I have seen enough…it is time to fully transition my Field of 68 to a “based on what has happened thus far” methodology. Teams are now establishing resumes that can be compared and contrasted, especially as conference play hits high gear here in January. It will also allow for a more fluid movement of teams based on current results vs future expectations. One trend I was beginning to see was the opening up of the last few spots in the field. The teams that looked like they were ready to grab those spots based on decent non-conference showings have come out and looked like NIT teams at best. So here is the Field of 68 as I have it as of today.
The 1’s – Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Iowa State
The four undefeated teams from the major conferences occupy these spots. I see Michigan State some places, but if the tournament started today, Iowa State has a better schedule, better wins and did not lose to a 5-loss North Carolina team.
The 2’s – Michigan State, Ohio State, Wichita State and Villanova
This group consists of the remaining undefeated team (Wichita State), a one-loss leader of the 3rd rated conference (Villanova) and the two one-loss teams from the Big Ten that will be in play for a #1 seed all season long.
The 3’s – Florida, Oklahoma State, Colorado and Kansas
The best 2-loss teams in the country lead this group. Florida has started to look the part of a higher seed and is the class of the SEC. Oklahoma State has a couple good wins (Colorado, Memphis), but is teetering on a slight fall with the loss of Michael Cobbins. Colorado has wins over Kansas and Oregon and is establishing themselves as Arizona’s chief competition for the PAC-12 title. I debated over the last #3 right now, but went with Kansas. The Jayhawks have 4 losses, but with an RPI sitting at #2, a collection of really good wins and no bad losses, I feel the committee will reward the Jayhawks for playing the schedule they took on. As it currently sits, there is no team with an RPI over 200 on their entire schedule, played and un-played.
The 4’s – Baylor, Oregon, San Diego State and Massachusetts
Baylor and Oregon are 2-loss teams whose wins are not quite as good as teams on the 3-line. Both teams have the non-conference resumes to be seeded higher if they can get it going in league play. Finally, the 1-loss leaders of the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 gain the last two 4’s. Both of these conferences are well-respected and the Aztecs have a victories over Kansas and Creighton in their pocket, while the Minutemen sit at #4 in the RPI.
The 5’s – Cincinnati, Kentucky, Duke and Memphis
While the SOS #’s never love Cincinnati, they have wins over Pittsburgh, Memphis and NC State and lead the AAC. The discussion of playing teams with RPI’s in the 300’s vs those in the low 200’s is for another day. Kentucky has quietly righted the ship and has 6 top 100 wins. Duke is a bit of an enigma, but has played a decent schedule and owns wins over Michigan and UCLA. I don’t love them here yet, but I have a hard time seeing the committee putting Xavier ahead of them with the same amount of losses. Memphis, with wins over Oklahoma State and Louisville grabs the last 5 spot.
The 6’s – Xavier, Creighton, Pittsburgh and Iowa
The Musketeers are quietly putting together a good season, with wins over Tennessee, Cincinnati and Wake Forest. Not sure what happened in the Bahamas, but the rest of the season has been solid. Creighton and Pittsburgh have strong records, but haven’t really beaten a string of quality opponents. Both teams have upward mobility if they start doing that in conference play. Iowa has lost to Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin, and you see where those teams sit. The Xavier and Notre Dame wins are nice enough to grab the last 6.
The 7’s – Louisville, Gonzaga, Missouri and New Mexico
If not for North Carolina, Louisville would be the biggest seeding conundrum of the Field. They are the defending champs and have only 3 losses, but when Southern Miss is by far your best win? Gonzaga gets some computer love, but the WCC is not helping them and the loss to Portland does not either. Missouri has the ugly loss to Georgia, but decent wins vs UCLA, NC State and West Virginia make them a difficult 2-loss team to seed. New Mexico has similar computer numbers to Gonzaga, but a better win than the Zags (Cincinnati) and no bad losses.
The 8’s – Connecticut, Michigan, North Carolina and Kansas State
Connecticut had a bad trip to the State of Texas, but still has that Florida win to hang their hat on. Michigan has a rising profile now that they have started to play well sans Mitch McGary, with good wins over Florida State and Minnesota. Right now I am pegging North Carolina here, as the 5 losses are not pretty, but the wins over Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville? are. Kansas State has a nice little run going, including wins over Gonzaga and Oklahoma State.
The 9’s – Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia and Illinois
Tennessee has beaten Xavier, Virginia and Wake Forest for a nice little collection of wins. UCLA looks the part, but UCSB is the best win to date. Virginia started slow, but has come on as of late. Wins over Florida State, SMU and Wake Forest is the start of a good collection. Illinois is a better version of UCLA on the computers, with the win over Missouri to boot.
The 10’s – VCU, Minnesota, Florida State and St. Louis
The Atlantic 10 finds two teams on this line, both who have some upward potential. VCU has to add to their win over Virginia and St. Louis is still looking for its first top 50 win. Minnesota and Florida State join them, each with middling resumes that could take them either way at this point.
The 11’s – Harvard, Southern Miss, Georgetown and Dayton
Harvard’s spot is always difficult to gauge, but I figure somewhere right around where the bubble decisions really start, as they would be in that discussion if they were an at-large. Southern Miss is very similar to Harvard in resume. Both teams could see a bump back to the 12 line if the bottom of the at-large field solidifies itself. Georgetown is another team that is tough to figure out, while Dayton has to hope the Gonzaga win stays strong and they can add some quality A-10 wins to it.
The 12’s –UWGB, California, Oklahoma, Arizona State, SMU and George Washington
UWGB is an auto bid. Cal enters the field after a huge road win at Oregon. George Washington is still on solid footing with the Creighton win and 5 top-100 victories. The last 3, I basically threw darts at. I feel a Big 12 team (Oklahoma, Texas or West Virginia) is destined for the first four this year, with the overall strength of the conference, but someone has to be around .500 in league play. SMU is in the top 50 in RPI, KenPom, Sagarin and BPI, despite only the win over UConn. Finally, Arizona State edges out some of the ACC and SEC bubble teams, as well as St. Mary’s and Boise State at this point. The Sun Devils are top 40 in 3 of the rating systems and just need to boost up their RPI.
The 13’s – Ohio, New Mexico State, UCSB and North Dakota State
The 14’s – Belmont, Manhattan, Boston U. and Delaware
The 15’s – Georgia State, Stephen F. Austin, St. Francis (NY) and North Carolina Central
The 16’s – Northern Colorado, Davidson, Southern, Radford, Florida Gulf Coast and Stony Brook