Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 NCAA Tournament – Projected Field as of February 25

Lots of critical games this past week, and quite a few teams have played them out of consideration, while others have taken a significant step towards inclusion.  This analysis includes action through Sunday February 24, and for this week’s version & moving forward we will include RPI ranks next to all teams in “Need Wins” or “Life Support” which can be used as a gauge.  Also please remember teams are listed in order of their chances at receiving a bid – meaning for example, my A10 order for seeds and chances of receiving bids is St. Louis, Butler, VCU, Temple, LaSalle, UMass, Charlotte.  Here is the latest breakdown:
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Ten: St. Louis (replaced last week’s projected conference winner Butler)
                Looking good: Butler, VCU
                Need wins: Temple [40], LaSalle [37]
                Life support: UMass [55], Charlotte [58]
Summary: this week St. Louis is now our projected A10 winner, replacing Butler following their win @ Butler over the weekend.  The winner of the A10 tourney remains a truly fluid situation with literally half a dozen teams that should be right in the mix to earn the auto-bid.  Temple took care of LaSalle last week further solidifying my thoughts that the Owls will be ahead of the Explorers on the selection committee’s cards – both still have a solid shot, but are clearly behind the group of three listed ahead of them & they need to close strong.  UMass & Charlotte will remain on “Life Support” for one more week although their chances are weakening almost by the day.  The A10 looks like a 4/5 bid conference.
ACC: Miami, Fla
                Looking good: Duke, North Carolina, NC State
Life support: Virginia [69], Maryland [66]
Summary: the Tar Heels have jumped up a level to “Looking Good” following wins over Virginia & NC State recently.  With an RPI in the low 20s & a favorable closing schedule they are well positioned to be dancing come Selection Sunday.  NC State continues its relative free fall but is still comfortably in the field, but could be a very favorable matchup for their opening round opponent.  Virginia & Maryland remain on “Life Support” with UVA having the edge over the Terps head to head as far as resumes go.  But with both still sporting RPI ratings in the high 60s there is still a lot of work to be done, and frankly, reaching the levels that are needed may be tough to accomplish in the ACC.  The Cavaliers certainly pass the eye test, but early season struggles may wind up being too much to overcome.  Maryland is barely hanging on following their loss @ BC last week.  The ACC looks like a 4/5 bid conference.
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast – sticking with FGC another week because of their upside shown in their win over Miami, Fla, along with sporting a 36 spot better RPI than current conference leader Mercer.
Big 12: Kansas
                Looking good: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
                Need wins: Iowa State [51]
                Life Support: Baylor [64]
                Summary: OU has moved up to the “Looking Good” line following a 2-0 week moving them to 18-8/9-5/#22, all strong numbers for inclusion in the dance.  The real issues in the B12 come down to Iowa State and Baylor – ISU has clearly separated from Baylor following their win in Waco last week which gave the Cyclones the season sweep over the Bears.  ISU has nothing worthy of mention from OOC play, so a 12-6 B12 finish should be their target – but that looks extremely difficult with their last four games shaping up as: KU, @OU, OKST, @WVU.  BU is in a lot of trouble having lost 3 straight and 6 of 8 – their best potential B12 record is 11-7, which is historically bubble territory – and considering in their last four are games vs. Kansas State & Kansas, they can get themselves back into the discussion with a 4-0 close to their regular season; seems very unlikely even taking into account both those games will be at home.  In summary, both ISU & BU have a tough road ahead, and at this point barring a run in their conference tourney it seems unlikely either will earn a bid when taking into consideration their closing schedules.  The B12 looks like a 4/5 bid conference.
Big East: Louisville
                Looking good: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh
                Need Wins: Cincinnati [48], Villanova [52]
                Life Support: St. Johns [61]
                Summary: the biggest move this week in the Big East comes with Cincy’s fall from “Looking Good” to “Need Wins” as they continued their decline now losing 3 straight and 5 of 6.  Currently at 7-8 in conference play they must, at a minimum, close the regular season 2-1 for a 9-9 finish – going 2-1 with UConn, @ Louisville, USF is certainly not a lock.  Villanova on the other hand has done itself well over the last few weeks, seemingly improving by the game, as they now sit at 9-6 in conference play, have won 3 straight and 5 of 6 including a road win @ UConn and home win over Marquette.  If Villanova has not passed Cincy in the Big East order of consideration it’s very close for sure.  St John’s remains in “Life Support” for this week, but has hurt their chances going 2-4 over the last 3 weeks.  I figure STJ needs at least 2-1 to close their regular season @PC, @ND, Marquette – clearly no guarantee based on that schedule.  When it’s all said and done, barring any unforeseen developments in the BE Tournament, it looks like this conference will get 7/8 bids, with Cincinnati & Villanova both needing to close with a few wins to seal their spots.
