As we get further into February, the bottom of the at-large pool gets even harder to seed. There is so little separation between the teams ranging from the 9 to 12 lines right now, and teams who are well into the “Out” lines can make a strong case to be in the field. One thing I expect is that by the time the conference tournaments tip off, this part of the field will look nothing like it does now.
Before I get into the projection, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the big win last night for my hometown Michigan Wolverines over archrival Michigan State. Michigan now has a 30-point home win over Indiana and last night’s 29-point home win over Michigan State sandwiched around an 8-point loss at Michigan State and a 4-point home loss to Ohio State. This team exemplifies what makes this part of the field (I have them as an 11 seed) so hard to seed. They look unbeatable in some games and look average or worse in others. With a very difficult schedule the rest of the way – at Indiana, vs. Wisconsin, at Minnesota, at Rutgers (OK, not difficult), vs Purdue, at Northwestern, at Nebraska – we’ll find out what’s real and what’s fake with this team.
With that said, here’s the update. As always, moves up or down since my last update are in parentheses next to the team’s name. Projected automatic qualifiers are in bold.
In since last update: Michigan, Chattanooga
Out since last update: Arkansas, East Tennessee State
1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor
2s: Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia (+1), Oregon
3s: Kentucky, Louisville (-1), Arizona, Creighton
4s: Purdue, Florida, UCLA, West Virginia
5s: Butler, Wisconsin, Duke, Cincinnati
6s: Saint Mary’s, Xavier, Notre Dame (+1), South Carolina
7s: Maryland (-1), SMU, Southern California, Northwestern
8s: Dayton, Minnesota, VCU, Oklahoma State (+1)
9s: Virginia Tech, Marquette, Kansas State (+1), Iowa State
10s: Michigan State (-2), Wichita State, Indiana, Rhode Island
11s: TCU, Michigan (new), Miami, Seton Hall, Middle Tennessee
12s: Illinois State, Wake Forest (-1), UNC-Wilmington, Boise State, Vermont (+1)
13s: Valparaiso (-1), Akron, Monmouth, Chattanooga (new)
14s: New Mexico State, Belmont, Florida Gulf Coast, Princeton
15s: Georgia State, Bucknell, Winthrop, Texas Southern
16s: North Dakota State, Weber State, Sam Houston State, North Carolina Central, Mount Saint Mary’s, Cal-Irvine
Last Four In: Miami, Seton Hall, Illinois State, Wake Forest
First Four Out: California (+1), Syracuse (+2), Tennessee, Arkansas
Next Four Out: Georgia Tech, Clemson (-1), Texas Tech (-1), Providence
Third Four Out: Georgetown (-1), Illinois (+1), Vanderbilt (+2), Nevada
Fourth Four Out: Temple, Charleston, Ole Miss (-1), Georgia (-1)
Thanks for reading, and look for my next update Saturday morning, before another huge Saturday afternoon and evening of college hoops. As always, check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!