2011 March Madness Field of 68 Projections: January 24

Posted by Jordan Schwartz on January-24-2011 Add Comments

It was a big week for the city of Pittsburgh. First, the Panthers handed Syracuse its first loss of the season, and then the Steelers won the AFC Championship.

The collegiate basketball team takes center stage again on Monday night, as Jamie Dixon’s club hosts Notre Dame in another Big East battle.

Pitt sure looks like a No. 1 seed at this point, but what other 67 teams look to be dancing?

As always, I am not trying to guess how teams will finish the year. I am simply seeding them based on their current résumés.

I like to break teams down into three categories:

1. “Wallflowers” are bubble teams because everyone wants to get into the Big Dance, but not all have the guts to ask a girl out onto the dance floor.

2. Elite teams are safely in the field—”Dancing with a Hottie.”

3. In the middle are the schools that are “Dancing with Their Sister.”

Last year, I placed 22nd out of 83 bracketologists across the country in my final projections, ahead of Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Yahoo!, Rivals.com and the two other guys from Bleacher Report.

The tournament will be expanding from 65 to 68 teams for the first time this year, and while that is completely ridiculous, at least it’s not 96 teams. Because of this, I’ll begin my projections this season with my two First Four at-large matchups. The two First Four automatic bid games will be listed at the bottom of this article.

(No. 12a) Butler vs. (No. 12d) Gonzaga

(No. 12b) Virginia Tech vs. (No. 12c) UCF

First six teams out: Marquette, Dayton, Richmond, Washington State, Colorado, Baylor


ACC (5 teams)

Dancing with a Hottie: Duke (2 seed)

Dancing with Their Sister: North Carolina (6)

Wallflowers: Florida State (10), Boston College (11), Virginia Tech (12b)

Florida State is proving that win over Duke was no fluke. The Seminoles beat fellow Wallflowers Miami and Boston College last week to run their win streak to four. FSU is tied for first in the conference at 5-1, and its RPI jumped 21 spots in the last seven days to 46th.

Despite its loss at Florida State, BC’s computer numbers (RPI 34, SOS 25) are too strong at this point, and the bubble is way too weak to keep the Eagles out of the field. The two losses to Ivy League schools are troubling, but the win over Texas A&M and the five others over top 100 teams are solid.

Virginia Tech’s three straight victories have propelled the Hokies back into the field. Their computer numbers (RPI 62, SOS 82) are not as strong, but their three top 50 wins over Oklahoma State, Florida State and Penn State sure are.

Miami had a horrendous week, falling to FSU and NC State to drop to 1-4 in league play. The ‘Canes are off the board and could really use wins over UNC and Va Tech this week.


Big East (10)

Dancing with a Hottie: Pittsburgh (1), Villanova (2), Syracuse (2), Connecticut (3), Notre Dame (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Georgetown (6), West Virginia (6), Cincinnati (7), Louisville (7), St. John’s (8)

Wallflowers: Marquette (first team out)

Syracuse’s loss at Pitt was acceptable because the Orange was playing without its leading scorer, Kris Joseph, and it was in an arena where road teams hardly ever win. But the 11-point setback to Villanova at the Carrier Dome on Saturday was more damaging. SU got poor guard play and looks to be no better than the third best team in the Big East.

Louisville crushed St. John’s by 25 on Wednesday but then suffered a terrible loss at Providence three days later.

West Virginia followed up its win over Purdue with a bad loss to rival Marshall in Charleston. It’s going to be a difficult week for the Mountaineers, who travel to Louisville and Cincinnati, two teams that just beat the Johnnies.

Marquette’s computer numbers (RPI 61, SOS 45) took a hit by just playing No. 219 DePaul, and then the Eagles missed a chance to impress in a five-point loss at Notre Dame. Marquette is 2-6 against the top 50 and 2-6 in road/neutral games, so it could really use a big win away from home, but the Eagles’ next two games are giant ones in Milwaukee against UConn and Syracuse.


Big Ten (6)

Dancing with a Hottie: Ohio State (1), Purdue (3)

Dancing with Their Sister: Minnesota (5), Wisconsin (6), Illinois (7), Michigan State (8)

Illinois beat Michigan State but then lost to Ohio State at home in what many thought would be the Buckeyes’ first defeat of the season. The Illini have now dropped three of four.

The Spartans, meanwhile, lost at Illinois and Purdue this past week to drop to 2-4 on the road and 3-7 against top 50 opponents.


