2012 NCAA Tournament – Projected Field – UPDATED THRU 2/26 GAMES
I will breakdown each conference and the team’s who I view as a “lock” right now, who are likely to dance, and who are still alive but need to do some work (obviously any team that wins their conference tournament gets a bid, but in this last bucket I am only including team’s whose record/RPI could still get them an at-large bid if they play well down the stretch). Teams are also listed in the order I view their seeding or chances of receiving a bid.
America East: Stony Brook
This only auto-bid league will likely come down to Stony Brook vs. Vermont in the conference tournament. The teams split their regular season meetings with SB winning by 6 at home on Jan 2, but Vermont crushing SB at home on Feb 12 by 19.
Atlantic Ten: Temple
Looking good: St. Louis, Xavier. The Billikens are a LOCK to go dancing, while Xavier sits very well on the back of a few quality OOC wins over Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and to a lesser extent Purdue and Butler. These two teams face off this week, a win by Xavier would seal their deal for earning a bid.
UMass was removed from the “need wins” category after going 1-2 the last week and a half including a 33pt loss @ Dayton on Saturday. I have maintained thru all these editions the A10 seems like a 3 bid conference, and I still feel that way – perhaps even moreso in this edition as what also needs to be considered as I mention below is there will be conference tournament upsets which will remove some of the projected at-large bids we forecast here. While Joe Lunardi continues displaying outright “homerism” placing St. Joseph’s in his “last four out” bucket, I do not see any shot barring at least a run to the A10 Conference Tournament final for them to receive a bid with an RPI in the mid 60’s, and 11 losses already. The typical absolute cut-off as far as RPI’s and at-large bids is 60, and with only one game remaining vs. mid 50s RPI St. Bonaventure, I personally do not see it happening for the Hawks.
ACC: North Carolina
Looking good: Duke, Florida State, Virginia
Need wins: Miami (FL), NC State. With an RPI around #40 and key wins @ Duke and yesterday over Florida State, Miami (FL) is almost a lock to receive an at-large, barring a very early exit in the ACC Tournament. NC State was sitting very nicely as far as at-large bids goes in the second half of a Feb. 16 game @ Duke – unfortunately for the Pack they blew a 20pt lead in that game, and have not recovered since losing 4 straight and putting them at risk of missing the dance. They currently sit with an RPI around the imaginary cut-off of #60, but they do host Miami (FL) on Wednesday in an absolute must-win game. In addition they likely will need a pair of wins (at least) in the ACC Tournament to receive legit consideration – their bracket will shape up something like first round match-up vs. BC/GT, second round vs. UVA/Miami, and potential semi-final vs. FSU/Duke or UNC loser from this week’s game.
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
This league will likely be decided between Belmont and Mercer in the A-Sun Tourney. Belmont won the pair of regular season match-ups between these schools, but only by a combined 5pts – and with the understanding it is very tough to beat a team three times in one season, the potential conference tournament final could be a good one, and a legit spot where Mercer could steal this conference’s only bid.
Big 12: Kansas
Looking good: Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State
Need wins: Kansas State, Texas. Both of these teams sit very well in the at-large pecking order as far as RPI goes, hovering around the mid 20s currently. KST can lock up a bid this week if they can sweep their pair of games, @ A&M and hosting OKST. The major issue with the Wildcats is their conference record that currently sits at 8-8 – they at least obviously need 9-9 – if they can get there, and pick up a win or two in the conference tournament, they will earn a bid as they already have victories over Alabama, Long Beach State, Missouri twice, and Baylor. Texas made their debut in this analysis last edition, but went 1-2 in their last 3 – their only win an OT win @ a bad Texas Tech team. The Horns lack a signature win, and also clearly need to go at least 9-9 in conference play (which would be 1-1 to close) to have any shot – they have a chance to solve a lot of their troubles this Saturday if they could win @ Kansas. What may hold Texas back in their 2-7 mark vs. the other 5 Big 12 teams listed here, only beating Iowa State and Kansas State at home.
Big East: Syracuse
Looking good: Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Cincinnati. The Bearcats move up a level to “looking good” in this edition as with 10+ conference wins, 20+ overall wins, and an RPI sub 40 I believe they will receive a bid come Selection Sunday.
