Rock-M-Tology, 3-11-12

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 10: Frank Haith head coach of the MIssouri Tigers wipes his eye as the game winds down against the Baylor Bears during the championship game of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament March 10, 2012 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Missouri won 90-75. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Notes:

  • I'll deliver an updated in-or-out list for the Selection Show live thread this afternoon after properly overthinking the crap out of all of this (and seeing if St. Bonaventure can steal a bid today).
  • I don't think Missouri gets a 1-seed. Obviously I would love to be wrong, but at this point, I think the 1's are, in order, Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina and either Michigan State (if they beat Ohio State today) or either Michigan State, Kansas, Duke or Ohio State (if Ohio State beats Michigan State). Whether it is fair or not, I think strength of schedule will be held against Mizzou. It won't matter that they've beaten Kansas (a potential 1-seed), Baylor (3) three times, Notre Dame (6-8), Iowa State (8-9) twice, etc. It won't matter that they've gone 11-3 versus likely NCAA Tournament teams. Their cupcakes were terrible, Villanova, Illinois and Old Dominion ended up a lot worse than anticipated, and therefore Missouri will fall short, potentially to the benefit of Kansas, who both played, and lost to, better teams in non-conference play. Just get ready for it now, then realize that a 2-seed is still pretty damn good.
  • This is a really interesting bubble. It seems by now we've narrowed the last couple of spots down to four or five teams. Not so this year. If we assume that BYU, Texas, Colorado State and California are safe (and I think they are, even though I'm not sure they should be), then basically four spots will go to the following pool of teams: Arizona, Dayton, Drexel, Iona, Miami, Mississippi State, N.C. State, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Oregon, Seton Hall, South Florida, and Washington. I think we can safely remove Dayton, Northwestern, Ole Miss, and Oregon from this list, but they still have at least a small chance, and even without them, that's still nine teams for four spots, and I'm really not sure what the committee will think.
  • Almost none of the teams above have any quality wins. It is amazing. And four of them will get in.
  • Joe Lunardi still has South Florida in. When I drew things up this morning, they were the lowest-ranked team for me on the list above. I just don't see it. But by the time the selection show rolls around, I'll probably have them in simply because I assume the committee will talk itself into including them.

Here are the teams who either made their way into the field in the last week or found themselves to the door.

Who's overrated?

The Big East -- West Virginia (19-13), Notre Dame (22-11), South Florida (19-13), Seton Hall (20-12), Connecticut (20-13) - When I initially drew up my rankings, I had all of these teams at least one full seed below the Palm/Lunardi/Dobbertean consensus. I've adjusted for it in my seeds below -- I'm sure they're more likely to be right than I am when it comes to the Big East, and the point of this bracket is to be right (unlike the last ones, which were more how I thought the world should be) -- but I think we've significantly overrated this conference this year. (And I don't say that just because Louisville-Cincy was so completely dreadful to watch last night.) It pains me to put Seton Hall in; they are 5-10 in their last 15 games, and they lost by 28 to DePaul just last week. If I end up putting South Florida in, it will probably be at the expense of the Pirates.

Mississippi State (21-11) - Their RPI rank is 74th. Their Pomeroy rank is 86th. Their five best wins: Vanderbilt, Alabama, West Virginia ... Arizona, Tennessee. They lost to Georgia at home. They lost at Auburn, LSU and Arkansas. They lost to Georgia again in the SEC Tournament. They lost six of their last eight. They had an 8-8 record in the SEC. They have almost nothing going for them ... yet, they're still considered a bubble team. Lunardi had them a 12-seed yesterday. If this team gets in over a Drexel or Iona, the committee has failed.

Washington (21-10) - Their RPI is 71st, Pomeroy rank 67th. Their best non-conference win was against Georgia State. They lost to Nevada and South Dakota State (by 19!). They fell to UCLA and Oregon State in their last two games. I fear they will get some sort of silly "they won their conference" bump when, to win their conference, they didn't beat a single likely NCAA Tournament team. The two Pac-12 teams most likely in -- California and Colorado -- both beat the Huskies. Colorado beat them by 18. This is a young team that almost unquestionably got better as the season progressed ... but this still isn't a tournament team. As with MSU, if the committee chooses this team over a strong mid-major like Drexel or Iona, they have failed.

Who's underrated?

Drexel (27-6) - Of all people, Doug Gottlieb spelled out Drexel's case perfectly last night. While a team like N.C. State got many, many chances to prove itself and lost almost every time, all Drexel was doing was winning. Yes, they lost to Delaware, St. Joe's and Norfolk State in non-conference play. They have also lost just twice since December 4. They went 16-2 in a rock solid Colonial Athletic Association. Their only loss since January 2: a three-point tumble versus VCU in the CAA finals. In the last four months, they have done almost everything possible to prove themselves a tourney team. It isn't their fault that they didn't get more marquee opportunities. (Hell, even in BracketBusters, they were only paired against Cleveland State -- and whipped them by 20 on the road -- instead of someone like Long Beach State or Creighton.) After the committee put VCU in last year, I am confident that Bruiser Flint's Dragons will get in, though they are almost a guarantee for the Play-In game.

