Sunday, March 14, 2004

So, who's out and who's in? We'll know for certain in less than 6 hours, as the brackets are revealed. Here's what I think.

We know that 31 teams will get automatic bids: the 26 to your right, plus the champs of the Patriot League (Lehigh or American), the ACC (Duke or Maryland), SEC (Kentucky or Florida), Big 12 (Oklahoma State or Texas), and the Big Ten (Wisconsin or Illinois). That leaves 34 at-large spots.

My locks, alphabetical by conference:
1. Duke/Maryland loser
2. North Carolina State
3. North Carolina
4. Georgia Tech
5. Wake Forest
6. St. Joe's
7. Dayton - finishing second in the A-10 to SJU and making it into the A-10 final is enough
8. Pittsburgh
9. Providence
10. Syracuse
11. Seton Hall
12. Boston College
13. Oklahoma State/Texas loser
14. Kansas
15. Texas Tech
16. Wisconsin/Illinois loser
17. Michigan State
18. Utah State - 25-3 overall and 17-1 Big West? They're not on the bubble
19. Louisville
20. Depaul
21. Charlotte
22. Alabama-Birmingham
23. Memphis
24. Southern Illinois - the other mid-major who's a stone-cold lock (see 20 above)
25. Arizona
26. Washington
27. Kentucky/Florida loser
28. Mississippi State
29. South Carolina
30. Vanderbilt
31. Alabama

That leaves only three teams, as I see it, to get in off the bubble. Here's who's not:
Florida State couldn't win away from home, going 0-8 ACC on the road - and lost a must-win neutral-court game in the ACC tournament. Richmond, simply, didn't do enough in a fair-to-middling A-10. Colorado's 18-10 mark might mean more in a better Big 12 year, and their 56 RPI/65 SOS doesn't help. Missouri* went 2-9 vs. the RPI top 50, and closed losing 3 of their last 4 (plus, they're 16-13, a record much more befitting a low-major winning an automatic bid). LSU went 1-6 after losing Jamie Lloreda - the committee can't ignore that, and he's done for the year. UTEP's SOS is 122, and 2 of their 24 wins are over non-D-I teams.

Here's who's in:
32. Air Force - 22-6, regular-season MWC champs by 2 full games, their RPI (70) could hurt them
33. BYU - yes, the MWC gets three - a great RPI of 30, and one of their 21 wins was over a likely #2 seed, Oklahoma State
34. Georgia - 16-13 is risky, but their SOS is 10, which can't be ignored
*Missouri could knock any of these three (most likely BYU or GA) out, because alongside their negatives is an SOS of 8; their position is almost identical to Georgia's

If memory serves me correctly, I believe I got 63 of the 65 right last year. By 630pm (EST), we'll all know how I did in 2004.

Update: Joe Lunardi's final bracket agrees with mine except that he's got Richmond in instead of Georgia. Same with the bracket of Andy Katz. Also, I neglected to address the matter of #1 seeds: Duke, Stanford, St. Joe's, and Kentucky. [SJU benefitted greatly from the losses by MSU and Pitt.] However, UConn's performance last night, beating Pitt in the Big East final, makes them both #2s, along with Mississippi State and Oklahoma State (unless OSU gets spanked by Texas in the Big 12 championship today). Which means, unfortunately, that Gonzaga falls to a #3. Whatever - the Zags could still be a Final Four team.

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