Barnes Bracketology - February 23, 2010

By: Matt Barnes
By: Matt Barnes

What a difference a year makes when it comes to bracketology. This time last year, teams like North Carolina, UConn, Louisville, and Memphis were fighting for top seeds. This year, all are fighting to just make the field of 65. Last year, teams like Kentucky, Kansas State, and Vanderbilt didn't even make the tournament. This year, they're fighting for a top 4 seed. Crazy huh?

But that's just another example of why I love doing this bracketology series. It's so unpredictable but yet, my job is to predict. So far, I have predicted the top 4 seeds by region and included my LOCKS, AUTOS, and BUBBLE teams. Today, I am going to complete the field of 65 by adding my AT-LARGE teams. Of all the groups, the AT-LARGE group is the one that will see the most movement. With each day of games, I will shift teams in and out, making for fun times once I actually fill out an entire bracket.

MY PROJECTED FIELD OF 65

LOCKS: With only two really big games playing yesterday, there were no changes to my LOCKS group. So I'm sticking with the 25 I have, though I am very close to adding 2-3 more. I just think they need one more good win or just simply avoid an upset on the road this coming week.

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.


AUTOS:
Nothing new to report. This section will pretty stay unchanged until conference tournament week, though you may some shifting these next 2 weeks as some conferences have matchups between the top two teams ahead.

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

AT-LARGE: This is where it gets fun. After comparing regular season resumes, RPI rankings and at times, just going with my gut, here are the 18 AT-LARGE teams as of now. I will say thanks to UConn's win over West Virginia yesterday, they moved from BUBBLE to AT-LARGE. It was their third straight win, with two of them against top-tier teams (WVU and Villanova).

This time, the AT-LARGE teams are in no particular order at all but as time goes on, they will be in order from most secure to least secure.

AT-LARGE (18): Georgia Tech, Clemson, Richmond, Missouri, Florida State, Florida, Maryland, UConn, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Virginia Tech, UNLV, Marquette, Rhode Island, William & Mary, Dayton, St. Mary's and Washington


BUBBLE WATCH

Of course, there is still a BUBBLE category. You will see repeat names in the category because though a team may be an AT-LARGE, they are still always on the BUBBLE until they become a LOCK. No changes to this group so again, the BUBBLE teams are listed here in no particular order at all. Again, with time, this group will be in order from best chances to worst chances.

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 there you have it. My current field of 65 and the teams that are close to crashing the Big Dance. With some big games today, expect some teams to jump in and fall out in tomorrow's post.

SEEDING

No changes here. Kansas' win over Oklahoma just further strengthened their stranglehold on a #1 seed AND the top overall seed. Meanwhile, WVU's loss to UConn did not cause them to fall from a #2 seed just yet. But there are some very good teams that are right on their heels, such as Pittsburgh and Ohio State.

In case you missed yesterday's post, 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).

After today, I will no longer explain why there are cities next to the names of the universities and regions in the interest of space.

Here are my projected top 4 seeds:

MIDWEST REGION - St. Louis
1. Kansas (Oklahoma City) -- TOP OVERALL SEED.
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.

TUESDAY'S GAMES TO WATCH
Syracuse @ Providence - Providence has about zero chance of gaining an at-large big but they've played some good teams tough. The Friars have lost 6 straight though. A win over Syracuse would be great for morale but bad for the 'Cuse, who are hoping to stay a #1 seed.
Kansas State @ Texas Tech - A win by Tech puts them back in the bubble discussion and probably drops K-State from a #2 seed.
Georgetown @ Louisville - Huge game for the Cardinals. A win gives them a second top-15 RPI victory in 4 games, something that will resonate well with the committee this late. As for G'Town, losing this game might not hurt the seeding too much but a third loss in a row may shake the confidence of the team.
Tennessee @ Florida - The Gators need this one badly. With really just one marquee win (vs. Mich. St.), this would add a much-needed feather to their cap.
Illinois @ Michigan - Tough road test for the Illini but one they need to pass if they want to stay in the at-large group. Illinois has lost their last 2 games (vs. OSU, @ Purdue).

That's it for today. Hopefully, the addition of the AT-LARGE group was enough to whet your appetite. Tomorrow, my goal is to order the AT-LARGE and BUBBLE group so you have an idea of who I think is in better shape than others. Then, on Thursday, I hope to reveal my first bracket. Of course, that's all subject to change as Wednesday is a very active basketball night with a lot of meaningful games taking place.

Either way, I hope you'll return. And don't forget, you can share your opinion in the comments section below, on Twitter @MattBarnesWRDW, or my Facebook page.

MB
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