Need wins: South Florida, Seton Hall, UConn, West Virginia. Things have cleared themselves up a little more as far as Big East bids goes, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for these four teams to receive an at-large invite. We did see some sliding amongst these teams as far as who I see as the most likely to receive a bid as WVU was the “most likely” in last edition, now they are the “least likely” in my opinion – others have shifted as well. The first point that can be made is both West Virginia and UConn will need to win BOTH their remaining regular season games to have any shot – that would move each to 9-9 in conference play. That feat seems more likely to be completed by UConn as the Huskies travel to Providence, and host Pittsburgh – while WVU hosts DePaul but then travels to South Florida in what will be a massive game for at-large positioning next weekend. Seton Hall only has one regular season game remaining @ DePaul, a game they also must win to move to 9-9 in conference play. USF is one of the most interesting teams I have come across in recent memory as far as this exercise goes – on one hand they are 11-5 in Big East play – no team has ever not made the dance with that kind of mark – yet their RPI sits around #70 which would make them one of the worst teams of all time to receive a bid as far as RPI goes. The Bulls could NO DOUBT seal their fate to receiving a bid if they can close 2-0 @ Louisville and hosting West Virginia; 1-1 I still think they are positioned nicely; 0-2 may mean some trouble. If the teams on this list can reach .500 in conference play maybe the safest bet to make would be whichever team goes the furthest in the Big East Tournament will receive a bid. Right now, barring small conference tournament upsets, the BE seems like a 8 to 9 bid league – which means 2 to 3 of these teams will make it. Two is probably the most likely scenario when taking into consideration the likely hood we will see 3-5 upsets.
Big Sky: Weber State
The Big Sky will likely come down to a battle between Weber State and Montana. On Jan 14th WST took down MON rather easily which is why they hold the current bid in this edition, but the return game is on Feb 28th @ Montana, with a probable 3rd meeting in the conference tournament final to determine the automatic bid.
Big South: UNC-Asheville
UNCA has a 4 game lead in their conference, so any other team winning this conference tournament would certainly be an upset but would not steal an at-large bid as the Big South is definitely a one bid conference.
Big Ten: Ohio State
Looking good: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana
Need wins: Purdue. The Boilers check in this week at 19-10/9-7, high 20s RPI – all decent numbers that have been improving over the last few weeks. Purdue also picked up a signature win on Saturday, beating Michigan on the road – they are still only 1-6 vs. ranked teams, but do have decent wins over Temple, Iona and Miami (FL) earlier in the season. With games remaining vs. Penn State and @ Indiana, a 2-0 sweep would have them sitting almost as a lock barring a first round Big Ten Tournament exit – the key this week has to be at least getting one win moving them to a > .500 conference record. The BT Tourney bracket for Purdue will shape up something like first round vs. Penn State/Nebraska, second round vs. Ohio State/Michigan – in almost every scenario I can imagine they would have to certainly avoid a loss to PSU/Nebraska in that first round.
Big West: Long Beach State
If LBST does not win their conference tournament they would still receive a bid, thus taking one away from the current at-large pool. The Beach is 14-0 in conference play, easily plowing through the competition this season – but we have seen this before, recently from LBST, only to have them lose in the conference tournament. As talked about often in this article, it is tough sledding trying to beat teams for the third time in one season – which they will have to do multiple times to earn their conference’s auto-bid.
Looking good: VCU. The Rams have been upgraded to this category as they are currently sitting in high 40s RPI wise, relatively comfortable position for a team with a 25-6 record in one of the top mid-major conferences around. So long as they at least reach the conference tournament final I feel they have a very strong chance at receiving an at-large bid, especially considering they have won 14 of their last 15 games, and their 3 conference losses have come by a combined 9 points. George Mason has been removed from the “need wins” category following a pair of losses in their last two outings. But, that being said, Mason is still a very legit contender for winning the conference tournament – and if they did so, it would be very interesting to see if the selection committee does indeed give the Colonial three bids.