Miami (19-12) - Their RPI stinks (60th), but the actual performance rankings like them (they are 38th in Pomeroy's ratings). They won at Duke, they destroyed Florida State two weeks ago, they finished 9-7 in the ACC ... I have them ranked higher than everybody else, but that's because I think they have a better case. Honestly, I'll probably change my mind on this one by the time the selection show rolls around, but I just think they've proved infinitely more than teams like MSU and Washington and, for that matter, Seton Hall and Arizona.

Wichita State (26-5) - Their RPI: 12th. Pomeroy: 10th. Yes, they lost to Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Tournament ... but that was one of just three losses they have suffered since November 20. They are basically a unanimous 5-seed at this point, but I think they should still be receiving consideration for a 4. Not a huge qualm, obviously, but a qualm nonetheless.

Memphis (26-8) - Their RPI: 14th. Pomeroy: ninth. Yes, they failed to take advantage of non-conference opportunities (0-5 versus Michigan, Murray State, Louisville, and Georgetown twice). But they are 20-3 since Christmas, and they have begun to look like the old Memphis -- in their last seven games, their average winning margin has been 23 points. They are dominating, but the best seed I've seen for them was from Chris Dobbertean: a 6-seed. They look more like a 4-seed, but I realize that isn't going to happen. And if they get a 7-seed in Missouri's region, I'm going to be pissed.

Last Eight In

BYU (23-8)
Texas (20-13)
Colorado State (19-11)
California (24-9)
N.C. State (22-12)
Drexel (27-6)
Miami (19-12)
Seton Hall (20-12)

First Eight Out

Iona (25-7)
Arizona (23-11)
Mississippi State (21-11)
South Florida (19-13)
Washington (21-10)
Northwestern (18-13)
Marshall (20-13)
Middle Tennessee State (24-6)

By Conference

9 - Big East
6 - ACC, Big Ten, Big 12
4 - Mountain West, SEC
3 - Atlantic 10, West Coast
2 - Colonial, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Pac-12

The Bracket

FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)

Norfolk State (24-8) vs Western Kentucky (15-18)
Lamar (21-11) vs Mississippi Valley State (21-12)

Drexel (27-6) vs Miami (19-12)
N.C. State (22-12) vs Seton Hall (20-12)

MIDWEST REGIONAL (in St. Louis)

1 Kentucky (32-1) vs 16 Detroit (20-13)
8 Notre Dame (22-11) vs Harvard (25-4)
in Louisville

5 New Mexico (26-6) vs 12 California (24-9)
4 Georgetown (22-8) vs 13 New Mexico State (24-9)
in Portland

6 St. Mary's (25-5) vs 11 Long Beach State (23-8)
3 Michigan (23-9) vs 14 Montana (23-6)
in Pittsburgh

7 Kansas State (21-10) vs 10 UConn (20-13)
2 Duke (27-6) vs 15 Loyola-MD (24-8)
in Greensboro

WEST REGIONAL (in Phoenix)

1 Michigan State (25-7) vs 16 Norfolk State / WKU
8 UNLV (24-8) vs 9 Alabama (21-11)
in Columbus

5 Florida State (23-9) vs 12 Texas (20-13)
4 Temple (24-7) vs 13 Ohio (26-7)
in Albuquerque

6 Creighton (28-5) vs 11 VCU (28-6)
3 Louisville (26-9) vs 14 Davidson (24-7)
in Portland

7 Gonzaga (25-6) vs 10 Virginia (22-9)
2 Kansas (27-6) vs 15 UNC Asheville (21-9)
in Omaha

EAST REGIONAL (in Boston)

1 Syracuse (31-2) vs 16 Vermont (23-11)
8 Iowa State (22-10) vs 9 St. Louis (24-7)
in Pittsburgh

5 Wichita State (26-5) vs 12 Drexel / Miami
4 Indiana (25-8) vs 13 Colorado (21-11)
in Nashville

6 Vanderbilt (23-10) vs 11 West Virginia (19-13)
3 Baylor (26-7) vs 14 South Dakota State (25-7)
in Albuquerque

7 San Diego State (24-7) vs 10 Southern Miss (23-8)
2 Ohio State (27-6) vs 15 Lehigh (25-7)
in Nashville

SOUTH REGIONAL (in Atlanta)

1 North Carolina (29-4) vs 16 Lamar / MVSU
8 Cincinnati (24-10) vs 9 Xavier (21-11)
in Greensboro

5 Murray State (27-1) vs 12 Colorado State (19-11)
4 Wisconsin vs 13 N.C. State / Seton Hall
in Columbus

6 Memphis (26-8) vs 11 BYU (23-8)
3 Marquette (25-7) vs 14 Belmont (26-7)
in Louisville

7 Florida (23-10) vs 10 Purdue (21-12)
2 Missouri (30-4) vs 15 Long Island (25-8)
in Omaha

My At-First-Glance Final Four

Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, North Carolina

Second glance: Georgetown, Kansas, Syracuse, Missouri

Missouri's inevitable path to destiny (ahem)

Long Island, Florida (or Purdue!), Marquette, North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky

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