OK, I was wrong about West Virginia, at least for now. In one of the most impressive displays of the season, the Mountaineers absolutely dismantled the country’s top-ranked team (and the team that had been ranked at the top in my projection), taking down Baylor by 21 points. This followed double-digit wins against a solid TCU squad and a fading but not-out-of-the-running Oklahoma State team. With that, the Mountaineers make the biggest move since my last projection, rising 3 spots to become a 4 seed.
Elsewhere, it was a mess near the cut line. Between seed lines 9 and 12, there were far more teams who suffered losses, many of them of the bad variety, than teams who won in any type of impressive fashion. This caused a lot of changes in those lines, as you will see.
In a subject that hits close to home (literally), Michigan lost in a pathetic display at Illinois, 85-69. It is the latest sign that a coaching change is needed in Ann Arbor, but that’s another subject for another post. Illinois, thanks to this win and a couple of other good ones this season – combined with the losses by teams above them – jumps from the Third Four Out into the field.
Also joining the field from the major conferences is Iowa State. They most recently won by 10 points at Oklahoma State, and an early season loss at Iowa doesn’t look so bad anymore, as the Hawkeyes have opened Big Ten play respectably. The Cyclones jumped into the field from the Next Four Out.
With all that in mind, here is my current projection.
In since last update: UNC-Asheville, Lehigh, North Dakota State, Iowa State (previously Next Four Out), Illinois (previously Third Four Out)
Out since last update: Radford, Bucknell, IPFW, Wake Forest (previously 11 seed), Ole Miss (previously 12 seed)
1s: Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky, Baylor
2s: Florida State, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Louisville (+1)
3s: Creighton, UCLA (-1), Florida (+1), Oregon (+1)
4s: Xavier (-1), Duke (-1), Arizona (+1), West Virginia (+3)
5s: Virginia, Butler (-1), Minnesota (-1), Saint Mary’s
6s: Maryland, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin (+1)
7s: Purdue (-2), Michigan State (+2), South Carolina (+1), VCU (+1)
8s: SMU (-1), Dayton (-2), Northwestern, Middle Tennessee
9s: Pittsburgh, USC (-2), Nebraska (+2), TCU (+2)
10s: Virginia Tech (+2), Wichita State, Indiana, Rhode Island (-1)
11s: Georgia (+1), Temple (-2), Clemson (-1), Nevada
12s: Illinois (new), Iowa State (new), Marquette (new), Seton Hall, UNC-Wilmington, Valparaiso
13s: Chattanooga, Tennessee State, Monmouth (+1), Texas-Arlington
14s: Florida Gulf Coast (-1), Akron (+1), Princeton, New Mexico State
15s: North Dakota State (new), Lehigh (new), Vermont, UNC-Asheville (new)
16s: Texas Southern, Eastern Washington, Cal-Irvine, Sam Houston State, North Carolina Central, LIU-Brooklyn
Last Four In: Illinois, Iowa State, Arkansas, Seton Hall
First Four Out: Marquette (+3), Ole Miss, Wake Forest, Houston
Next Four Out: Vanderbilt, Miami, Central Florida (-1), Michigan (-1)
Third Four Out: Oklahoma State (-2), Providence (-2), Charleston, Auburn
Fourth Four Out: La Salle (+2), California (+2), Massachusetts (+2), Georgetown (+1)
Teams per Conference: ACC has nine bids, Big Ten has nine, Big 12 has five, Big East has five, SEC has five, Pac 12 has four, American Athletic has three, Atlantic 10 has three, West Coast has two, and all other conferences have one.
The question about this is, which Big Ten team (or teams) will rise to the top lines? It seems impossible that there wouldn’t be at least one team from the conference that earns a 3 seed or better, but it has yet to happen in my projections. This is because of a lack of top notch non-conference wins for the Big Ten. Indiana beat Kansas and North Carolina, but they also lost to IPFW and have a poor non-conference strength of schedule rating. Michigan State loaded up their schedule early, to their credit, but they lost to Baylor, Kentucky, Duke, and Arizona in November. Purdue beat Notre Dame, who is currently a 6 seed. Other than that, no Big Ten team has a non-conference win against anyone I have projected higher than an 8 seed.
With that, look for my next update on Sunday or Monday, and as always, check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime.