It happens every year. Teams that were not going to make the tournament win their conference tourney, pushing the favorites from their conference to the at-large pool. So the projections you see below (or on other sites listing the last four in) are actually not true. We know they will happen, and the at-large group will likely grow, knocking those teams out.
This year has the potential for even more, because we have several “mid-major” conferences that have teams solidly in. Last year, for example, twelve different conferences were represented among the top 11 seeds in a region. This year, I currently have fourteen different conferences projected in that range.
The two most dangerous candidates for bubble teams are the Western Athletic and West Coast Conference, because Utah State and St. Mary’s are both solidly in right now, and no one else is. If either or both lose in their tourney, it’s likely those conferences get multiple bids. The Colonial Athletic (George Mason and Old Dominion), Atlantic-10 (Xavier, Temple), and Conference USA (Memphis, UAB) all have situations where multiple teams are just on the outside right now, but are capable of winning the conference tournament. It’s unlikely that an outsider emerges in the Big East, Big Ten or Big XII, but even the Pac-10, where I am only projecting three teams in right now, could see another team jump in the mix.
I would guess that the at-larges could shrink by about 3-4 teams because of all that. So the teams you are currently seeing projected for a “First Four” matchup of at-larges are in reality out once those things happen. I also project the later seeds this time, but keep in mind that even though upsets aren’t going to alter the number of conference teams there, they will adjust the seeds. A team currently projected for a #15 will probably bump up to a #14 if they survive, once the dust settles on championship week.
Here are my projections. I look at the RPI, but then also use look at the future schedule and Ken Pomeroy’s predictive ratings to project likely future record, and then adjust what I think the committee will do if those average results are achieved. Maryland (at Boston College), Duquesne (at home to Xavier), New Mexico (at Colorado State) and Alabama (controversially at Vanderbilt) all slide off this week with swing losses. St. John’s is the big mover up, as the road win at Cincinnati solidified a strong push (and I think puts the Bearcats, lacking many quality wins, needing to do well down the stretch). I also bump North Carolina up to the #3 line despite the close loss at Duke and with the key road win at Clemson–I think if that team ends up where it looks like they are heading with their recent play, they secure a #3 by getting to 24-25 wins (including ACC tourney). A lot of teams from the top 8 basketball conferences will be missing the tournament with between 19 and 21 wins this year.
#1 Seeds: Ohio State*, Texas*, Kansas, Pittsburgh*
#2 Seeds: BYU*, Duke*, San Diego State, Notre Dame
#3 Seeds: Georgetown, Purdue, North Carolina, Wisconsin
#4 Seeds: Villanova, Florida*, Arizona*, Connecticut
#5 Seeds: Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse, Washington
#6 Seeds: Vanderbilt, Missouri, West Virginia, Texas A&M
#7 Seeds: George Mason*, Xavier*, Illinois, Utah State*
#8 Seeds: St. John’s, Minnesota, UNLV, Tennessee
#9 Seeds: St. Mary’s*, Old Dominion, Temple, Florida State
#10 Seeds: UCLA, Georgia, Memphis*, Wichita State*
#11 Seeds: Cincinnati, UAB, Cleveland State*, Virginia Tech
#12 Seeds: Marquette, Butler, Missouri State, Baylor+, Richmond+
#13 Seeds: Princeton*, Belmont*, Coastal Carolina*, Boston College+, Kansas State+
#14 Seeds: Oakland*, Charleston*, Fairfield*, Bucknell*
#15 Seeds: Vermont*, Buffalo*, Montana*, Long Beach State*
#16 Seeds: Long Island*, Morehead State*, Hampton*+, Florida Atlantic*+, McNeese State*+, Texas Southern*+
BY CONFERENCE (for all conferences with at least one team seeded 12 or higher):
Big East: Pittsburgh (1), Notre Dame (2), Georgetown (3), Villanova (4), Connecticut (4), Syracuse (5), Louisville (5), West Virginia (6), St. John’s (8), Cincinnati (11), Marquette (12)
Big Ten: Ohio State (1), Purdue (3), Wisconsin (3), Illinois (7), Minnesota (8)
Big XII: Kansas (1), Texas (1), Missouri (6), Texas A&M (6), Baylor (12)+, Kansas State (13)+
Mountain West: BYU (2), San Diego State (2), UNLV (8)
Atlantic Coast: Duke (2), North Carolina (3), Florida State (9), Virginia Tech (11), Boston College (13)
Pac-10: Arizona (4), Washington (5), UCLA (10)
Southeastern: Florida (4), Kentucky (5), Vanderbilt (6), Tennessee (8), Georgia (10)
Western Athletic: Utah State (7)
Colonial Athletic: George Mason (7), Old Dominion (9)
Atlantic 10: Xavier (7), Temple (9), Richmond (12)
West Coast: St. Mary’s (9)
Missouri Valley: Wichita State (10), Missouri State (12)
Conference USA: Memphis (10), UAB (11)
Horizon: Cleveland State (11), Butler (12)
NOTABLES ON THE OUTSIDE:
ACC: Maryland, Clemson; Pac-10: Washington State; Big XII: Oklahoma State, Nebraska; Conference USA: UTEP, Southern Miss; Atlantic 10: Duquesne, Dayton; Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth; Mountain West: Colorado State, New Mexico; Big Ten: Michigan State, Penn State; West Coast: Gonzaga; SEC: Alabama; IVY: Harvard
[photo via Getty]