Conference USA: Memphis
Need wins: Southern Mississippi, UCF. SMISS was downgraded this week from “looking good” to “need wins” after dropping two of their last 3 to Houston and UTEP. With an RPI in the mid 60s the Golden Eagles will need to win their last two vs. SMU and @ Marshall, along with making a run to at least the CUSA Tournament semi-finals to receive legitimate consideration. The Golden Knights are basically on the same predicament, but a little worse – their RPI is hovering around #80, so I figure they need to at least beat Memphis again on the road this week, close the regular season with a win over UAB, and go on a similar run in the conference tournament. Just a few weeks ago this looked like a possible 3 bid conference, now it’s looking like 1 is more likely unless either of these teams gets real hot real fast.
The Horizon is traditionally a one bid conference and there isn’t any reason to think that will change this year. This league is extremely competitive with not much difference between the top 8 teams – so the tournament is sure to be exciting – and would not surprise me one bit if Valpo or even Cleveland State did not cut the nets down. I have placed action on Wisconsin-Green Bay to win the Horizon tournament at 50/1 odds.
If HAR does not win their conference during the regular season (remember the Ivy League does not have a conference tournament) they would still be alive to receive a bid, thus adding to the pool of current at-large teams. HAR has gone 3-2 in their last 5 league games, which places them in a tie in the loss column for the top spot with Penn. Those two teams do not play again this year after splitting the regular season pair of contests – a playoff, similar to what we saw last season, could be in the cards again for the Ivy auto-bid.
If IONA does not win their conference tournament they would still be alive to receive a bid, thus adding to the pool of current at-large teams. The Gaels are a very dangerous team, make no mistake about it. On the season they are 24-6, and 5 of their 6 losses were by single digits (including a 1pt loss to Purdue in their opener). Of the teams right behind them in the conference standings they did lose once to Loyola Maryland (#2 seed), and Manhattan (#3 seed) – oddly that may bode well for them during Championship Week.
If AKRON does not win their conference tournament they would still be alive to receive a bid, thus adding to the pool of current at-large teams. Akron maintains a 2gm lead with 2 to play, and they reside in the tougher East division of the MAC that has 5 of 6 teams above .500 in league play. Although Akron will be the favorite to win the conference tournament, I feel four teams have a legit shot at cutting the nets down (Akron, Ohio, Buffalo, Kent State) – so the auto-bid for this league is not a certainty at this point.
MEAC: Norfolk State
Although Savannah State has overtaken Norfolk State in the standings currently, and has a better RPI, I am going to leave NS as my projected auto-bid winner based on their win over SS earlier in the season in the team’s only meeting.
Missouri Valley: Wichita State
Looking good: Creighton. The Blue Jays are back on the “looking good” line after closing the season with four straight wins including the big bracket-busters victory over Long Beach State. With an RPI in the high 30s, as long as Creighton picks up a couple of wins in the MVC Tournament they will solidify their spot amongst the Field of 68.
Mountain West: UNLV
Looking good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Need wins: Colorado State. Wyoming has been removed from this list following their loss to Colorado State last week which moved them to losing 4 of 5, and a below .500 in MWC play which certainly doesn’t bode well for receiving an at-large. Then when you consider there are 3 teams that are close to locks to make the field, getting four teams for this conference may be a stretch let alone five. For now we will leave CSU but they are on the brink of elimination, and must beat UNLV & Air Force to close their regular season at the very least to remain in the next edition before Championship Week.
Northeast: LIU Brooklyn
LIUB has grabbed my projected auto-bid from the NE based on their overtaking of Wagner in the standings, and the fact Long Island already beat Wagner twice this season. Similar other examples discussed above, the potential third meeting could have a bid on the line – and it is tough to beat a team three times in one season.
Ohio Valley: Murray State
If MSU does not win their conference tournament they would still receive a bid, thus taking one away from the current at-large pool. Murray State has been playing very well since seeing their bid for an undefeated season come to an end 2.5 weeks ago – 5 straight wins and covers. Win or lose in the OVC Tourney they will be dancing, and they hope to at least make the second weekend of action – and are a real threat to do so, especially with a favorable draw or an upset or two in their bracket.