Big 12 (6)

Dancing with a Hottie: Kansas (1), Texas (3), Texas A&M (3), Missouri (4)

Wallflowers: Kansas State (11), Oklahoma State (11), Colorado (fifth team out), Baylor (sixth team out)

No one had a better week than Texas. First, the Longhorns crushed A&M by 21, and then they snapped Kansas’ 69-game win streak in Lawrence. UT is 4-0 in the Big 12 and an impressive 5-2 against the top 50.

It was a rough week for the bottom of the conference, though. Kansas State was ranked third in the country earlier this season but now finds itself in danger of missing the tournament after losing at Missouri and Texas A&M to fall to 1-4 in league play and 0-6 versus the top 50.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State lost at Baylor, and Colorado fell at conference cellar-dwellers Nebraska and Oklahoma. The Bears’ win over OSU was their first against a top 100 team, and therefore they are back in the hunt.


Pac-10 (3)

Dancing with Their Sister: Washington (5), Arizona (5)

Wallflowers: UCLA (10), Washington State (fourth team out)

Arizona lost at UW but beat Washington State on the road to improve to 5-2 in conference and 16-4 overall. The Wildcats are 4-2 in away games and 25th in the RPI.

UCLA (13-6, 5-2) has come out of nowhere to grab a spot in the field. The Bruins (RPI 48, SOS 31) have won four straight and are the only team in America to beat BYU this season.

Washington State drops from the field with a home loss to Arizona. The Cougars don’t have great computer numbers (RPI 69, SOS 92) and are 0-4 against the top 50.


SEC (5)

Dancing with a Hottie: Kentucky (4), Vanderbilt (4)

Dancing with Their Sister: Florida (5)

Wallflowers: Tennessee (9), Georgia (10)

Kentucky’s loss at No. 136 Alabama drops the Wildcats a seed line, but Vandy moves up two spots with convincing wins over Ole Miss and Saint Mary’s.

That loss was the fourth in a row for the Rebels, and while they got back in the win column against LSU on Saturday, Mississippi (1-4 in the SEC) is off my board.


Mountain West (4)

Dancing with a Hottie: San Diego State (1), BYU (2)

Dancing with Their Sister: UNLV (7)

Wallflowers: Colorado State (12)

The Mountain West is the fourth-rated conference in the country, ahead of the ACC, SEC and Pac-10, and it contains two of the best teams in America, so it was about time the MWC got its own section in these projections.

San Diego State travels to BYU on Wednesday for what should be the Aztecs’ first loss of the season, but Colorado State was the team making the most noise in the league last week. The Rams won at UNLV to claim one of the final spots in the field. CSU’s sub-100 losses to Sam Houston State and Hampton are troubling, but it is 6-4 in road/neutral games and has defeated Ole Miss and Southern Miss.


Other Conferences (11)

Dancing with Their Sister: Xavier (8), Saint Mary’s (8)

Wallflowers: Memphis (9), Utah State (9), Temple (9), Old Dominion (10), VCU (11), Cleveland State (12), Butler (12a), UCF (12c), Gonzaga (12d), Dayton (second team out), Richmond (third team out)

Xavier’s 11-point win over Temple on Saturday was its fifth in a row, giving the Musketeers a share of the A-10 lead.

Memphis has won three straight over top Conference USA teams (Marshall, @Southern Miss, @UAB) to jump into a first-place tie in that league.

Old Dominion lost at home to VCU on Saturday, but the Monarchs remain in the field thanks to good computer numbers (RPI 33, SOS 35), a 6-3 mark away from home and top 50 wins over Xavier and George Mason.

Butler can’t seem to get any momentum going. The Bulldogs suffered their second home loss of the season to a sub-100 team on Sunday, when they fell to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It’s a good thing they still have that win over Florida State because the ‘Noles are making that victory look even better lately.

UCF can thank expansion for the fact that it’s still in the field. The Knights, who began the season 13-0, have lost four straight in conference, the last two coming at home to East Carolina and Rice. On the positive side, Central Florida is 4-2 in road/neutral games and has defeated Florida and Miami.

Gonzaga had one of the worst weeks of any team in the country. The Bulldogs lost at Santa Clara and San Francisco to fall to 1-4 on the road and 3-2 in the WCC. They host Saint Mary’s on Thursday with a chance at redemption.


Automatic Bids

No. 13 seeds: Oakland, Missouri State, Harvard, Belmont

No. 14 seeds: Bucknell, Fairfield, Charleston, Coastal Carolina

No. 15 seeds: Hampton, Long Beach State, Ball State, Florida Atlantic

No. 16 seeds: Northern Colorado, Austin Peay, Long Island vs. Maine, Lamar vs. Texas Southern


Follow me on Twitter at @ JordanHarrison.

Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report’s New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and authorhouse.com.

Jordan can be reached at jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com

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