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NCAA tournament bracket projections, Feb. 23: Rock-M-Tology

Rock M's back online! Let's talk about college basketba--NO WAIT! DON'T LEAVE! IT'LL BE FUN, I PROMISE. It doesn't involve Mizzou, so that helps!

Before we get into this week's bracket conversation, let's talk about a few teams. In comparing my bracket/ratings to those of Joe Lunardi and others, here are some teams I think might be a little bit on the over- or underrated side.

Who's overrated?

Gonzaga (27-1) - Mark Few's Zags are a nearly unanimous 1-seed in most brackets, and that's fine. I don't necessarily have a problem with a team that has one loss (in overtime at Arizona, no less) and a nice-looking win over SMU. But they are fifth in Pomeroy's rankings and eighth in RPI, and after the win over SMU, their next-best wins are over Georgia (a likely 8-10 seed) BYU (bubble team), and UCLA (bubble team). Again, that's good. I'm just not sure that's good enough to be a 1-seed. A minor quibble, but a quibble.

Notre Dame (24-4) - Notre Dame's 24-4 -- good! The Irish have lost to only one sketchy team (Pitt) and acquitted themseves just fine in losses to Providence (by one point) and Virginia (by six) and wins over Duke (at home) and Michigan State (by one). But they got obliterated by Duke a couple of Saturdays ago and nearly lost to Clemson after that. They're 16th in Pomeroy and 27th in RPI, and they seem much more like a 5-seed than the 3 Lunardi gives them.

Wichita State (23-3) - A 25-3 record is never bad, nor is a one-point overtime loss to Utah on the road. But if you made some other MVC team 25-3 with losses at George Washington (by six) and at Northern Iowa (by 16) and with just one win over a top-70 (Pomeroy) team -- 53-52 over No. 55 Alabama at home -- I think you'd see something more like a 7- or 8-seed. Lunardi gives the Shockers a 5. Name recognition, ahoy.

Texas A&M (19-7) - I apparently have the most issues with Lunardi this week. He has Texas A&M safely in as a 9-seed this week. I have the Aggies in a play-in game. (So does Jerry Palm, for what that's worth.) The reason is pretty simple, really: their best win was a loss to Kentucky. They swept flaky LSU, and their next best win is ... at home over Vanderbilt? At home by one over Florida? Meanwhile, they've lost at home to Georgia, got thumped at Baylor, and lost to both Dayton (not an awful loss) and Kansas State (a pretty bad loss). Their Pomeroy ranking is 40th, and their RPI is 39th. At best, they should be looking at a 10 right now, and the actual résumé dumps them down a bit further in my eyes. The committee loves big wins, and A&M doesn't have one.

Purdue (18-9) - I'm struggling to figure out the sudden Purdue consensus. Wins over Iowa, Ohio State, and Indiana cancel out losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb? And Kansas State? Purdue's 10-4 in the Big Ten, which is fine and has gotten them to the bubble, but in the last two weeks, the Boilers have skipped right over the "First _ out" lists and into the "In!" lists. This might take care of itself -- after a home game against Rutgers, the Boilers travel to both Ohio State and Michigan State -- but this has thrown me off. I still have Purdue out. But hey, win at Ohio State and Michigan State...

Who's underrated?

Villanova (25-2) - I'm really liking the Wildcats. They've lost only twice all year, and both times, they avenged their losses in rousing fashion. After falling to Seton Hall (back when The Hall was playing decent ball), they won the rematch by 26. After falling to Georgetown by 20, they won the rematch by 16. They're 12-2 in a good conference, and if they keep playing like they have been, they'll have a better résumé than one-loss Gonzaga. They made the jump to my 1-seed line today.

Baylor (19-7) - Baylor is 12th in Pomeroy and 14th in RPI. The Bears have wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas, West Virginia, and Texas A&M and mostly acceptable losses to Oklahoma, Kansas, and Oklahoma State. They seem like they should be in the mix for a 3-seed, but Palm has them as a 4, and Lunardi has them as a 5. I KIND of get it -- two losses I didn't mention: Illinois and Kansas State (which has apparently beaten every team in the field) -- but I still have them a hair higher than Lunardi.

Colorado State (22-5) - I initially had the Rams as an 8-seed. Lunardi has them as a 10, Palm an 11. Why do we differ? I'm not completely sure, but the Rams had a fantastic non-conference RPI (9th) and are at least decent in most other fields. Of course, they're dragged down by pure quality -- 69th in Pomeroy -- but ... well ... quality doesn't tend to matter as much as we think it should.

