Last year, Barnette correctly predicted 63 of the 65 teams in the tournament in his final bracket, including 59 teams perfectly or within one spot of their eventual seeding, making it--as with our 2005 mock draft--the most accurate predictions found anywhere on the internet, mainstream media or not.
This week we focus on some of the more interesting resumes out there as far as the bigger and small name teams go. Tradition-rich teams with shaky resumes seem to be the trend right now. We also look at the bubble picture and what teams need to do to get off it.
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 these projections are not a prediction of what the tournament will be in March, but rather a report card of what it would look like if the tournament began today. All the teams in the projected bracket were selected and seeded using the same criteria that the selection committee uses in March.
AUTOMATIC BIDS are given to all 31 conference champions regardless of how good or bad the league is. All the teams projected as champions are either currently in first place or tied for it via the loss column. Those teams are Duke, Memphis, Illinois, Texas, West Virginia, Gonzaga, UCLA, Northern Iowa, LSU, George Washington, Bucknell, George Mason, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Iona, Louisiana Tech, San Diego State, Western Kentucky, Akron, Winthrop, Northwestern State, Penn, Samford, Davidson, UC Irvine, Delaware State, IUPUI, Northern Arizona, Albany, Lipscomb, Southern and Central Connecticut.
OTHERS CONSIDERED were Missouri State, Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, Cincinnati, Alabama, Louisville, Kansas State, Saint Josephs and Air Force
-Cincinnati is an interesting case. Their RPI is 26 and their SOS is 6th, so those numbers are strong enough to indicate theyre a tournament team, but the Bearcats are just 1-5 since losing Armein Kirkland. No team has ever been left out with an RPI that good, but I cant see them being selected because they havent really shown they can win since the injury. If they continue to lose the RPI will obviously drop lower than that and may end up not being good enough to get them in anyway, but even if it is high they still have the injury to contend with and that will really hurt their chances.
-Once again the Missouri Valley has five teams in. I think Northern Iowa is solidly in and could end up in the pod system. Creighton, Southern Illinois and Wichita State have very solid resumes as well. Bradley and Missouri State appear to be on the bubble right now, but both will have the opportunities they need to play their way in. Of course, theyll have the opportunities to play their way out as well. Bradley has really been playing better lately. They are just 12-7 on the year, but have won four of their last five games, including a big win over Missouri State. They have three losses to poor RPI teams, but they also have three wins against the RPI top fifty and since some of those losses occurred when they werent at full strength (without their starting center Patrick OBryant) the committee will take that into account.
-Duke, Memphis and Connecticut appear to be clear cut #1 seeds right now. Illinois is projected in as the fourth #1 this week, but Texas and Michigan State have extremely strong profiles for it as well. Texas fell to Oklahoma this past weekend and although it wasnt a bad loss, the race for the #1 seeds are so intense that as few as three or four losses may be too many. The Horns are still in good shape though. Michigan State will certainly get their chance to measure themselves against Illinois seeing as how they are in the same conference.
-Syracuse and Seton Hall were originally #10 seeds, but needed to be switched with UAB and Kansas to meet the bracket requirements. Seton Hall has really exploded all of a sudden. They had a blowout win on the road against North Carolina State and managed another huge win on the road against Syracuse this past Sunday. Those two road wins have basically made their profile and put them in the bracket picture. They needed overtime to get past a weak South Florida before those two wins. I dont know whats gotten into the Pirates, but theyve looked great the last two games.
-Speaking of Syracuse, theyve lost four in a row and that is never good, but two of the losses were on the road to Pittsburgh and Villanova, which is hardly damaging. Another loss was at home to Connecticut. They havent done much to help themselves, but they havent hurt themselves all that much either. That being said, they REALLY need to win their next game at home against Rutgers.
-Oklahoma finally got a big win on their resume as well when they beat Texas this past Saturday. Up until then there wasnt much on their profile to indicate that they were worthy of a good seed.
-Arizona is on the decline. They have lost two of their contributing guards for the year and really havent won at a high level without them. They were lit up by North Carolina this past weekend and could be in serious trouble as far as getting a good seed or getting in at all.
-Washington has lost two straight games in Pac Ten play and their RPI has plunged down to 56. They will be seeded much better than that because of their wins against UCLA and Gonzaga, plus one can assume that they would have a very good NABC ranking given where they are ranked in the polls, but they sort of sold themselves short with their weak out of conference schedule. Because they really didnt play anyone who was a tournament caliber team other than Gonzaga and possibly Air Force, they really put the pressure on themselves to win big in conference. That is why two consecutive losses would have such a big impact on their projected seed.
-Temple got a big win against Maryland this past Saturday, which got them into the bracket picture. They have won five of their last six games and really improved their profile. Playing in the Atlantic Ten means theyll have to continue to win at a high level though because the Atlantic Ten doesnt provide them with many opportunities to improve their profile and/or offset any bad losses. Its also hard to say how much credit the committee will give them for beating Maryland. As you know, they lost Chris McCray for the year and are sort of in a position where they need to reprove themselves. If they drop off it wont look as good for Temple.
-Xavier, Arkansas and Iowa State were the last teams in, but I see more reasons to leave them out than put them in. Its just that there seemed to be less that was bad about them than any other team who didnt make it.
-I dont know what happened to Old Dominion this past weekend, but George Mason absolutely blew them out of the gym. That drops Old Dominion a game behind UNC Wilmington and George Mason in the conference standings. Their profile doesnt appear to be good enough to warrant an at large bid without them being in first place.
-Louisville looked impressive against Cincinnati, but when youre playing a team who is as injured and depleted as Cincinnati its hard not to look good. They followed it up with a road loss to Rutgers, who does not appear to be a tournament caliber team. The Cards have more to worry about than just getting to the NCAA Tournament. They need to focus on getting to the Big East Conference Tournament. Only twelve teams go and they are currently tied with Providence for the twelfth spot in the conference standings.
-Alabama is improving. In fact they are probably the only bubble team who is actually on their way up. All the rest seem to be doing more to hurt their resumes than help at the moment.
-I think Air Force needs to win out in order to get strong consideration for an at large bid. If they were to need an at large bid, it would mean that they lost in the conference tournament and that would likely be yet another loss to a non tournament level team on their profile. Since they dont have any good wins to offset that and no real opportunities at any for the rest of the year they pretty much need to win all their games.