Via Midwest Sports Fans:
There seems to be a lot of hand-wringing about this being a down year for college hoops.
If you define the season by whether or not there is a truly dominant team, I guess that’s a fair statement. If you define the season by sheer entertainment value, however, this one has been pretty darn good.
The same kinds of upsets that are celebrated during the NCAA tournament are somehow being used as an indictment of the 2012-13 season, but I have no complaints about such an unpredictable year.
Well, maybe one.
It makes putting together these bracket projections increasingly difficult, because it feels like virtually everyone lost last week. Throw in oddball profiles such as the one Virginia is building, and this becomes a tall order each Monday night.
Maybe now that we are less than five weeks from Selection Sunday, things will start to sort themselves out. But with the way this season has gone, I doubt it.
The projections below take into account all games played through Monday, Feb. 11.
Last Four In
The Gaels just need to keep winning, and unlike many of their bubble brethren, they are doing just that.
Thursday begins a critical 10-day stretch that features home dates with Gonzaga, BYU and Creighton, with a road trip to Loyola Marymount squeezed in the middle. Going 3-1 in that stretch would give Saint Mary’s a little breathing room. Anything less and things start to get dicey.
Last week’s win against Creighton gave the Sycamores their fourth win against an RPI top 50 team, and they avoided another brutal loss with a one-point victory over Southern Illinois on Saturday.
The neutral court win over a Reggie Johnson-less Miami squad looks better with each passing week, but three losses against sub-150 RPI teams still have ISU in a tenuous position.
For this week, the Sycamores need to avoid road slip-ups against Missouri State and Bradley.
At this point, the Bears have just one win against the RPI top 45, have lost three of four, and have beaten one tournament-caliber team since early December. Their November win over St. John’s is useful for bubble purposes, but that won’t be enough if they can’t start getting wins.
Baylor needs to take care of business at home against West Virginia before a tough road test at Kansas State.
The fact that Jeff Elorriaga missed three of their conference losses helps, but he also hasn’t been particularly productive since returning. As it stands, the Broncos are below .500 in the Mountain West with road games left at New Mexico and UNLV as well as home dates with Colorado State and San Diego State.
If they can win their three other conference games and split those four, their profile would look pretty good. Anything less and they are in serious trouble.
First Five Out
The Cavaliers have the most confounding profile I can remember in recent years (or maybe ever).
On one hand, they are 6-0 against the RPI top 100 with home wins against North Carolina and North Carolina State and road victories over Wisconsin and Maryland. On the other hand, all six losses have come to teams ranked 120th or lower in the RPI, including to sub-300 Old Dominion.
You can’t overlook the good wins or the bad losses, which lands the Cavs directly on the fence without much historical precedent for how the committee may treat them. The next few weeks will be telling with road trips to UNC and Miami as well as a home game against Duke.
Saturday’s home loss to Stanford pushed the Sun Devils out of the field. They have four top-100 wins at this point and just one sub-100 loss — a 17-point home defeat to DePaul. The biggest issue is that nine of their 18 Division I wins have come against sub-200 squads.
With five of ASU’s final seven games on the road, it will be an uphill battle for Herb Sendek’s club. The Sun Devils certainly can’t afford to lose at Utah this week and would be well-served to steal one at Colorado over the weekend.
The Red Storm have won six of their past eight games, including wins over Notre Dame and UConn. However, nonconference losses to San Francisco and UNC-Asheville loom large, as does a disappointing home loss to Rutgers. Similar to ASU, St. John’s has racked up seven of its 15 wins over sub-190 teams.
The remaining Big East schedule will tell the tale, with four games against teams in the RPI top 50 (at Louisville, Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame, Marquette) and a road trip to Providence sprinkled in.
After a home loss to Providence, the Wildcats held serve last week by beating DePaul and South Florida, but neither win really moves the needle for their NCAA hopes.
Victories over Louisville and Syracuse obviously hold a lot of weight, but their next best wins are against St. John’s and St. Joseph’s. Unfortunately, those are somewhat offset by an 18-point loss to Columbia and the fact they were swept by Providence.
This is a huge week for ’Nova with road trips to Cincinnati and UConn on tap.
The Minutemen are quietly 6-3 in the A-10, with two of those losses coming by a combined four points. They are also 6-2 in true road games, but the wins at Northeastern and La Salle are the only ones that hold much weight. UMass is 5-5 against the RPI top 100, but losses against Tennessee in Puerto Rico and at home vs. George Washington certainly don’t help the cause.
Much like Villanova, the Minutemen have a pair of important games this week as they travel to VCU before hosting Temple on Saturday.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big East (7): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Mountain West (5): Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
ACC (4): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State
SEC (4): Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss
Missouri Valley (3): Creighton, Indiana State, Wichita State
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: UNC-Asheville
Big West: Long Beach State
Conference USA: Memphis
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: Western Illinois
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee
WAC: Louisiana Tech