UPDATE: I made a new Top 25. It's just as awesome.
Yes. I should.
Now, as my thought exercises go? This also comes bearing caveats. There will be a list of teams who are close to the enge of making the dance. Also? Future schedules count on my list. So the team that is seemingly mediocre who can get four winnable games in a row to end the year? In.
Now that being said? Here's the breakdown of the teams that are in.
32 conference champions (8 conferences will earn multiple bids)
San Diego State
Potential Bubble Busters
So where does that leave us? 17 teams to go. Now, we can essentially place the majority of these teams on the barring a disaster they are in line. And we will let a list of a last four out as well as their next four out. And where does this list start?
1. West Virginia (The schedule from here on out is pretty downy soft. (Notre Dame, @ Rutgers, @ Cincinnati, @ South Florida, Depaul, Louisville) Their last game is their toughest, and that's quite winnable. And Alex Ruoff and De'Sean Butler are studs. Morgantown can feel safe lighting a couch on Selection Sunday.)
2. Syracuse (Their remaining schedule is much like an ice cream cookie. Villanova is huge next Sunday. Then they end the year at Marquette. And in between? You can almost guarantee three wins (@ St. John's, Cincinnati, Rutgers) Flynn and Devendorf are a force of nature.)
3. Tennessee (They do have to be road warriors the rest of the way. They travel to every other SEC team on the safeline. The front court power will probably get them one. If not? Their schedule won't have an indefensible loss. Holding serve gets them an at-large on the bottom half of the bracket.)
4. Florida State (Another team with a wicked end of the season schedule. Two road games (Virginia Tech and Boston College) are versus the winnable teams, and the challenges come to Tallahassee (Clemson and Miami). They need to get two of their next three to feel safe on Selection Sunday by merely holding serve.)
5. Ohio State (They hold serve? And they're going to be 9-2 going into the conference tournament. Their computer numbers are currently quite solid as well (RPI/SOS: 26/25). And you know what? I like Evan Turner. He's my leader in the clubhouse for the Joe Alexander memorial "Salad Bar player who takes out Duke two rounds before their seeding.")
6. Texas (There's a developing scenario here. This is a team that had to go to overtime versus a Colorado team that just hit rock bottom. A road game versus Texas A&M, Oklahoma, a road game with Oklahoma State, Baylor, and a road game versus Kansas just might mean that they get a .500 record. It's long odds for that, but that being said? They're playing rather badly. I'd trust the 20 rather than the 80.)
7. Minnesota (They have two near-gimmes at home (Northwestern and Michigan). And for a solidly balanced shooting team that is spectacular at generating transition defense, they will probably get a third game before tournament time comes. And they just might be a tough out in March.)
8. South Carolina (The expectation is that they finish 4-2. The division is tough, and they don't have the Intercontinental Champ, Vanardo, or Chism and Smith. Hold to that and they'll be a scary second round match-up for a top seed.)
9. Florida (No reason to lose to Georgia. But that's fatal in terms from being essentially safe to being very likely safe. The fact is, this team is great at shooting, and when the schedule gets tough (@ LSU, Tennessee, @ Mississippi State, Kentucky)? This team will be in. Trust the sharpshooters. They'll be scary in March.)
10. Kentucky (Patrick Patterson's ankle injury is problematic. He is the low-post threat that they need when they play their next two at Vanderbilt and against Tennessee. He makes everybody better. He should return sometime in the next week. But even if they go 1-5 to end the regular season they will likely be in. Damn the computer numbers and whatnot (62/82).)
That's your safeline. Barring disaster? These teams will be in lock city long before Selection Sunday rolls around. So as for the seven remaining teams? Who's in and who's out? Let's go.
11. Arizona (One of the hottest teams in the country, with decent computer numbers. (44/40) They have an excellent triad and have found their identity as a team after a slow start. So why aren't they on the safe list yet? Because even a mediocre Washington State is still dangerous in Pullman. That means they have four tough games in a row to deal with. (@ Arizona State, @ Washington State, @ Washington, vs. Cal) Wait a week and they could have it locked down.)
12. Dayton (23-3 with wins over Marquette and Xavier. They're tied for the A-10 lead, and Chris Wright is freaking awesome. They should be on the safe list, right? But they nearly lost to St. Louis in Dayton, they travel to Rhode Island and Xavier. Temple is trying to long down a bid for the A-10, and Duquesne is a surprisingly sprightly team. Obviously they won't go 0-5, but this is a team that has played down to its competition. Kind of like Arizona. Wait a week and they should be fine.)
