecticut will face each other this week. Both of those teams are very strong potential #1 seeds and the winner will definitely have a leg up as far as getting one.
-Memphis should be okay for a #1 so long as they win out, but a lack of high RPI opponents down the stretch may come back to bite them.
-Duke is a very solid #1 right now. In fact they could even afford to lose a couple and theyd still likely be okay for a #1 seed.
THE TEAMS IN BETWEEN THE BUBBLE AND THE #1 SEEDS
-Coming into this weekend, Indiana was just one game out of first place in the Big Ten. Granted they had been playing horribly on the road and had lost DJ White for the year, but they were still in a pretty good position when one looked at the grand scheme of things. Despite all that, the fans were not happy and it was reported by several in the media that a number of fans were planning to wear black shirts to show their support for the firing of Mike Davis. On top of all that going on, Mike Davis had the flu and did not attend their home game against Iowa. Fans and media also got on Davis for that. Im not one to editorialize things like this, but gee whiz!! The Hoosiers were just one game out of first in one of the toughest conferences in the country! Also, the LAST thing you want to happen right now is for half the roster to come down with the flu. Davis did the smart thing in staying away from his players. In case you werent aware the flu is quite contagious. It can also greatly affect ones ability to play basketball.
Having said all that, the Hoosiers are in a little trouble. They fell to Iowa 70-67, which was their fifth loss in six games. They are just 5-5 in league play and 3-5 on the road. However, they only have one loss to a team outside the RPI top 100 and that was to a full strength Indiana State team. They are still very much in the bracket picture and still have plenty of season left to boost their profile.
-Despite having four solid tournament teams right now and a very strong fifth candidate, the Missouri Valley is still just a footnote to most in the national media. At least its a footnote, though. A few weeks ago they werent even getting that much attention. Northern Iowas profile just keeps getting better and better. They were #16 on my S Curve, which would make them the last team to get into the pod system, but theyll still have some chances to improve on that the rest of the season. The Missouri Valley provides more than its share of matchups against high RPI teams. Creighton, Southern Illinois and Wichita State have solid resumes as well. Right now I have Missouri State safely in, but I think they still have some work to do if they want to stay safe.
-Bucknell is holding strong and doing all they can by running the table in the Patriot League, but their profile is dropping despite the fact that theyve been winning all their games. One problem is that their road win against Syracuse suddenly doesnt look as impressive as it originally did. Another problem is that the Patriot is so weak that they simply cannot keep pace with other teams in other conferences who are getting shots at quality wins. They have a monster game against Northern Iowa in the Bracket Buster. If they win that and win out in conference they are definitely in the tournament even if they lose in the conference tournament. If they lose to Northern Iowa, but win out in conference they should still be okay for the Big Dance, but theyd be looking at a pretty low seed.
-Florida got a big home win over LSU, which was a much needed high RPI win for them. The Gators are a little bit safer as far as making the pod system goes and if they continue to win at the rate that they are now they should be okay as far as getting into Jacksonville.
-Michigan State fell to Minnesota on the road, which knocked them back a little bit. The Spartans, like everyone else in the Big Ten are struggling to win road games. Michigan State is still a solid pod team, but they probably arent going to get into the picture for a #1 seed unless they win out.
-Washington got a much needed win against UCLA. It was their second straight after they had lost three straight, so theyve turned it around a little. It is their second win over the Bruins this year and it gave them a much needed RPI boost. The Huskies now have three wins against the RPI top 25 and one more against the RPI top 50. They are still tied for fourth in the Pac Ten Standings, but they have California later this month so theyll get their chance to catch them. Speaking of Cal
-California is in sole possession of second place in the Pac Ten. They also have wins against UCLA and Washington on their resume, are playing extremely well right now, and could end up with a very impressive profile and a good seed if they keep it up. They beat arch rival Stanford last week which was their fifth straight win. Stanford wasnt so lucky. They faced both Cal and Gonzaga with a chance to explode into the bracket picture and not only get on the bubble, but get inside it. They wound up losing both games though and remain on the outside looking in.
-Tennessee is #2 in the RPI and has a very solid profile. The reason I only have them as a #4 seed is because they just dont have a whole lot of high quality wins. Theyll get their shot at a few more later this season and again in the SEC Tournament though and could very easily move up to a #3 or a #2 if they keep winning at the rate and level theyre winning at now.
-Kansas is another team that is red hot. They have moved into second place in the Big 12 Standings and have won seven straight.
-George Mason is in first place in the Colonial Athletic. They will likely be okay for an at large bid if they end up winning the league and avoid any bad losses. That is a very good thing because the Colonial is very competitive. In addition to George Mason, you have VCU (who is hosting the tournament), Old Dominion, Hofstra, and UNC Wilmington. All are capable of winning it. In fact all are probably bubble caliber teams. Having to rely on winning that tournament to get to the Big Dance is not a very secure position to be in.