February 27, 2009

The Drive for 65: A weekend to make move

We're less than three weeks from "Selection Sunday" (March 15), and we're now going to have two bracket projections per week one on Tuesdays, one on Fridays.

It's important to note that this is a projection, not how the field would look if it were decided today.

The Tuesday projections have comments on each team; the Friday projections talk about the seedings as a group.

Teams are grouped by projected seed and are listed from strongest to weakest within that seed. At the bottom is a breakdown by league of the number of projected bids and some information on the makeup of the field, the selection committee and the sites.

(Note: All RPI figures are through Wednesday's games come from collegerpi.com.)

Rivals.com Drive for 65
No. 1 seeds
1. North Carolina
2. Connecticut
3. Pittsburgh
4. Oklahoma
The buzz: All of these teams have a chance to double-up win their regular-season titles as well as their tournament titles. But there also are two Big East teams in here, meaning the one that doesn't win the regular-season title may need to get to the tournament final if it wants a No. 1 seed.
No. 2 seeds
5. Louisville
6. Michigan State
7. Duke
8. Memphis
The buzz: Louisville and Memphis have outside shots at a No. 1 seed, while Duke and Michigan State are more likely to end up as No. 3s than No. 1s.
No. 3 seeds
9. Kansas
10. Villanova
11. Wake Forest
12. Missouri
The buzz: Kansas and Missouri are in the running for the Big 12 regular-season title, and each could end up a seed higher. Wake and Villanova are hoping to play their first- and second-round games close to campus in Greensboro, N.C., for Wake and in Philadelphia for 'Nova.
No. 4 seeds
13. Purdue
14. Clemson
15. Marquette
16. Washington
The buzz: Washington is in good shape to win the Pac-10 regular-season crown, while Purdue blew its shot at the Big Ten regular-season title by losing to Michigan on Thursday night. Clemson and Marquette are playing for seeding from here on out.
No. 5 seeds
17. Illinois
18. Xavier
19. Arizona State
20. Florida State
The buzz: Xavier has stumbled a bit of late and could fall another spot. Florida State has a monster closing schedule and could also fall. Arizona State and Illinois are as likely to get No. 4 seeds as they are No. 5s.
No. 6 seeds
21. Syracuse
22. West Virginia
23. UCLA
24. Utah
The buzz: Utah has a great RPI (ninth), but hasn't beaten anyone of note on the road. That means the Utes' seed could be a spot or even two lower. The other teams in this group could use another marquee win.
No. 7 seeds
25. LSU
26. Gonzaga
27. Butler
28. Texas
The buzz: LSU has clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season title, while Gonzaga has clinched the regular-season crown in the West Coast Conference. Butler and Texas could end up a seed higher, depending on how they finish the regular season and how they perform in their league tournaments.
No. 8 seeds
29. Arizona
30. Minnesota
31. California
32. Ohio State
The buzz: Arizona's loss to Washington State makes things dicey for the Wildcats again. California got a key win against USC. Minnesota and Ohio State are fighting to finish fourth in the Big Ten.
No. 9 seeds
33. Boston College
34. Wisconsin
35. Dayton
36. BYU
The buzz: BC, BYU and Wisconsin have played well of late. Not so for Dayton, which could nail down a bid with a win over Xavier on March 5. A Flyers victory would complete a season sweep of the Musketeers.
No. 10 seeds
37. Florida
38. UNLV
39. Tennessee
40. Oklahoma State
The buzz: UNLV needs a deep run like to the final of the Mountain West tourney to get into the NCAA field. Actually, UNLV may need to win the tournament. The other three in this grouping need to finish strong in the regular season, then avoid a "bad" loss in their league tournaments.
No. 11 seeds
41. South Carolina
42. Siena
43. Miami
44. Creighton
The buzz: Creighton and Siena might be OK might be if they win their regular-season titles but falter in their league tournaments. Miami and South Carolina still must finish strong.
No. 12 seeds
45. Cincinnati
46. Kentucky
47. Penn State
48. Utah State
The buzz: Utah State has to win the WAC tournament to get a bid, while the others still have some work to do to gain at-large spots.
No. 13 seeds
49. Davidson
50. Virginia Commonwealth
51. Western Kentucky
52. Buffalo
The buzz: These teams must win their league tournaments to get in: Davidson in the Southern, Virginia Commonwealth in the Colonial, Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt and Buffalo in the MAC.
No. 14 seeds
53. American
54. Weber State
55. Binghamton
56. Cornell
The buzz: American and Weber State have clinched the regular-season titles in their leagues, and each will play their conference tourney games on its home court. If Binghamton wins the America East title, it would host the league tourney final if it's in the game. Cornell is in good position to win the Ivy League, the only conference without a tournament.
No. 15 seeds
57. Stephen F. Austin
58. North Dakota State
59. Belmont
60. Robert Morris
The buzz: Belmont is searching for its fourth consecutive NCAA bid, Robert Morris its first since 1992 and Stephen F. Austin and North Dakota State their first overall.
No. 16 seeds
61. UT-Martin
62. CS Northridge
63. Morgan State
64. Radford
65. Alabama State
The buzz: Radford already has clinched its regular-season title (the Big South). The others are either in the lead or tied. Alabama State is the pick to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and the SWAC winner almost certainly will be in the play-in game.
LAST FOUR IN
Penn State, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Miami
LAST FOUR OUT:
Virginia Tech, Maryland, Michigan, Temple.
BREAKDOWN BY LEAGUE

8: Big East
7: ACC, Big Ten
5: Big 12, Pac-10, SEC
3: Mountain West
2: Atlantic 10
1: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast, Western Athletic (23)
SOME NOTES ON THE MAKEUP OF THE FIELD
The NCAA uses an "S curve," meaning it ranks all 65 teams in order 1-65, then places them in regions under the theory the top No. 1 seed would have the worst No. 2 seed in its bracket, the worst No. 1 seed would have the top No. 2 seed, etc. The balancing of the regions is the most important factor in seeding the tournament.
As far as other rules go, teams from the same conference hopefully won't meet until a regional final, but the NCAA has relaxed that because some conferences have six and seven bids (it's even permissible for an intraconference matchup in the second round, though that is to be avoided whenever possible). But the first three teams selected from a given conference must be in different regions.
Higher-seeded teams should be placed as close to home as possible. No team may play on its home floor, but most sites are "neutral courts" anyway.
Teams can move up or down a spot or two in the "S-curve," maybe even a seed, to preserve other principles.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive is the chairman of the 10-member NCAA Tournament Selection Committee this season. He is one of four members with a "Big Six" affiliation, joining UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith. The other six members: Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, Texas-San Antonio AD Lynn Hickey, Utah AD Chris Hill, Kent State AD Laing Kennedy, UC Riverside AD Stan Morrison and George Mason AD Thomas O'Connor. O'Connor was the chairman last season. Hickey is just the second woman to ever serve on the committee, following Charlotte AD Judy Rose (1999-2003).
2009 TOURNAMENT DATES
March 17: Opening-round game in Dayton, Ohio
First and second rounds
March 19 and 21: Greensboro, N.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.
March 20 and 22: Boise, Idaho; Dayton, Ohio; Miami; Minneapolis
Regional semifinals and final
March 26 and 28: Boston; Glendale, Ariz.
March 27 and 29: Indianapolis; Memphis, Tenn.
Final Four
April 4 and 6: Ford Field, Detroit

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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