I'm counting it down to my favorites to make the field of 65. Right now I have 10 empty at-large spots, and I've narrowed it down to 20 teams who I think are most deserving. I'm including the top 10 in my final field of 65.
20. Akron - 26-7 (13-3) RPI 60
I really like this team, and its a shame they had to lose the MAC tourney the way they did, but now my MAC Sweet 16 pick is spoiled. After losing by two to Nevada, they just lack any big wins. And they lost to the likes of Arkansas Little-Rock and Illinois-Chicago, along with 3 MAC foes.
19. Mississippi State - 18-13 (8-8) RPI 58
They had people talking about an at-large bid for the day they were in the national spotlight by topping Kentucky. But 18-13 just looks too mediocre, and their best non-conference win was @ Miami FL. There are too many mediocre teams in the SEC, and Arkansas seems to be the one thats proving themselves worthy.
18. Bradley - 21-12 (10-8) RPI 39
Just a little above average in a mid-major conference isn't gonna get it done. They are, or at least were, the best 3 point shooting team in the nation, which is an intruiging stat. They also topped DePaul by 20and beat Colonial champ VCU on the road in the Bracket Busters. But they lost 9 games in the Valley, got destroyed by a decent Michigan State team, and lost to Tennessee Tech.
17. Oklahoma State - 22-12 (6-10) RPI 44
The team that couldn't win on the road. They did fine at home, they did good at neutral sites. They just never brought their game with them on the road. Big wins over Pittsburgh, Texas, and Syracuse help, but they just lost too much in the Big 12. 10 losses in conference is too many. I was really pulling for them in the conference tourney, but they couldn't make it happen, and now they're destined for the NIT.
16. Clemson - 21-10 (7-9) RPI 47
After starting the season 17-0, Clemson is now sitting at 21-10. That means they finished the season 4-10. They had some good wins non-conference... vs. Mississippi St, @ ODU, vs. Georgia. They also had some good wins in the ACC...@ VA Tech, vs. Boston College. I just think they finished too cold to be considered over teams that are hot right now.
15. Missouri State - 22-10 (12-6) RPI 35
I hate to say it but the Bears will probably have to sit out the Dance this year too. They beat Wisconsin early on in the season. Other than that, they've got no big wins to hang their hats on. They failed to beat the top guns (Southern Illinois and Creighton) in the Valley, and lost to the Jays all 3 times. Their resume is probably weaker than their resume last year, which they also failed to make the tourney.
14. Florida State - 20-12 (7-9) RPI 42
They got out of the first round of the ACC tourney and beat Florida early in the season. Apart from that, they've just got a mediocre conference record (7-9) and a mediocre RPI. The committee may take Toney Douglas' injury into account too, though, and that could push the Seminoles over the edge.
13. Texas Tech - 21-12 (9-7) RPI 53
What I don't understand is why they are a lock in many mock-brackets I've seen. They just seem inconsistent to me. Beating Texas A&M twice is HUGE, and beating Kansas is really big too. But losing to mediocre teams in the Big 12, especially Nebraska at home, almost neutralizes those wins. Add that to the fact that they just got smeared by another Big 12 bubble team, Kansas State, in one of the most important games of the season, and you have a team that is not a lock by any means, especially if K-State is not.
12. Drexel - 23-8 (13-5) RPI 45
The committee is gonna have a tough time shaking Drexel off the field of 65, considering they have some of the best non-conference wins in America. @ Villanova, @ Syracuse, and @ Creighton in BracketBusters. But look at the losses. @ Penn, @ Rider, @ William & Mary. I was listening to Jay Bilas, and he made a great point when he said if a major conference team lost to Rider or William & Mary, they wouldn't even be discussed as a bubble team. Going 13-5 in the Colonial conference shouldn't be enough, especially if Old Dominion (15-3 with 2 wins over Drexel) is close to not making it.
11. Stanford - 18-12 (10-8) RPI 66
They had a shaky start (losing to Air Force by 34 @ home, losing to Santa Clara by 16 @ home) and a shaky ending (dropping 4 of their last 5, not getting out of the 1st round in the Pac 10 tourney) to their season. What they did do is beat Virginia, Texas Tech, Washington State, Oregon, and UCLA. I don't know if RPI is even that big of a factor anymore, but #66 is, generally speaking, about 15-20 spots out of contention. An 18-12 overall record doesn't look too pretty either.
