NCAA Tournament bracket projections, 2-17-14: Rock-M-Tology

Mizzou's off the bubble for a week! And somehow, the Inevitable Path to Destiny got even harder. But still, I don't believe I've ever written one of these posts and not had Mizzou projected in the field, and we got awfully close to changing that last week. For at least one more week, we're safe.

Who's moving up?

Arkansas (16-9) - The Hogs have won three of four since a dreadful 2-6 start in SEC play, and their one loss was competitive and on the road against Missouri. They're still on the outside looking in, but they're projected by Pomeroy to win five of their final six in conference (and only one of those five has a win probability under 74%), and if they did that, they'd be 21-10 and in.

Nebraska (14-10) - On January 20, Nebraska was 8-8 overall and 0-4 in conference. The Huskers have won six of eight since and made a serious statement with a 60-51 win at Michigan State yesterday. I realize Michigan State's banged up, but still. They're not in yet, but they should win three of their next four, so they're probably not done rising.

Baylor (16-9) - What a maddening season for the Bears. They beat Kentucky, Dayton, and Colorado and started the year 12-1. Then they dropped eight of 10 in conference play. But they had their first undefeated week since 2013 this week and beat Kansas State in double-overtime. They're 50th in RPI and 49th in Pomeroy, and ... damned if they might not be back in the field at the moment. The upcoming schedule will almost certainly leave nothing to doubt either way, though: OSU, @WVU, @Texas, Tech, ISU, @KSU.

The Atlantic 10 - They currently have seven teams in the field below, thanks to just-good-enough weeks from St. Joseph's (fifth from the bubble), Richmond (fourth), and Dayton (last one in). All three of these teams could play their way in or out in the coming weeks, but at this exact moment in time, they're in.

Who's moving down?

Indiana (14-11) and Maryland (14-12) - These two were on the outside looking in already, but awful (in completely different ways) weeks -- Indiana lost at home to Penn State, then got romped by Purdue; Maryland played well but still just barely lost two opportunities for impact wins at Virginia and Duke -- solidified that.

The SEC - The SEC eats its own. A bunch of teams have taken turns as the No. 3 team in what is basically a two-team conference, and as soon as one blade of grass grows higher than the others, it gets cut. Ole Miss celebrated a good week (which included a nice win over Missouri) by losing at Alabama and Georgia. LSU crept right up to the edge of the bubble, then lost at Texas A&M and Arkansas. Tennessee played just well enough to lose to both Florida and Missouri. Mizzou's good week keeps it out of the Play-In Games for now, but since the league can't decide which teams are good and which aren't, it could end up with only three bids again.

Oklahoma State (still) - The 'Pokes were 16-3 on January 27. They're now 16-9. They got blown out at Texas and fell victim to a barrage of 3-pointers in a late home loss to Oklahoma.

UMass (20-5) - The A-10 is looking like a lovely, deep league this year, but if you're playing for a good seed, you can't afford to lose at home to George Mason.

Last Few In

Names in italics would be among the last in without their conference's automatic bid.

Oklahoma State (16-9)
Missouri (18-7)
Xavier (16-8)
St. Joseph's (17-7)
Richmond (17-8)
Baylor (14-9)
Oregon (16-8)
Dayton (17-8)

First Few Out

Arkansas (16-9)
BYU (17-10)
Florida State (15-10)
St. John's (17-9)
Tennessee (14-10)
Providence (17-9)
Georgetown (15-10)
Nebraska (14-10)
Louisiana Tech (20-5)
LSU (15-9)
West Virginia (15-11)

By Conference

7 - Atlantic 10, Big 12, Pac-12
6 - Big Ten
5 - ACC, American
3 - Big East, SEC
2 - Mountain West

The Bracket

FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)

Baylor (14-9) vs. Richmond (17-8)
Dayton (17-8) vs. Oregon (16-8)

Weber State (12-7) vs. Alabama State (11-9)
Davidson (14-11) vs. Coastal Carolina (13-10)

WEST REGIONAL (in Anaheim)

1 Arizona (23-2) vs. 16 Weber State / Alabama State
8 Kansas State (17-8) vs. 9 Gonzaga (22-4)
in San Diego

5 Virginia (21-5) vs. 12 Toledo (20-4)
4 Ohio State (20-6) vs. 13 North Dakota State (17-6)
in Spokane

6 UConn (20-5) vs. 11 Baylor / Richmond
3 Creighton (21-4) vs. 14 New Mexico State (19-8)
in San Anonio

7 VCU (20-6) vs. 10 Stanford (16-8)
2 Duke (20-5) vs. 15 Georgia State (15-7)
in Raleigh

MIDWEST REGIONAL (in Indianapolis)

1 Kansas (19-6) vs. 16 Davidson / Coastal Carolina
8 Memphis (18-6) vs. 9 Minnesota (16-9)
in St. Louis

5 Iowa (18-6) vs. 12 Southern Miss (19-5)
4 UCLA (20-5) vs. 13 Stephen F. Austin (20-2)
in San Diego

6 Kentucky (19-6) vs. 11 St. Joseph's (17-7)
3 San Diego State (20-2) vs. 14 Manhattan (19-6)
in Spokane

7 North Carolina (17-7) vs. 10 California (17-8)
2 Villanova (22-3) vs. 15 Boston U. (19-8)
in Buffalo

EAST REGIONAL (in New York City)

1 Syracuse (25-0) vs. 16 Robert Morris (16-11)
8 George Washington (19-6) vs. 9 SMU (20-6)
in Buffalo

5 Michigan (18-7) vs. 12 Dayton / Oregon
4 Iowa State (19-5) vs. 13 Harvard (19-4)
in Raleigh

6 Louisville (21-4) vs. 11 Missouri (18-7)
3 Michigan State (21-5) vs. 14 Delaware (19-7)
in Milwaukee

7 UMass (20-5) vs. 10 Colorado (19-7)
2 Wichita State (26-0) vs. 15 Santa Barbara (14-7)
in San Antonio

SOUTH REGIONAL (in Memphis)

1 Florida (23-2) vs. 16 N.C. Central (17-5)
8 Pittsburgh (20-6) vs. 9 New Mexico (19-5)
in Orlando

5 Texas (20-5) vs. 12 Green Bay (18-5)
4 St. Louis (22-2) vs. 13 Mercer (18-6)
in Orlando

6 Oklahoma (19-7) vs. 11 Xavier (16-8)
3 Cincinnati (23-3) vs. 14 Belmont (19-8)
in St. Louis

7 Arizona State (19-6) vs. 10 Oklahoma State (16-9)
2 Wisconsin (21-5) vs. 15 Vermont (15-9)
in Milwaukee

My At-First-Glance Final Four

Arizona-Villanova-Wichita State-Cincinnati. Perhaps the oddest at-first-glance Final Four I've ever done.

Second glance: Ohio State-Kansas-Syracuse-Florida.

Missouri's inevitable path to destiny (ahem)

Louisville-Michigan State-Wichita State-Syracuse-Cincinnati-Arizona. Hell of a start, huh?

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