Pac 12: California
Looking good: Arizona, Washington. Not much has occurred to separate these teams since the last edition, but these three teams will be in the field. California appears to be the best team using the eye test, and some of the #’s as their RPI has been climbing steadily in recent weeks settling in the mid 20s today. Arizona and Washington will both also be dancing, probably being first round favorites seed wise come Selection Sunday.
Need wins: Oregon, Colorado, Stanford. Oregon has clearly taken a step above Colorado and Stanford in the past three games, going 2-1 in road games including a win over Stanford. With the Ducks closing with a pair of home games vs. Colorado and Utah, they appear to be in solid shape to be dancing as the 4th Pac 12 team. Colorado and Stanford both have work to do – I like the Buffs resume more than Stanford’s, even considering Stanford does have a pair of nice OOC wins – but the Cardinal win over Colorado last week may be the final nail in the Colorado coffin. Both these teams have an opportunity to improve their positioning this week as Colorado faces both Oregon schools on the road, while Stanford hosts Cal to close the season. Both teams need to win those games to remain in the next edition – they are teetering right now on the brink of elimination barring a run in the Pac 12 Tourney. COLO figures to be the #5 seed which would set up a bracket facing USC in first round, then a big QF match-up with likely Oregon or possibly Arizona. Stanford on the other hand figures to likely fall to the #7 seed (assumes a loss to Cal in season finale) which would have them likely facing Arizona State in first round, then Cal or Washington in second. I think a safe assumption for both teams is win out, and must win AT LEAST TWO in Pac 12 tournament to keep their hopes alive.
Looking good: Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama
Need wins: Mississippi State. Alabama has jumped from the “need wins” group up to “looking good” based on going 3-0 over the last week and a half, 6-2 in their last 8, an RPI in the low 20s, and OOC wins over Wichita State, Purdue and VCU. The Tide still has work to do, a 2-0 close to the regular season with wins over Auburn and Ole Miss would nearly lock them into a spot. Both Ole Miss and Arkansas were removed from this edition as we kind of forecasted happening last time we published, while Mississippi State has fallen from “looking good” to “need wins” based on losing 5 straight, a sub .500 conference record, double digit losses, and an RPI that continues to plummet now sitting in the low 80s. Not only do they need wins, but they need ‘em fast and furious to keep their faint hopes alive. At the very least the Bulldogs need to close the year with wins @ South Carolina and home vs. Arkansas, and pick up one and most likely two conference tourney wins – they will likely face ARK/MISS/AUB/UGA in first round, then either Florida or Kentucky in Rd2.
If DAV does not win their conference tournament they would still be alive to receive a bid, thus adding to the pool of current at-large teams. Davidson could have helped themselves out huge had they beat Wichita State at home during bracket-busters, but with that loss it is unlikely they would receive a bid should they lose in their conference tournament.
Similar to Long Beach State UTA has not lost a conference game this season – and that may NOT bode well come conference tournament time – we shall see.
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State
Similar to Long Beach State and UTA, MSVS has not lost a conference game this season – and that may NOT bode well come conference tournament time – we shall see.
Summit: Oral Roberts
OR has plowed thru the Summit League during the regular season only losing one game, but they may be in for a battle should they face South Dakota State in the conference tourney, whom they lost to by 15 earlier in the season.
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State
If MTSU does not win their conference tournament they would still be alive to receive a bid, thus adding to the pool of current at-large teams.
West Coast: St. Mary’s
Looking good: Gonzaga
Those two teams are near locks to be in the field, so if anyone else was to win the conference tournament that would likely take away a bid from the current at-large pool.
Need wins: BYU. The Cougars were swept by St. Mary’s this year, but they did pick up a home win over Gonzaga which will help their case. BYU is positioned pretty strongly with a top 40 RPI, but an early exit from the WCC Tournament could be fatal.
If NEV does not win their conference tournament they would still be alive to receive a bid, thus adding to the pool of current at-large teams.
AUTOMATIC BIDS: 31
LOOKING GOOD: 27
Currently I project 58 of the 68 bids are earned.
