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March 9, 2010

Drive for 65: Teams make one final push

"Selection Sunday" is March 14, which means we're five days away. Here is our latest look at how we think the NCAA tournament field will look when it is unveiled that day.

It's important to note that this is a projection, not how the field would look if it were decided today.

We will do this again Friday, then update on Saturday and Sunday.

Teams are grouped by projected seed and listed from strongest to weakest within that seed. At the bottom is a breakdown by league of the number of projected bids and some information on the makeup of the field, the selection committee and the sites.

Last season, in the final projection, we picked 64 of the 65 teams, had 35 seeded correctly and had another 22 one seed off. The Web site bracketproject.com tracks this type of thing, and Rivals.com finished second among the 61 brackets that were followed. (Here's the list).

(Note: Teams in bold already have clinched bids. Asterisked teams must win their conference titles to receive an NCAA bid. RPI figures are through Monday and come from collegerpi.com.)

Rivals.com Drive for 65
No. 1s
1. Kansas
2. Syracuse
3. Kentucky
4. Duke
The buzz: Kansas, Syracuse and Kentucky look to be locks for No. 1; the identity of the fourth remains a mystery, though Duke is the front-runner for now.
No. 2s
5. West Virginia
6. Kansas State
7. Ohio State
8. Villanova
The buzz: Despite a relatively weak RPI -- again, it's relative -- if Ohio State can win the Big Ten tournament, a No. 2 seed is there for the taking.
No. 3s
9. Purdue
10. New Mexico
11. Pittsburgh
12. Temple
The buzz: Purdue's performance in the Big Ten tourney without Robbie Hummel bears watching. Temple could end up as a No. 4.
No. 4s
13. Vanderbilt
14. Baylor
15. Michigan State
16. Wisconsin
The buzz: Long runs in their respective tournaments could lift Baylor and Vanderbilt to No. 3 seeds. Actually, the same goes for Michigan State and Wisconsin, too.
No. 5s
17. Maryland
18. Texas A&M
19. Georgetown
20. Tennessee
The buzz: How high can Maryland go? A No. 4 is possible. Georgetown risks falling to a No. 6 with an early exit in the Big East tournament.
No. 6s
21. BYU
22. Butler
23. Xavier
24. Texas
The buzz: Remember when it seemed as if Texas was destined for at least a No. 2 seed? Butler could end up as a No. 5.
No. 7s
25. Gonzaga
26. Richmond
27. Clemson
28. Northern Iowa
The buzz: Gonzaga's loss in the West Coast Conference tournament final likely causes them to drop a spot. Northern Iowa could end up with the dreaded No. 8 or No. 9 seed.
No. 8s
29. Missouri
30. Marquette
31. Oklahoma State
32. Florida State
The buzz: The ceiling for these teams would seem to be a No. 7 seed -- though each could drop a spot or two, as well.
No. 9s
33. UNLV
34. Wake Forest
35. UTEP
36. Louisville
The buzz: The biggest question about UTEP is what happens to the Miners if they don't win the C-USA tournament. UNLV is the host for the Mountain West tourney, which means the Runnin' Rebels could win it.
No. 10s
37. Saint Mary's
38. Virginia Tech
39. California
40. Florida
The buzz: There will be no sweating it out on Selection Sunday for Saint Mary's this season. The other three teams in this grouping are far from locks, and each needs to win at least once in their league tournaments.
No. 11s
41. Washington
42. Georgia Tech
43. Old Dominion
44. Utah State
The buzz: Washington may need to win the Pac-10 tournament to get in, but getting to the final puts the Huskies in the at-large discussion. Underachieving Georgia Tech must win once in the ACC tournament -- or, rather, avoid a bad loss -- if it wants to get in the NCAA field.
No. 12s
45. Memphis
46. Seton Hall
47. Notre Dame
48. Dayton
The buzz: How weak is the at-large pool this season? These teams are a combined 11-23 against RPI top-50 teams. Each has a lot of reason to worry about getting in the NCAA field. Dayton has to get to the A-10 semifinals to have any at-large hope.
No. 13s
49. Siena
50. Cornell
51. Kent State*
52. Oakland*
The buzz: Cornell and Siena definitely have the experience, and talent, to win a first-round game -- and maybe even a second-round contest. Each is making its third consecutive appearance, and Siena has won first-round games in each of the past two seasons.
No. 14s
53. Murray State
54. Wofford
55. Weber State*
56. Sam Houston State*
The buzz: Twenty years ago, Murray State was a No. 16 seed but took top-seeded Michigan State to overtime in the first round, thanks to a monster performance from Popeye Jones. Murray has the athleticism to pull a first-round upset this season.
No. 15s
57. UC Santa Barbara*
58. North Texas*
59. Morgan State*
60. Vermont*
The buzz: Vermont is in Saturday's America East final against Boston U. The Catamounts are looking to make their fourth NCAA appearance and their first since they went three times in a row from 2003-05.
No. 16s
61. East Tennessee State
62. Quinnipiac*
63. Lehigh*
64. Winthrop
65. Jackson State*
The buzz: Winthrop seems a good bet to be in the play-in game -- unless Lehigh and/or Quinnipiac fall in their league tournament title games.
BREAKDOWN BY LEAGUE
9: Big East
7: ACC, Big 12
4: Atlantic 10, Big Ten, SEC
3: Mountain West
2: Conference USA, Pac-10, West Coast
1: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic (21)
SOME NOTES ON THE MAKEUP OF THE FIELD
The NCAA uses an "S curve," meaning it ranks all 65 teams in order 1-65, then places them in regions under the theory the top No. 1 seed would have the worst No. 2 seed in its bracket, the worst No. 1 seed would have the top No. 2 seed, etc. The balancing of the regions is the most important factor in seeding the tournament.
As far as other rules go, teams from the same conference hopefully won't meet until a regional final, but the NCAA has relaxed that because some conferences have six and seven bids (it's even permissible for an intraconference matchup in the second round, though that is to be avoided whenever possible). But the first three teams selected from a given conference must be in different regions.
Higher-seeded teams should be placed as close to home as possible. No team may play on its home floor, but most sites are "neutral courts" anyway.
Teams can move up or down a spot or two in the "S-curve," maybe even a seed, to preserve other principles.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero is the chairman of the 10-member NCAA Tournament Selection Committee this season. He is one of five members with a "Big Six" affiliation, joining Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway, Ohio State AD Gene Smith and Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman. The other five members: Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton, Texas-San Antonio AD Lynn Hickey, Kent State AD Laing Kennedy and UC Riverside AD Stan Morrison. Hickey is the second woman to serve on the committee, following Charlotte AD Judy Rose (1999-2003).
TOURNAMENT DATES
March 16: Opening-round game in Dayton, Ohio
First and second rounds
March 18 and 20: New Orleans; Providence, R.I.; San Jose, Calif.; Oklahoma City
March 19 and 21: Buffalo, N.Y.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Milwaukee; Spokane, Wash.
Regional semifinals and final
March 25 and 27: Syracuse, N.Y.; Salt Lake City
March 26 and 28: St. Louis; Houston
Final Four
April 3 and 5: Indianapolis

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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