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Charleston Southern
Big Ten: Indiana
                Looking good: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State
                Need wins: Minnesota [17], Illinois [32]
                Summary: the undisputed best conference in the land this season didn’t have much movement last week outside sliding Michigan over Michigan State based on the Spartans loss to Ohio State yesterday.  Speaking of Ohio State that was a big, much needed win for the Buckeyes as they were just 2-3 in their last 5.  Minnesota has struggled for most of calendar year 2013, but with an RPI #17 there is no chance they are left out of the tourney AS LONG AS they reach 9-9 in conference play.  That means a 3-1 finish which is in play but no guarantee; they open vs. Indiana, and then have 3 games versus teams lower in the current standings.  It’s the same story for the Illini; they must close 2-1 but have a tougher slate: NEB, @ Iowa, @ Ohio State – no guarantees there.  The Big Ten Tournament could play a vital role for those two teams as they will likely open versus a bottom feeder, and may need that next game versus one of the top 5 teams currently listed to lock into a bid – anything else would clearly leave them on the bubble with a 9-9 record.  The B10 looks like a 6/7 bid conference.
Big West: Long Beach State
Colonial: Northeastern
Conference USA: Memphis
                Need Wins: Southern Mississippi [36]
                Summary: Memphis further solidified themselves as the best team in CUSA & a likely “seeded” team following their second double digit win over 2nd place Southern Miss.  Speaking of the Golden Eagles, they have performed as expected in almost every game this season, seemingly losing to teams better than them, but not losing any games they should not have.  But when it comes down to searching their season for signature wins, or even wins over projected tournament teams, one has to look hard because there isn’t even one!  That will likely come back to bite them barring a win over Memphis in the CUSA Championship Game, which would obviously earn them the automatic bid anyway.
Horizon: Valparaiso (replaced last week’s projected conference winner Detroit) – I have flip flopped Valpo & Detroit for the 2nd consecutive week based on Bracket Busters performance; those games didn’t have any impact on the Horizon League, but I feel Valpo is the better team at this point.
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Canisius
MAC: Akron
                If AKRON does not win their conference tournament they would still BE ALIVE ON LIFE SUPPORT to receive a bid, thus adding themselves to the pool of at-large teams.
MEAC: Savannah State (replaced last week’s projected conference winner North Carolina Central)
Missouri Valley: Creighton
                Looking good: Wichita State
                Summary: Indiana State has been removed from consideration based on the fact they have lost 7 games in the MVC – that will not cut it, even with some nice OOC wins.  It appears likely but not a lock both Creighton & Wichita State earn bids, however, the Blue Jays lost a big opportunity to almost lock into an at-large selection following their loss to St. Mary’s Saturday in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.  Each team has two conference games remaining, but the last is versus each other – so long as they both win that “other” game, and advance to the MVC Final, I feel both will receive a bid.  If they both do not advance I feel Wichita State has the more solid resume to earn an at-large if they were to get knocked off early.
Mountain West: New Mexico
                Looking good: Colorado State, UNLV
                Need wins: San Diego State [33]
                Life Support: Boise State [47]
                Summary: huge win for New Mexico @ Colorado State this past weekend really solidifies the Lobos as one of the top 2/3 seeds out West.  The Rams and Rebels are also comfortably in the field sporting solid Top 15 RPI marks, while San Diego State still has a little work to do in my opinion to lock in an at-large.  Last week the Aztecs took care of business versus Wyoming & Nevada – but they need to continue winning games to lock up a spot in the dance – which I expect they will.  Air Force & Wyoming have been removed from consideration, so the last team in the MWC under consideration is Boise State – the Broncos have wins over UNLV & Creighton, but not much else on their resume.  A solid RPI of #47 keeps them alive, but being the 5th MWC team probably hurts them some even though the committee claims they do not evaluate teams by conference.  Their remaining schedule is stacked with opportunities for big wins: NEV, CSU, @UNLV, SDST; if they go 3-1 to close and win at least one in the MWC Tourney I think they can earn a spot – anything less would put them in serious danger of missing out.  The MWC looks like a 4/5 bid conference.
Northeast: Bryant
Ohio Valley: Belmont
                If BELMONT does not win their conference tournament but advances to the Championship Game they would still BE ALIVE IN LOOKING GOOD to receive a bid, thus adding themselves to the pool of at-large teams.