Boise State (18-7) - Every year, my numbers fall in love with some strange team ... and I'm pretty sure it's usually Boise State, or at least a Mountain West team like Boise or CSU. The Broncos rank 46th, quite a bit higher than CSU, and they boast wins over San Diego State and CSU. They're in no way a gimme for the field because of this minor issue called "a four-game losing streak that featured losses to Loyola Chicago, Utah State, and Wyoming." But at 20-7 and 10-4 in a decent MWC, I think they're should probably be taken more seriously than they are.


LSU (19-8) - Overrated and underrated. This team is the most amazingly baffling team I can remember. They've lost five games to teams ranked 77th or worse in the Pomeroy ratings (and three ranked 140th or worse), and they are otherwise 19-3 with seven wins over teams ranked 55th or better. They lost to Mississippi State and Auburn back-to-back, then nearly beat Kentucky, then whomped Tennessee. I have absolutely no idea what to do with this team.

Last Few In

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

St. John's (17-9)
Texas (17-10)
Georgia (17-9)
Boise State (18-7)
Illinois (17-9)
NC State (16-11)
Iowa (16-10)
Texas A&M (19-7)
Davidson (18-6)
BYU (19-8)

First Few Out

Pitt (17-10)
UCLA (16-12)
Oregon (18-8)
Old Dominion (20-6)
Stanford (17-9)
Purdue (18-9)
Tulsa (18-6)
Harvard (17-5)
Wofford (21-6)
Rhode Island (18-6)

By Conference

7 - Big 12, Big Ten
6 - ACC, Big East, SEC
3 - Atlantic 10, AAC, MWC
2 - Pac-12, MVC, WCC

The Bracket

FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)

Texas A&M (19-7) vs. Davidson (18-6)
Iowa (16-10) vs. BYU (19-8)

Albany (19-8) vs. Texas Southern (14-12)
St. Francis-NY (19-9) vs. Lehigh (14-11)

(Los Angeles)
1 Kentucky (27-0) 1 Villanova (25-2) 1 Duke (24-3) 1 Virginia (24-1)
16 New Mexico St. (17-10) 16 Northeastern (19-10) 16 Albany / TX S'ern 16 St. Francis / Lehigh
8 Oklahoma State (16-10) 8 Michigan State (18-8) 8 Indiana (18-9) 8 Ole Miss (19-8)
9 Colorado State (22-5) 9 Cincinnati (18-9) 9 LSU (19-8) 9 Temple (19-8)
Louisville Pittsburgh Charlotte Charlotte
5 VCU (21-6) 5 Notre Dame (24-4) 5 Northern Iowa (26-2) 5 West Virginia (21-6)
12 Wofford (21-6) 12 Old Dominion (20-6) 12 Tex. A&M / Davidson 12 Harvard (17-5)
4 North Carolina (19-8) 4 Oklahoma (19-8) 4 Maryland (22-5) 4 Arkansas (22-5)
13 Stephen F. Austin (19-4) 13 Valparaiso (22-4) 13 Buffalo (17-9) 13 Iona (22-6)
Seattle Louisville Pittsburgh Jacksonville
6 Georgetown (18-8) 6 San Diego State (21-6) 6 SMU (21-5) 6 Butler (19-8)
11 Illinois (17-9) 11 NC State (16-11) 11 Iowa / BYU 11 Boise State (18-7)
3 Utah (20-4) 3 Baylor (19-7) 3 Louisville (21-6) 3 Iowa State (20-6)
14 UC Davis (19-4) 14 Georgia State (18-8) 14 Murray State (22-4) 14 S. Dakota St. (19-8)
Portland Jacksonville
Columbus Omaha
7 Wichita State (23-3) 7 Ohio State (19-7) 7 Xavier (18-10) 7 Providence (19-8)
10 St. John's (17-9) 10 Texas (17-10) 10 Dayton (20-6) 10 Georgia (17-9)
2 Gonzaga (27-1) 2 Arizona (24-3) 2 Kansas (22-5) 2 Wisconsin (25-2)
15 High Point (18-7) 15 E. Washington (17-7) 15 NC Central (18-6) 15 Florida Gulf Coast (18-7)
Seattle Portland Omaha Columbus

My At-First-Glance Final Four


Second glance: North Carolina-Villanova-Northern Iowa!-Iowa State

Missouri's inevitable path to destiny (ahem)

Mississippi State-Georgia-Texas A&M-Arkansas-Kentucky-Louisville-SMU-Kansas-Duke-Wisconsin-Kentucky. Piece of cake.