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College basketball bracket projections, Feb. 9: Rock-M-Tology

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So I'm finding it interesting that some of the other projections I glance at from time to time -- Lunardi, Palm, etc. -- are falling pretty closely in line with what I'm coming up with in these brackets. That tells me that the general basketball hierarchy is a bit more stable and predictable than normal so far this season. The top eight teams are pretty clearly the top eight teams, and the next 8-12 are pretty clear, too. There's some differing once we get to around the 11-seed range, and for whatever reason my numbers love Ole Miss and Boise State compared to everybody else, but there's not as much disagreement as normal at this point in the season. I guess there are still a few weeks to trip all that up, but right now, the bracketology brackets seem pretty similar.

Why Boise? Top-40 RPI, top-50 Pomeroy, basically. And since a four-game losing streak knocked the Broncos to 10-6, they've ripped off seven straight wins and just thumped conference favorite San Diego State at home, 61-46, on Sunday. The loss to Loyola Chicago certainly doesn't look good, but wins over SDSU and Colorado State have probably offset that to some degree.

The main problem for the Broncs is going to be opportunity. They get SDSU again in a couple of weeks, but that's the only remaining top-100 (Pomeroy) opponent on the docket until the conference tournament. The MWC isn't incredibly deep this year, so while I have Boise in right now, the odds of a late-season fade into invisibility are decent, especially if there's a loss to a team like Fresno State or UNLV along the way.

What the hell, LSU? LSU's résumé is amazing this year. A team with losses to Mississippi State, Auburn, and (sigh) Missouri should eliminate you from even being considered for a spot in the field. But a road win over West Virginia, home wins over Georgia and Alabama, and road wins over Ole Miss (by 4) and Florida (by 18!) hint at a team that should be getting a 6-8 seed. So I'm sticking them in as a 10. No matter where they go -- from 7-seed to out of the field -- it doesn't look quite right.

Meanwhile, in Lawrence... I'm really curious what the committee does with Kansas this year. The Jayhawks' strength of schedule is pretty ridiculous -- 15 of 23 games against teams ranked 61st or better in Pomeroy -- and because of that, they rank No. 1 in RPI right now. But they're only 12th in Pomeroy's ratings thanks to some outright duds (a 32-point loss to Kentucky, a 25-point loss to Temple). On paper, this is a 1-seed. In the eyes of the advanced stats, this is barely a 3-seed. Since the committee seems to value the principles of RPI more than it says, I'm guessing KU gets a 1 at the moment.

Arizona should be mad. There are always two western locations among the eight spots selected for the first and second rounds of the tournament*. The Wildcats are going to almost certainly be a 1 or 2-seed, and their reward is going to be either heading to Houston (not one of the western spots), Portland, or Seattle. Congrats, Wildcats!

* Yes, I still call the rounds of 64 and 32 first and second. Saying "High Point lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky" makes it sound like High Point won a game. It's dumb. Eight teams play in the "first round." Simply calling them the play-in games worked perfectly fine.

Last Few In

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

Stanford (16-7)
Texas A&M (16-6)
Old Dominion (18-4)
Temple (17-7)
Illinois (16-8)
Michigan State (15-8)
Boise State (15-6)
George Washington (17-6)
St. John's (14-8)
Seton Hall (15-8)

First Few Out

UCLA (14-10)
Miami (15-8)
Tulsa (17-5)
Rhode Island (15-5)
BYU (16-8)
Davidson (14-6)
Oregon (16-7)
NC State (14-10)
Oregon State (15-7)
Green Bay (17-5)

By Conference

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

Not only are there currently six SEC teams in the field, but only one of them (A&M) is particularly close to the bubble. Well, LSU probably should be, too, I guess, but regardless, all six are in. Tennessee was getting relatively close but had a dreadful week, losing at home to Mississippi State before falling on the road to Georgia. So the Vols have some work to do now.

The Bracket

FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)

Michigan State (15-8) vs. Seton Hall (15-8)
George Washington (17-6) vs. St. John's (14-8)

New Mexico State (13-10) vs. St. Francis (15-9)
Lafayette (13-8) vs. Texas Southern (11-12)

MIDWEST
(Cleveland)
WEST
(Los Angeles)
EAST
(Syracuse)
SOUTH
(Houston)
1 Kentucky (23-0) 1 Duke (20-3) 1 Virginia (21-1) 1 Kansas (19-4)
16 High Point (14-7) 16 Albany (16-7) 16 NMSU / St. Francis 16 Lafayette / TX SO
8 Iowa (15-8) 8 Indiana (17-7) 8 San Diego St. (17-6) 8 Ole Miss (16-7)
9 Texas (15-8) 9 Colorado State (19-4) 9 Dayton (17-5) 9 Xavier (15-9)
Louisville Charlotte Charlotte Omaha
5 Butler (18-6) 5 Arkansas (18-5) 5 Maryland (19-5) 5 Notre Dame (21-4)
12 Harvard (13-5) 12 Michigan St. / Seton Hall 12 GW / St. John's 12 Green Bay (17-5)
4 Northern Iowa (22-2) 4 Iowa State (17-5) 4 Oklahoma (16-7) 4 VCU (18-5)
13 Wofford (18-5) 13 Stephen F. Austin (16-3) 13 Eastern Washington (15-5) 13 Buffalo (15-7)
Louisville Omaha Seattle Pittsburgh
6 Ohio State (18-6) 6 West Virginia (18-5) 6 SMU (18-5) 6 Wichita State (20-3)
11 Boise State (15-6) 11 Illinois (16-8) 11 Old Dominion (18-4) 11 Temple (17-7)
3 Utah (17-4) 3 North Carolina (18-6) 3 Baylor (17-5) 3 Louisville (19-4)
14 UC Davis (16-4) 14 Murray State (19-4) 14 William & Mary (13-8) 14 Iona (18-6)
Portland Jacksonville Jacksonville Columbus
7 Oklahoma State (15-7) 7 Cincinnati (17-6) 7 Georgetown (15-8) 7 Providence (17-7)
10 Stanford (16-7) 10 LSU (17-6) 10 Texas A&M (16-6) 10 Georgia (15-7)
2 Gonzaga (23-1) 2 Villanova (21-2) 2 Arizona (20-3) 2 Wisconsin (21-2)
15 South Dakota St. (16-8) 15 N.C. Central (15-6) 15 Georgia State (15-8) 15 Florida Gulf Coast (15-8)
Seattle Pittsburgh Portland Columbus

My At-First-Glance Final Four

Kentucky-Duke-Arizona-Louisville

Second glance: Ohio State-Villanova-Maryland-Wisconsin.

Missouri's inevitable path to destiny (ahem)

[takes deep breath] Vanderbilt-Georgia-Texas A&M-Arkansas-Kentucky-Baylor-SMU-Arizona-Virginia-Louisville-Kentucky. This is going to be such an amazing national title run, you guys.