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 why some big name or highly ranked RPI teams are on the outside of the bubble looking in right now. Teams that have appeared to have eliminated themselves from consideration for an at-large bid are the focus of this column.
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 bracket projection is not a prediction of what the bracket will look like in March, but rather a report card for what has already happened. In other words, this is what the bracket would look like if today was Selection Sunday.
-All teams are selected and seeded using the exact same criteria that the selection committee will use in March.
AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to all 31 conference champions regardless of how good or bad the league is. The projected champions are either currently in first place or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are Duke, Memphis, Texas, Iowa, West Virginia, Gonzaga, UCLA, Tennessee, Northern Iowa, George Washington, Bucknell, George Mason, Nevada, San Diego State, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Western Kentucky, Kent State, Manhattan, Northwestern State, Murray State, Penn, Birmingham Southern, IUPUI, Delaware State, Davidson, Albany, Lipscomb, UC Irvine, Northern Arizona, Fairleigh Dickinson, Southern.
-Arizona is an interesting case. If the season ended today it would typically be unprecedented for a top 20 RPI team to be left out of the dance. The problem with Arizona is that they have really havent done much of anything since dismissing Chris Rodgers from the team, and therefore they arent going to get as much credit for what they accomplished when they had him. Theyve lost three in a row, they have three losses to teams outside the RPI top 100 and zero wins against the RPI top 50 (although they did win a big game at Washington). I just think there are more reasons to leave them out than put them in at this point despite the good RPI.
-Cincinnati is in a similar situation, although not quite as extreme. Their RPI is in the 30s, which is good, but they havent done anything all that impressive since losing Armein Kirkland for the year. In fact theyve won just two games and neither of those were against tournament caliber teams. They did look good against West Virginia in their last game, but didnt manage to get what would have been a big road win. Unfortunately for them there really isnt such a thing as style points. A team either wins or they dont and thats all the committee really looks at.
-Pretty much everyone seeded #3 or better seems to be adding to their resume. Three of Iowas last four games have resulted in wins against the RPI top 25. The other game was a road win against Purdue. Connecticut just managed a big win against a very good Pitt team. Memphis, Texas, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Ohio State all continue to take care of their business for the most part to maintain what appear to be solid pod resumes.
-Florida is a very good team with a very impressive record, but as of now they might run into the same problems that Louisville ran into last year and thats that they dont have nearly as many high quality wins as the teams in front of them. A #4 seed does seem low, but in terms of head to head competition they havent beaten anyone who is seeded ahead of them. In fact they only have two wins against the RPI top fifty (Syracuse, Kentucky). Theyll probably get their chances at some more high RPI wins against teams like Tennessee, so it wont be too surprising to see them climb the S Curve a little more.
-Whereas the top of the bracket continues to improve, it looks as though the bottom of the bracket continues to slide. California, Hofstra, Miami FL and Arkansas were the last four in. The biggest reason I took them over teams like Maryland, Arizona and Cincinnati is because they have been winning at a much higher rate their last five or six games than any of those teams. How a team finishes the season is hugely important as evidenced last year with the inclusion of UAB and Northern Iowa and the exclusion of Maryland and Notre Dame. Hofstra probably isnt on many radars, but they do have a 16-4 record, three wins against the RPI top fifty, and have won six of their last seven. The Colonial is hardly a poor league either.
-Miami, FL has won seven of nine and is currently tied for third in the ACC Standings. They played some really good ball early in the season, but just couldn't get over the top in several cases. They've fixed that problem and have been getting over the top in their last few games.
-California is very hot as well. They've won four out of five and are tied for second in the Pac Ten Standings just one game behind UCLA. They've got a big game this week against Stanford, who is also tied for second place in the conference.
-Louisville got a big win against Notre Dame and with another one against Cincinnati on Monday could really work their way back near the bubble. It took a last second three to force overtime, though, and they barely got away with the win in overtime, so assuming that theyre good enough to get the wins they need is still a big assumption. As for Notre Dame, Im convinced that theyre trying to set a record for most losses by less than six points in a single season.
-Xavier has lost four out of five and played so poorly against Saint Louis on Sunday that it should count for two losses. They went from looking like a solid bracket team to being way outside the bubble in less than two weeks.
-Iona fell to both Saint Peters and Marist this past week. I think that officially takes them out of the at large picture for the rest of the year. Manhattan isnt fairing a whole lot better. They fell to Niagara last week, who is not even an RPI top 200 team. Both teams have RPIs in the 70s and neither has more quality wins than they do poor losses. That isnt good enough for serious at large consideration.
-Oklahoma State ended a four game losing streak when they squeaked by Kansas State on Saturday. They are still a ways away from the bubble, though. Kansas State has lost two straight, one of which was to Baylor, which has absolutely killed their resume for the time being.
-Maryland has lost three straight and hasnt done much since losing Chris McCray for the year. That makes Temples win against them a little less impressive.
-What is even less impressive than that for Temple was their loss to La Salle on Saturday. For those that remember the goon comments from last year where John Chaney said hed send in the goons to fight through what he believed to be illegal screens, it was the ultimate irony. Temple hit a three point shot late in the game to cut a four point lead to one, but it was waved off. The reason Temple set an illegal screen. The Owls can still get in, but theyll have to put together a long string of wins to do it.
-Wisconsin Milwaukee fell to Butler over the weekend, which was their second straight loss. They are still tied for first in the conference, but it really hurts their chances at an at large. In fact it may be more than they can recover from. If they win out its possible theyll be okay, but thats certainly not a guarantee.
-Air Force fell to BYU on Saturday and I think that nearly does it for them. If they win out and win the league they may get consideration, but they havent done a whole lot to make a real case for themselves.
-Georgetown got another huge win against Pittsburgh this past weekend. I dont think Panther fans are all that upset right now, though. There is a football team in Pittsburgh that just won a big game and that might help take the sting off. It was a massive win for Georgetown. Theyve won six in a row, with two of those wins being against Duke and Pitt.
-Iowa State got back to playing the way they were back in December when they blew out a very good Colorado team. It was a big win for their resume as well as for their mental health. It also moves them further inside the bubble.
-Penn States shocking upset win over Illinois knocked them out of a projected #1 seed this week. It isnt all that damaging in the grand scheme of things. Illinois could even still end up with a #1 seed, but if not theyre still a very solid pod team at the moment and should get a good placement.
-There is something very wrong with Wisconsin. Theyve lost five of six with the most recent being to a very sub par Purdue team. At one point they looked like a very solid pod team. Now they are way outside the pod picture and if this slide continues they may fall out of the bracket picture. They have enough good wins early in the season to offset the losing streak theyre on, but that wont be the case if the streak continues for much longer.