By Kyle Beery
With Selection Sunday about a month away, the NCAA Tournament field is beginning to take shape. It’s that time of year for buzzwords like “resume,” “bubble team,” “RPI,” and “sleepers.”
Here’s a rundown of the tournament field, as it stands today. Teams are considered by their current resumes, and conference champions are determined by current standings, not projected by what may happen in remaining games.
FIRST FOUR (DAYTON; TUE/WED (March 14, 15)
East Regional – 16. Mt. St. Mary’s vs. 16. Sam Houston St.
Midwest Regional – 16. Texas Southern vs. 16. UC Davis
West Regional – 12. Rhode Island vs. 12. Alabama
South Regional – 11. Indiana vs. 11. Utah
*Conference champs have conference in parenthesis
EAST REGIONAL (New York City; March 24, 26)
MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City; March 23, 25)
WEST REGIONAL (San Jose; March 23, 25)
South REGIONAL (Memphis; March 24, 26)
Last five at-large byes: Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Illinois State, Marquette, Iowa State
Last four in (First Four in Dayton): Indiana, Utah, Rhode Island, Alabama
First five out: Michigan State, Syracuse, Arkansas, Seton Hall, North Carolina State
Each of the five teams sitting on the outside of the bubble have a lot of work to do if they want to end up in the Big Dance. But all five of them also have opportunities to make up some ground, as they each have at least two remaining games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
Michigan State never recovered from a rocky start to the season in which it lost four of its first eight games against ranked teams that are all tournament-bound. After a brutal 29-point road loss at rival Michigan on Tuesday, the Spartans have a pair of home games against unranked reams before heading to West Lafayette for a big matchup with Purdue.
Seton Hall is coming off two straight overtime wins. The Pirates are yet to beat one of the top four teams in the Big East, but they get Creighton, Villanova and Xavier all in a row at home before ending the season at Butler.
Illinois State has a slight half-game edge over Wichita State for first place in the Missouri Valley and is hovering on the bubble, but a recent 41-point road loss against the Shockers gives Wichita the edge. The Redbirds don’t have much of an opportunity to make a statement win in their five remaining games, so they will likely have to win out to make the MVC a two-bid league.
Top of the class:
Villanova has only suffered two setbacks this season, both coming on the road in conference play against tournament teams — Butler and Marquette. Jay Wright’s team has looked just as sharp as they did during last year’s National Title run, even without a dominant post presence like they had in Daniel Ochefu last year. The Wildcats are ranked 6th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com.
Kansas and Baylor continue to be neck-and-neck in the Big 12, even after the Jayhawks beat the Bears last week, thanks to a rough loss in a letdown game against Iowa State the next time out. KU travels to Waco on Feb. 18 for a game that could determine the regular season title, as well as which team gets a No. 1 seed.
Gonzaga is poised for another undefeated regular season. The Bulldogs last did it in the 2012-2013 season, earning a No. 1 seed, only to fall in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The team’s top kenpom ranking and Nigel Williams-Goss’s 15.6 points per game have Bulldog fans believing this team could re-write history and go all the way this year.
Big 12: 7
Big Ten: 7
Big East: 5
Atlantic 10: 3
Missouri Valley: 2