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NCAA Tournament Projections: 'Bracket Now' Commentary for February 15th, 2009

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Four weeks from Selection Sunday. It’s time to focus on the bubble teams and talk about why certain teams are in, and certain teams are out. Before we get to that, let’s do a quick recap. Okay, Connecticut, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Pittsburgh are the four best teams and everyone else is doing everything they can to make sure that those four are not challenged.

Louisville loses by thirty-some to Notre Dame. Clemson loses to Virginia, Duke falls to Boston College, Butler lays an egg against Loyola, and Wake Forest screws the pooch against North Carolina State. It’s amazing to see all these teams sputter and kill their seeding. I haven’t really seen anything like this in my half dozen or so years of doing a weekly bracket. It’s as if no one wants to take control and solidify themselves.

In any given week, it is absolutely possible for a team to go from the 5-6-7 range to the 2-3-4 range. Teams are going to continue to flip flop and cycle around one another until the music stops in March and whoever is hot at the moment will be given the nod when the seeds are handed out.

Now, let’s discuss some bubble activity. Providence. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the Friars and they don’t even know it. First I had Providence in, then out, only to be put back in. Keno Davis has his squad three games above .500 despite playing in the toughest conference in the nation. True, their RPI is only 68 and many of their conference wins are against Big East bottom feeders: St. Johns, DePaul, Seton Hall, Rutgers, and South Florida. But, they have beaten Cincinnati twice and they have a nice win over Syracuse. They have quite a tough stretch coming up, so over the next few weeks they could be a team on the move in either direction.

It’s not going to happen for St. Mary’s. They lost Patty Mills and now are dropping WCC games left and right. They still have a shot if they can get Mills back in time and prove to the committee that they are a different team with him.

How about Kansas State? The Wildcats lose one of the best college players from a year ago, but are now in position to sneak into the tournament thanks to their winning record in the Big Twelve and a recent hot streak that included wins over: Missouri and Texas. They are however, the last team in.

Have I snubbed the Aztecs of San Diego State? They have an attractive RPI, 47, but I just can’t see it yet. They’ve split with Utah and lost to BYU. They played some teams outside of the conference, but have no wins to speak of. The USC Trojans have essentially taken their place because USC will battle Arizona State, obviously, a win by the Trojans firms them up, but a loss probably moves them to the last team in or possibly the first team out. So as of now, let’s say that it’s USC keeping SDSU out of the tournament.

With this kind of talk, you can see how several teams could easily move their way into the field of 65 with just a few more wins and just a little help from some other teams. Penn State and Mississippi State are close, and with just a few more wins and a slip up by say Kansas State, and the Nittany Lions or the Bulldogs could be in easily.

Based on this bracket, I’ve got a few sleeper picks to pull off a first round upset, and a few sleeper picks to make the elite 8. Let’s go with Northern Iowa over Gonzaga and Siena to knock off LSU. For an unexpected tournament run based on the seedings set forth, how about UCLA to the elite 8 or Kentucky, with Jodie Meeks to get hot and face Connecticut in the Elite 8.



Karl Gustafson Staff Writer & 2009 NCAA Tournament Projections
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