13. USC (As a 15-win team, the Trojans definitely have work to do to get themselves into the tournament. That being said? They have four wins in their schedule. (Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State and some combination of vs. Washington, @ Stanford, or @ Cal) And that will be enough to get them in somewhere in the teens. And I am so rooting for a USC/USC matchup in the brackets.)
14. Wisconsin (The schedule is too easy for them not to make it. (2 games with Indiana and Michigan in Madison equal a 10-8 conference record and 19 wins overall). Ten wins in a major conference is often solid enough for entry. And no matter the irrelevant joke that is Big 10 football? Big 10 Basketball is solid. And they'll likely get Northwestern in their first round conference tournament game which likely gets them to 20 wins.)
15. Miami (I know. They're an under .500 team. But their last four games are very winnable. And if Jack McClinton can outduel Toney Douglas? They will be over .500 in a major conference. I am posting this before Miami plays North Carolina. Obviously? I would move them up the list if they win tonight. This is how I go out on a limb.)
16. Temple (Better computer numbers than UAB, (36/33 vs. 40/51) they played better in the tougher games than UAB. (5-7 vs. 2-8) They play in a tougher conference than UAB. If they can take the games they are supposed to? They'll be able to get to the tournament. And if they beat Dayton? It's locked down.)
17. Cincinatti (The reason why is simple. With computer numbers similar? Wins over UNLV and UAB give them the big dance. And if they can steal one of their next three? I cxan almost guarantee that this will be the Big East's 8th team in the tournament.)
Okay, now we have the 8 on the outside looking in. There's always a chance that this will be subject to change.
18. UAB (It's the age-old debate? The mediocre major conference team versus the above-average mid-major. They have one answer to get them into lock city. Beat Memphis. A win over Memphis is greater than a loss to Cincinatti. Otherwise it's a mix of hot Arizona and stealing an Automatic bid.)
19. Kansas State (Why they're not better than the last two in? Temple will likely finish stronger (8-2 vs. 7-3). Both have fewer bad losses (Kansas State lost to Iowa and Oregon. Temple has a bad loss at Long Beach State. All Cinci's losses are defensible.) Both have a better winning percentage versus the Top 50 RPI. (K-State: 4-8 Cincinnati: 5-9 Temple: 5-8) Both have stronger computer numbers. (K-State: 77/79 Cinci: 50/24 Temple 36/33) And Cincinnati's RPI is only going to rise in conjuction with Georgetown finally hitting the easy part of their schedule.)
20. UNLV (Remember, schedule counts here. The Running Rebels have to travel to two of the three teams ahead of them, and BYU comes to their second home. Losing to Colorado State and TCU means the margin for error here is something just a little too slim if they cannot win at Utah and San Diego State.)
21. Virginia Tech (You could interchange this team with Boston College. Both teams have marginal resumes padded with decent computer numbers. Boston College has more wins, but their strength of schedule is weaker. Virginia Tech is going to have a murderous final two weeks in the schedule (Florida State @ Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, @ Florida State), but they didn't lose at home to Harvard. So here sits the Hokies.) UPDATE: I know I kind of gave this slot to the 6th best ACC team, so as Duke lost in Chestnut Hill, consider the script flipped here.
22. Baylor (Like Wisconsin, they lost six in a row during their conference season. Their computer numbers are solid RPI-52, SOS-15. And on paper? I like this team better than Oklahoma State or Texas A&M. By this time next week we'll find out if I was just kidding on this.)
23. Creighton (They have opportunity to find their way to climb up the ladder. George Mason, Illinois State, and Evansville are three teams in the top 100 of the RPI. If Booker Woodfox and P'Allen Stinnett can buzzbomb their way to winning out to the MVC Finals? You have to consider them for a potential at-large berth. If not? The MVC is a one-bid league.)
24. St. Mary's (CA) (If they beat Utah State? Jeremy Pargo's best efforts will more than likely put by the wayside. Their RPI isn't beyond redemption, and if they can win it without Mills, or even better with Patty Mills? The West Coast conference can coalesce into a two bid league.)
25) Niagra (I could put in a marginal major conference team (a.k.a. good computer numbers with a bad record like Georgetown or Oklahoma State or good record with bad computer numbers like Penn State or the fighting Jarvis Vanardo's) so show me the third way. The third way has the Purple Eagles. They have two home games against Illinois State and Siena. If the fast hands of Tyrone Lewis and Bilal Benn can win? There's another potential two team league.)
And that's it. A bracketological mid-Feburary breakdown of the teams who aren't ready to get themselves in the dance just yet.
And go to the new list please!