10. West Virginia - 22-9 (9-7) RPI 59
West Virginia may have scheduled for a "rebuilding year," and in the long run, that may have crushed their chances. Fortunately, a late non-conference win against perhaps the #1 team in the nation, UCLA, may have saved their season. I don't know, what can you really ask of them? They went 9-7 in the Big East, got out of the first round and challenged Louisville to double overtime before ultimately falling short. Also, if the committee is looking for bad match-ups, the West Virginia 1-3-1 defense has baffled many-a-team, and therefore will advance out of the first round in my bracket if they do, indeed, qualify.
9. Old Dominion - 24-8 (15-3) RPI 40
The first half of their season was not like a tournament team's, even though they topped Georgetown by 13 on the road. They had some other solid wins and even some decent losses. I say the second half of their season started when they dropped two straight on the road, to James Madison and VA Commonwealth. They proceeded to go on a 12 win tear, including a BracketBuster win over MAC power Toledo, before being shut down by a fiery George Mason team in the conference tourney. When all of that is taken into account, I think they're more deserving than Drexel of an at-large bid.
8. Arkansas - 21-12 (7-9) RPI 37
I thought a team from the SEC West would emerge into the field of 65 during the SEC tourney, be it Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, or Arkansas. And now we see Arkansas in the SEC finals with a chance to lock up a bid. However, even if they do meet their doom facing Florida today, I think their late surge, along with a decent non-conference schedule, will be enough to give them the nod on Selection Sunday. They won the 2KSports tournament, topping Southern Illinois, Marist, and West Virginia on their way. Mauling Alabama twice gave them some national spotlight, as well.
7. Kansas State - 22-11 (10-6) RPI 56
A semi-competitive match vs. Kansas in the Big 12 semi-finals should be enough for the Wildcats to get the nod. They finished a solid 4th in the Big 12, over Texas Tech, who they just routed by 20. Their non-conference schedule is highlighted by a win over USC in Las Vegas. I think they're more deserving than the Red Raiders, but both of them may get in.
6. Air Force - 23-8 (10-6) RPI 32
The glaring fact that they lost 4 straight puts this squad on the bubble. They'll probably end up seeded 3rd best out of the MWC, despite having a far superior non-conference resume, including double digit wins over Stanford, Texas Tech, Colorado, Wake Forest, and George Washington. I say their early season top 10 campaign is plenty enough to get them a ticket to the Dance.
5. Purdue - 21-11 (9-7) RPI 41
Senior leadership is key in the tournament, right? Carl Landry and David Teague, Purdue's team leaders, supply plenty of that to the Boilermakers. Their resume comes out almost identical to that of Illinois, leading me to believe that the underachieving Big Ten will grab 6 bids. Early wins over Mizzou, Virginia, Oklahoma, and DePaul add to their in-conference routs of Indiana, Michigan State, and Illinois during the regular season. Purdue's big flaw is their 2-8 road record, and that puts them just a notch below Illinois.
4. Illinois - 23-11 (9-7) RPI 31
They finished the season on a 8-3 streak, which should be enough. Taking Indiana down in OT was essential, now they are almost a lock. They didn't top anyone extraordinary in the non-conference schedule, but their losses were to sure-fire tourney teams Maryland, Arizona, and almost-lock Xavier.
3. Xavier - 24-8 (13-3) RPI 33
Winning 9 out of 10 to finalize their resume should be enough for the Musketeers, who topped VA Commonwealth, Villanova, Illinois, and Kansas State in their non-conference schedule. However, losing to Bucknell at home and Cincinnatti ANYWHERE keeps them on the bubble.
2. Syracuse - 22-10 (10-6) RPI 51
It may be unfair, but Syracuse has good numbers. Especially 10-6 in the Big East. They took down Georgetown while the Hoyas took control of the Big East. They got out of the first round of the Big East tourney and were edged by locked-in Notre Dame in the second round.
1. Georgia Tech - 20-11 (8-8) RPI 52
This team was vulnerable to almost everyone, as shown by losses to Miami and twice to Wake Forest, yet they managed to deal a loss to Memphis and Purdue in the non-con, and came on strong at the end of the regular season with wins over ACC powerhouses UNC and Boston College. Their numbers look pretty mediocre, but this is a very talented team that belongs in the tourney.