Barnes Bracketology - March 8, 2010

By: Matt Barnes
By: Matt Barnes
I think it's safe to say now that this may be one of the weakest at-large fields in the tournament. Normally during this time of year, there are teams fighting hard for those final few spots. But this year, it's the exact opposite as teams that seemed safe just a couple weeks ago, continue to lose, making it hard to figure out whether they actually deserve a spot in the field. In better years, 3-game losing streaks like the one Florida is one right now would have them in awful shape. But thanks to losses by Illinois, Georgia Tech, UAB, Rhode Island, Dayton, and Mississippi State, they're not that bad after all. It's just crazy to see so few teams take control of its own destiny. Instead, they leave it up to the selection committee and people like me.

MY PROJECTED FIELD OF 65
(changes in italics)

LOCKS: We began the weekend with 33 locks. We ended the weekend with 35. Louisville enters the group, thanks to a resounding win over Syracuse at home, giving them a sweep of the projected 1 seed. Also in the group is Virginia Tech, who despite their 23-7 record, was lacking quality wins. But a road victory at Georgia Tech is enough to make them feel safe now. Northern Iowa was already in this category but just to make sure they felt comfortable, won the Missouri Valley championship and has earned an automatic bid.

LOCKS (35): 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, Butler, Northern Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Richmond, Clemson, Marquette, Missouri, Florida State, Louisville, and Virginia Tech


AUTOS:
This weekend began the conference tournament madness and that means changes are gonna be coming to this group. There are a handful to take about today. In the America East, Stony Brook lost so Vermont is my new pick. And in the Sun Belt, Middle Tenn. St. fell so North Texas is my new projected champ. Along with those changes, we also have some teams that earned the automatic bid by already winning their tournaments. In the Atlantic Sun, a huge surprise as fifth-seeded East Tennessee State won the bid. And in the Big South, Winthrop upset top-seeded Coastal Carolina to snatch that bid. No upsets though in two other conferences as Murray State won the Ohio Valley's bid and Cornell won the Ivy League's bid, thanks to their win Friday, giving them the regular season title.

Teams that have clinched their automatic bid will now appear in bold so they can differentiated from teams that I projecting to win the automatic bid.

AUTOS (21): America East - Vermont, Atlantic Sun - East Tennessee State, Big Sky - Weber State, Big South - Winthrop, Big West - UC Santa Barbara, Colonial - Old Dominion, Conference USA - UTEP, Ivy - Cornell, MAAC - Siena, MAC - Kent State, MEAC - Morgan State, Northeast - Quinnipiac, Ohio Valley - Murray State, Pac-10 - California, Patriot - Lehigh, Southern - Wofford, Southland - Sam Houston State, SWAC - Jackson State, Summit - Oakland, Sun Belt - North Texas, WAC - Utah State

AT-LARGE: With two teams leaving for the LOCKS group, the at-large number has shrunk to 9. But like I said in the beginning, a lot of the teams in this group aren't exactly winning to earn their spot in this group. Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Rhode Island all lost over the weekend, hurting their chances. Only Rhode Island fell out of the group though, as they lost to a team with a sub-200 RPI for the second time in 2 weeks. Their loss was Memphis's gain though, as the Tigers now enter the group, thanks to their solid play as of late. Also, with Notre Dame's road win at Marquette, they should be in good shape. But I'm keeping them in this group, pending an early exit in the Big East tourney by them and a good run by another Big East squad.

AT-LARGE (9): Notre Dame, UNLV, St. Mary's, Washington, San Diego State, Florida, Memphis, Georgia Tech, and Illinois.



BUBBLE WATCH
After weeks of teasing us, the bubble has finally burst for UConn and Cincinnati. 3-game losing streaks just don't help you make the tourney field. Also, William & Mary is off this list. Their resume just won't cut it and with one game left in tonight's Colonial League championship, they could take out any guesswork by just winning the automatic bid. That would leave a team like Old Dominion though just how good their resume is.

UTEP and California seem to be alright, even with a loss in the conference tournament, but that'll depend on how others do. Arizona State is just barely on the cut line. It's between them and Washington for that second Pac-10 spot. The two are slated to play each other in the Pac-10 Tourney semifinals, unless one gets upset. That would no doubt be an elimination game. UAB and Dayton had chances to make statements but both fell flat on their faces last week, losing two games to quality teams, including one at home. And as for Mississippi State, yikes. They likely need to reach the conference tournament final just to get a sniff of the AT-LARGE group now.

BUBBLE (23): UTEP, California, Notre Dame, UNLV, Utah State, St. Mary's, Washington, Old Dominion, San Diego State, Florida, Memphis, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Arizona State, Siena, Ole Miss, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, South Florida, Saint Louis, UAB, Dayton, and Mississippi State

Now that the field is taken care of, time to see where they shake out in the seeding.