NEED WINS: 17 TEAMS I LISTED FOR 10 REMAINING SPOTS
If there are upsets in the a handful of conference tournaments the at-large spots will be reduced – so the ten “open” spots I listed here are likely to be less, almost a 100% certainty. So this time around I have listed these teams in order, keeping in mind the most likely scenario only sends the top 6 or 7 from this list because small conference tournament upsets will steal auto-bids for some teams, and hence they will be forced into the at-large pool:
- Kansas State
- Miami (FL)
- South Florida
- Seton Hall
- Southern Mississippi
MULTIPLE BID CONFERENCES
Big East: 9 ACC: 5 Big Ten: 6 SEC: 4 A 10: 3 Big 12: 6
Colonial: 2 MWC: 3 Pac 12: 4 WCC: 3 MVC: 2 CUSA: 2
Differences from my bracket vs. the bracketologist himself, Mr. Joe Lunardi @ espn.com:
My latest projection: Bracketologist:
West Virginia – OUT West Virginia – IN (#12 seed)
South Florida – IN South Florida – first four OUT
Northwestern – OUT Northwestern – IN (#13 seed)
Mississippi State – OUT Mississippi State – IN (#12 seed)
VCU – IN VCU – first four OUT
Oregon – IN Oregon – next four OUT
Let’s first revisit the biggest differences from the 2/16 edition to see where we both stand on the pair I pointed out from this blog 10 days ago:
Illinois: Lunardi had the Illini in the field 10 days ago, I did not. Today Lunardi does not have them included, and I still do not. Looks like a check mark for me.
VCU: Lunardi did not even list VCU in his first 8 teams out 10 days ago, I had the Rams in. Today Lunardi has the Rams as first four out, while I still have them in the field. Looks like another check mark for me.
I guess at this point I should be asking why this guy has a job, right? J
Now let’s examine the biggest differences between the two of us where things stand today:
Big East: Lunardi has WVU solidly in his bracket, not even amongst the last four in while I have WVU as the clear-cut 10th best team in the Big East and hence not making the dance. Even though I currently list 9 teams from the Big East receiving bids, I think that # winds up being 8 as UConn will be pushed out after conference tournament upsets next week; Lunardi currently has UConn as comfortably in his bracket as a 10 seed – I just do not understand that, I know they have a great RPI but they are 7-9 in conference play and if they do not AT LEAST win both their last two contests of the regular season they are more than likely OUT – so to have them in so comfortably is mind boggling. Lastly, USF, I have them in the field right now pretty comfortably, while Lunardi has them just missing – and again, to stress the point, his “first four out” is more likely the “4th to 8th teams out” because as team’s lose in conference tournaments his “first four out” bucket will only slide further down the list when team’s he currently projects as in lose. USF is a bit of a conundrum as they do have a terrible RPI for a team with their record playing in a power conference, but at the end of the day if they go 12-6 or better in the Big East, unbalanced schedule or not, they will get a bid in my opinion.
Northwestern & Mississippi State: I have neither coming close to making the dance at this point, and to be fair he has both barely sneaking in playing those “play-in” games on Tuesday night. At the end of the day team’s he has listed in those games almost certainly will slide off the bracket after upsets, so we most likely will wind up agreeing that these two teams will miss out – but nevertheless, for now we both are assuming there are no upsets, and he still lists both while I list neither.
VCU: as discussed above, I still list them as in the Field of 68, while Lunardi has at least upgraded the Rams to his “first four out” bucket. Time will tell, but a conference like the Colonial with three very solid clubs in my opinion deserves and will get two bids – keep in mind Mason is still alive in the sense they have a legit shot at winning the conference tourney. If that was to happen I would give the other to either Drexel or VCU if they played in the Final vs. Mason, if neither made it I would give it to Drexel. If neither makes the semifinals of the conference tourney I may adjust and not give out two bids to this conference.
Oregon: I feel pretty good about Oregon; they pass my eye test for sure as I have watched quite a few of their games recently including last night @ Oregon State. 20 wins, 11 in Pac 12 – yeah they could use a boost to an RPI that sits around #70, but let’s see how rest of season and tourney plays out. Lunardi has them pretty safely OUT of the tournament right now as they reside in his “next four out” bucket that at the end of the day is probably a 2 seed in the NIT – that how far off they will be from making the cut.
COPYRIGHT: THE SPORTSBOSS, 2012