We have hit the mark of 8 weeks left in the regular season, plus Championship Week. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but if there wasn’t, here is what my field would look like. (Side Note: For the one bid leagues, I will occasionally stray from taking the regular season leader if there is a stronger team near the top of the standings. The regular season champion does not get an automatic berth, so awarding it like that has never been my practice. I also do not award an automatic bid to a conference leader of a multiple bid league who would not otherwise make it as an at-large, i.e. Nevada of the Mountain West currently.)
The 1’s – Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Michigan State
The Top 3 remain strong, with the Spartans sneaking in and grabbing the last #1. One could argue Villanova has a better resume than Sparty or that Wichita State is still undefeated. The committee loves Izzo though and would be hard-pressed not to place them here.
The 2’s – Villanova, Wichita State, Florida and Kansas
Villanova and Wichita State do come in as strong #2’s and are joined by Florida and Kansas. The Gators have righted the ship and will eventually contend for a #1 seed if they dominate the SEC. The Big 12 is the strongest conference and Kansas once again looks like the front-runner. So despite 4 losses, the final #2 goes to the team with the #1 RPI and the look of the strongest team in the strongest conference. That being said, a weekend game against the boys from Stillwater could flip the two squads.
The 3’s – Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Iowa State and San Diego State
It was a bad week for Ohio State and Iowa State, as both former unbeatens now carry 2-game losing streaks and fall to #3 seeds. Oklahoma State continues to be a struggling #3, so the Kansas game will be big for them. The committee loves road wins, and San Diego State’s road win at Kansas, along with their only loss being to Arizona, makes them a sneaky #3 at this point.
The 4’s – Baylor, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Iowa
Baylor has wins over Colorado, Kentucky and Dayton and the two losses (Syracuse and Iowa State) are of the quality variety. So why are they behind San Diego State…it is January 14th and they have played exactly one road game. Massachusetts keeps cruising along to a #4, while Kentucky moves up a spot as they continue their solid play. Did I mention the committee likes road wins? Iowa now owns one of the best and finally has that signature win to match-up with the eye test that says this team is really, really good.
The 5’s – Cincinnati, Creighton, Pittsburgh and Memphis
Pittsburgh is becoming an interesting team for this exercise. Kenpom loves them. Their record is 15-1. Their best win though is Stanford, and the ACC schedule will not provide them too many chances for great wins, although they do visit the Carrier Dome this weekend. Cincinnati and Memphis stay strong as the leaders of the AAC and Creighton got a really good win over Xavier on the weekend to separate themselves as the #2 team in the Big East.
The 6’s – Louisville, Duke, Oregon and Colorado
Duke got back on track with the win over Virginia last night, while Louisville had a nice win over SMU on Sunday. Louisville plays at Connecticut on Saturday and outside of hosting Cincinnati on Jan. 30, they play 7 teams with RPI’s over 174 in their next 9. Oregon has lost three straight and is lucky to land as a #6. Colorado now becomes a team to watch with the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie for the season. The Kansas win was with Dinwiddie, so the Buffaloes will be judged more on how they finish than most teams.
The 7’s – Gonzaga, New Mexico, Missouri and Connecticut
I keep finding Gonzaga and New Mexico similar in profile and hard to separate. The Lobos will have a better chance to distinguish themselves, but Gonzaga almost has to win at Memphis (Feb 8) to have much in the way of upward mobility. Missouri doesn’t have a great profile, but with just two losses, they still hold at 7. Their story seems like one that is yet to be written. Connecticut has the win over Florida leading their resume, but they could use the win Saturday over Louisville to stay out of the 8-9 territory.
The 8’s – Michigan, UCLA, Xavier and Virginia
Michigan has a rising profile now that they have started to play well sans Mitch McGary, with good wins over Florida State and Minnesota. The lack of a signature win, plus 4 losses is holding them here. UCLA now has Arizona State as their best win, but like Baylor, is 0-1 on the road. Xavier got a good wake-up call against Creighton, but still has a very solid resume. Virginia could have passed up Duke for 3rd in the ACC, but lost out on a great opportunity for a road win. Florida State and SMU wins are nice and are akin to Michigan’s at this juncture.
The 9’s – St. Louis, Florida State, VCU and Oklahoma
The Billikens are 6-0 on the road, albeit with Dayton as the best win in that group. Florida State’s best wins are Massachusetts and VCU, so it seems fitting to slot them in with 2 teams from the A-10 and one spot below two teams who have them as their best win. Sometimes, this stuff can actually make sense. Then comes VCU, who actually beat Virginia, who is seeded one higher, so maybe it doesn’t always make sense. Oklahoma makes the jump with the win over Iowa State and strong computer numbers. I like Kansas State’s wins a little better yet, but for now I will favor the Sooners.
The 10’s – Kansas State, Georgetown, California and North Carolina
I like Kansas State better than others, as quality wins like Gonzaga and Oklahoma State often erase bad losses like Northern Colorado. The Hoyas own wins over VCU and Kansas State, which makes this a fitting location. California has stormed out in PAC-12 play with 3 road wins, including Oregon and Stanford. The fact that Arkansas is their best non-conference win is what is currently holding them back a little. Finally there is North Carolina, who is a bit similar to Kansas State in that they have really good wins and in the Tar Heels case, just a lot of losses. I still have the Tar Heels in and their wins land them in this territory for seed. They need to figure it out soon though, or they will be this year’s Kentucky in the NIT.
The 11’s – Harvard, Tennessee, Minnesota and George Washington
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. Tennessee does this every year, pairing good wins with maddening losses. Right now, there are not too many, but home losses to Texas A&M should not be repeated. Minnesota almost got a huge win at Michigan State, so I am not dropping them like another conference foe. George Washington currently sits ahead of Dayton and will battle the bubble for the next 8 weeks.
The 12’s –UWGB, New Mexico State, Illinois, Dayton, SMU and Texas
UWGB and New Mexico State are auto bids. I think Illinois is in real trouble. The resume of wins is Missouri and, well, Missouri and some team is going to get squeezed out of the Big 10 race. After the loss to Northwestern, the Illini are the likely candidate. Dayton played St. Louis tough, but currently sits hosting a First Round game. SMU stays in for now, but this spot is tenuous. Texas is also back in, but needs to add some Top 50 wins along the way to support the resume of ok wins and no bad losses.
The 13’s – Akron, Louisiana Tech, Manhattan and North Dakota Stat
The 14’s – Belmont, UC-Irvine, Boston U. and Delaware
The 15’s – Georgia State, Stephen F. Austin, Mercer and Northern Colorado
The 16’s – Norfolk State, Robert Morris, Davidson, Southern, Radford and Stony Brook