SEEDING
With all of the weekend's games, I went into this latest bracket with a clean slate. I went back to the basics of making the S-Curve and because of that, came away with a bracket I really like. Some of the biggest movers include Texas A&M and Maryland, both up to a 4 seed. The biggest drops came from Georgia Tech (11 seed), Florida (12 seed), and Siena (13 seed), who I was giving way too much credit in earlier brackets.

The seeding was tough for teams like Notre Dame and Missouri. While I wanted to have them at a higher seed, the bracket forced me to seed them lower than I wanted. So expect their seeding to possibly improve as the top seeds change this week. As for the top seeds, Duke is the fourth 1 seed for now and if they win the ACC tournament, will stay there. But if they trip up at all, Ohio State, West Virginia or Purdue could win it if they win their conference tournament. Kansas State probably is out of the running after losing at home to Iowa State but are still a solid 2 seed.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN
Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (5), SEC (5), MWC (4), A-10 (3), C-USA (2), Pac-10 (2), WCC (2)


(click on bracket to enlarge)

MIDWEST vs. WEST
SOUTH vs. EAST

MIDWEST REGION - St. Louis
#1 Kansas* (29-2) vs. #16 Vermont - Oklahoma City
#2 Purdue (26-4) vs. #15 UC-Santa Barbara (18-9) - Milwaukee
#3 Villanova (24-6) vs. #14 Sam Houston State (22-7) - Providence

#4
Maryland (23-7) vs. #13 Siena (26-6) - Spokane
#5
Vanderbilt (23-7) vs. #12 Memphis (23-8) - Spokane
#6
Gonzaga (26-5) vs. #11 Washington (21-9) - Providence

#7
Northern Iowa (28-4) vs. #10 UNLV (23-7) - Milwaukee
#8
Louisville (20-11) vs. #9 Utah State (25-6) - Oklahoma City

SOUTH REGION - Houston
#1 Syracuse (28-3) vs. #16 Lehigh (21-10)/Jackson State (19-11) - Buffalo
#2 Kansas State (24-6) vs. #15 Morgan State (24-9) - Oklahoma City

#3 Michigan State (24-7) vs. #14 Weber State (19-9) - Providence

#4 Texas A+M (22-8) vs. #13 Kent State (23-8) - San Jose
#5 Tennessee (23-7) vs. #12
Illinois (18-13) - San Jose
#6
Georgetown (20-9) vs. #11 San Diego State (22-8) - Providence
#7
Richmond (24-7) vs. #10 Virginia Tech (23-7) - Oklahoma City
#8
Wake Forest (19-9) vs. #9 UTEP (24-5) - Buffalo

EAST REGION - Syracuse
#1 Kentucky (29-2) vs. #16 Winthrop (19-13) - New Orleans
#2 West Virginia (24-6) vs. #15 East Tennessee State (20-14) - Buffalo

#3 New Mexico (28-3) vs. #14 Wofford (25-8) - San Jose

#4
Wisconsin (23-7) vs. #13 Cornell (27-4) - Spokane
#5 Temple (26-5) vs. #12 Notre Dame (21-10) - Spokane
#6
Butler (27-4) vs. #11 Georgia Tech (19-11) - San Jose
#7 Texas (23-8) vs. #10 Old Dominion (25-8) - Buffalo
#8 Oklahoma State (21-9) vs. #9 Florida State (22-8) - New Orleans


WEST REGION - Salt Lake City
#1 Duke (26-5) vs. #16 Quinnipiac (23-8) - Jacksonville
#2 Ohio State (24-7) vs. #15
North Texas (22-8) - Milwaukee
#3
Pittsburgh (24-7) vs. #14 Oakland (24-8) - Jacksonville
#4 Baylor (24-6) vs. #13 Murray State (30-4) - New Orleans

#5 BYU (28-4) vs. #12
Florida (20-11) - New Orleans
#6 Xavier (23-7) vs. #11
St. Mary's (25-5) - Jacksonville
#7
Clemson (21-9) vs. #10 Missouri (22-9) - Milwaukee
#8
California (21-9) vs. #9 Marquette (20-10) - Jacksonville

*Top overall seed

MONDAY'S GAMES TO WATCH
St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga (WCC Championship) - Gonzaga is in the field no matter what. St. Mary's isn't too sure and sure could use the automatic bid. The Zags won the first two matchups.
William & Mary vs. Old Dominion (Colonial Championship) - If Old Dominion doesn't want to be on edge come Selection Sunday, they should just win this game.
Fairfield vs. Siena (MAAC Championship) - Siena might still get an at-large berth but they're not sure. They are sure though that with a win tonight, they're in.
Appalachian State vs. Wofford (SoCon Championship) - Wofford won the regular season title but Appalachian State won the only meeting between the two 77-76 at Wofford.

Now that the conference tournaments are underway, we're going daily here on Barnes Bracketology. Also, look for some special posts such as breaking down the bubble watch. Of course, this is all just my opinion of how things will shake out. You can share your opinion in the comments section below, on Twitter @MattBarnesWRDW, or my Facebook page.

MB
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