Pac 12: Arizona
                Need wins: UCLA [42], Oregon [49], California [44], Colorado [29]
                Summary: we are now down to 5 teams under consideration from the P12 as Arizona State has been removed following their home loss to Washington, along with their RPI taking a dive recently, all the way down to #86 currently – well outside the range for at-large consideration.  But yet another week’s analysis will be posted, and no P12 teams other than Arizona appear to be a “lock” to be dancing come Selection Sunday.  These last four teams are so close in just about every aspect it’s tough at this point to give any of the four an edge over the others – hence why I have moved Cal up from “Life Support” into “Need Wins”.  The one area that definitely does stand out is a positive to Oregon – on top of the Ducks being tied with the Wildcats at the top of the conference, and the fact they have the least amount of losses compared to the other three schools is the injury to G Dominic Artis; the Ducks were 17-2 with him in the lineup, but just 5-4 since he went down.  His status is very much uncertain at this point, but if he did make his way back into the lineup and played significant minutes not only would that make the Ducks a better team, but the committee would take that into consideration as far as the Ducks performance with or without him.  Outside of that development the four teams are listed in the current order I like their chances to dance, including action to date, and breaking down their remaining schedules (remaining schedules favor Cal in a big way as they only have three home games left, nothing on road).  The P12 looks like a 4/5 bid conference.
Patriot: Bucknell
SEC: Florida
                Looking good: Missouri
                Need wins: Kentucky [46]
Life Support: Ole Miss [57], Alabama [62]
                Summary: Mizzou picked up a big win last week taking care of Florida at home, almost certainly locking them into a dance spot.  However, they were not able to follow that up falling to Kentucky on Saturday night – a win the Wildcats needed in the worst way themselves.  For UK it will come down to the four regular season games along with the SEC Tournament as the committee will not weigh heavily their performance when C Nerlins Noel was in the lineup.  Outside the closing game where they host Florida, the other trio of games is winnable, and perhaps need to be won to position themselves favorably.  Ole Miss & Alabama are both barely hanging on, and as discussed last week, neither is well positioned & I expect both to drop off this analysis before conference tourney week.  The SEC looks like a three bid league, which means at the end of the day Kentucky will secure their own spot to defend their title.
Southern: Davidson
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Southern
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State
                If MTSU does not win their conference tournament they would still BE ALIVE IN LIFE SUPPORT to receive a bid, thus adding themselves to the pool of at-large teams.
West Coast: Gonzaga
                If GONZAGA does not win their conference tournament they would still RECEIVE a bid, thus taking a bid away from the current at-large pool.
                Need Wins: St. Mary’s [43]
Summary: the Gaels picked up a very big win in Bracket Busters over Creighton, with relative ease, at home Saturday.  Last week I was not so sure that St. Mary’s was in position to earn an at-large bid outside a win over Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Final, but following the weekend win I feel so long as they do not lose any bad games down the stretch, and advance to the WCC Final, they should be dancing.  BYU has been removed from any consideration following their loss to St. Mary’s last week in what was essentially an elimination game.
WAC: Louisiana Tech

LOOKING GOOD: 21 (+2 from last week)
Currently I project 52 of the 68 bids are earned.  That means there are 16 unsecured/open bids. 
NEED WINS: 15 (-1 to last week)
LIFE SUPPORT: 9 (-6 to last week)
That leaves 24 teams that are in the mix for 16 open bids.
Keep in mind however that DOES NOT include the upsets we will see during Conference Tournament week where teams that are LOCKS from smaller conferences lose a game in their conference tournament and hence use an at-large bid on themselves.
Quick scenario analysis using probability
  • This week we have 16 unsecured/open bids & 15 “Need Wins” teams. 
  • If we say 60% of the “Need Wins” teams do in fact earn themselves a bid (60% of 15 = 9) that would mean we have only 7 unsecured/open bids remaining, and 15 teams (6 “Need Wins” & 9 “Life Support”) fighting for those 7 spots. 
  • If you then assume for arguments sake 3 teams in “Life Support” do in fact get hot & play themselves into the dance, that would leave us with 4 unsecured/open bids & 12 teams fighting for those spots (6 “Need Wins” & 6 “Life Support”). 
  • Lastly, when you toss in say 4 conference tournament upsets where teams “steal” a bid, that would leave us with no other open spots for other teams. 
  • Right now, our best guestimate would suggest there are 6 “Need Wins” & 6 “Life Support” teams that will NOT be dancing come Selection Sunday.  But do keep in mind to use round #’s I took  only 9 of the 15 “Need Wins” teams in Step One – that # is likely to be higher, but the point is to show how small the actual unsecured/open bids # will wind up being once the regular season (teams will lock themselves into bids) & conference tournaments (teams will steal bids) play out.

If last week was an example we should expect next week’s projection to be even more accurate and involving fewer teams as we are now down to the final two weeks of regular season action!  And this is always one of the most enjoyable parts of the sports year!

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