Barnes Bracketology - February 22, 2010

By: Matt Barnes
By: Matt Barnes

It's hard to believe that Selection Sunday is now less than 3 weeks away. Just seemed like yesterday the ACC/Big Ten challenge was beginning. But alas, the tournament is just weeks away and that means, it's time to kick off my bracketology series.

As I stated in my introduction post, this is a gradual process. I will reveal more and more as the days go on. Today, I will be revealing my current top 4 seeds and their regions as well as my locks, autos and my bubble teams. In the coming days, I will reveal complete my field of 65 and add seeding as well.

So here's how it will work. Every post will start with the LOCKS. These are the teams that have done plenty already to assure themselves of a spot in the field of 65. This is clearly the group teams want to be in. They are, in no particular order:

LOCKS (25): Duke, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Villanova, West Virginia, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Texas A+M, Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, New Mexico, BYU, Temple, Xavier, Gonzaga and Butler.

If you're not a LOCK, then you definitely want be an AUTO. That means being the team to earn the automatic bid from your conference. For all conferences except the Ivy League, this will be earned by winning the conference tournament. So for now, many of these names are just guesses of who will win the conference tournament in a few weeks. You'll also notice not every conference will be listed in this category. That's because if a team is already a LOCK, their name will not appear in the AUTO category too. So the AUTOS are, in alphabetical order by conference:

AUTOS (22): America East - Stony Brook, Atlantic Sun - Campbell, Big Sky - Weber State, Big South - Coastal Carolina, Big West - UC Santa Barbara, Colonial - Old Dominion, Conference USA - UTEP, Ivy - Cornell, MAAC - Siena, MAC - Akron, MEAC - Morgan State, MVC - Northern Iowa, Northeast - Robert Morris, Ohio Valley - Murray State, Pac-10 - California, Patriot - Lehigh, Southern - Wofford, Southland - Sam Houston State, SWAC - Jackson State, Summit - Oakland, Sun Belt - Middle Tennessee State, WAC - Utah State

Normally, after the AUTO category, I will have the AT-LARGE category. But I'm not quite ready for that yet. But I will reveal my BUBBLE category. This is the list that is one no one wants to be on. It means come Selection Sunday, the team will be biting their fingernails, waiting until their name is called, if at all.

You will see some teams in the BUBBLE category that are also in the AUTO category. That's because if the team does not end winning their conference tournament, they still have a chance of still reaching the Big Dance as an AT-LARGE. As the days go by, I will put the teams in the BUBBLE category in order so you know how close each team is to cracking my field of 65. But for now, here are the BUBBLE teams in no particular order:

BUBBLE (39): Georgia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, South Florida, Marquette, Notre Dame, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma State, California, Washington, Arizona State, Ole Miss, Florida, Mississippi State, San Diego State, UNLV, Richmond, Rhode Island, Dayton, Charlotte, Saint Louis, Northern Iowa, UAB, Siena, Utah State, Old Dominion, St. Mary's, William and Mary, Wichita State, Cornell, UTEP, and Northeastern.

So if you do the math, only 18 of the above 39 BUBBLE teams will receive an invite to the tournament. And that number can decrease if there are upsets in conference tournaments that add to the AUTO number. So yeah, it's going to be a fun next 3 weeks.

SEEDING

As far as my top 4 seeds, here's what I have so far. Again, these will shift like the field of 65 projections. I also assigned the teams to regions, keeping in mind the NCAA's goal of placing teams at sites that are closest to their universities.

This year, the 8 first and second round sites are New Orleans, LA, Providence, RI, San Jose, CA Oklahoma City, OK Buffalo, NY, Jacksonville, FL, Milwaukee, WI and Spokane, WA.

The regional sites are Syracuse, NY (EAST), St. Louis, MO (MIDWEST), Salt Lake City, UT (WEST) and Houston, TX (SOUTH).

With that in mind, here are my projected top 4 seeds:

MIDWEST REGION - St. Louis
1. Kansas (Oklahoma City)
2. West Virginia (New Orleans)
3. Michigan State (Buffalo)
4. New Mexico (San Jose)

EAST REGION - Syracuse
1. Kentucky (New Orleans)
2. Kansas State (Oklahoma City)
3. Georgetown (Jacksonville)
4. Wisconsin (Spokane)

SOUTH REGION - Houston
1. Syracuse* (Buffalo)
2. Duke (Jacksonville)
3. Pittsburgh (Providence)
4. Vanderbilt (San Jose)

WEST REGION - Salt Lake City
1. Purdue (Milwaukee)
2. Villanova (Providence)
3. Ohio State (Milwaukee)
4. Gonzaga (Spokane)

*NOTE: Syracuse is ineligible to play in the East Region because their home court is being used as the region site.

MONDAY'S GAMES TO WATCH
Oklahoma @ Kansas - The Jayhawks are firmly a #1 seed right now but could change with a few losses down the stretch. Oklahoma is not even considered a bubble team right now.
West Virginia @ UConn - For WVU, this could mean staying a #2 seed. For UConn, it may be a must-win as they continue to fight for a spot in the field after a rough stretch that saw them lose 8 out of 10 games.

That's it for today. Check back tomorrow for more as I continue to put together this crazy puzzle that is the NCAA Basketball Tournament field of 65.
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