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January 29, 2008

Forecasting the NCAA field

We're less than two months from "Selection Sunday" (March 16), and here is our projection of how the NCAA Tournament field will look when it is unveiled that day.

Teams are grouped by projected seed and listed from strongest to weakest within that seed.

(NOTES: Teams denoted by asterisks must win their leagues to get into the field. RPI figures through Sunday's game and courtesy of collegerpi.com. If a team doesn't have a "worst loss," it means that - in our opinion - there isn't one.)

Rivals.com Drive for 65
Overall seed: No. 1.
Record: 19-0.
RPI: 2.
Best win: 85-71 vs. Georgetown on Dec. 22.
Behind the choice: Gonzaga kind of hung around with the Tigers last weekend, losing 81-73. It was good to see the Tigers pushed a bit. They can find whatever gear is needed to finish the regular season undefeated, and if they do, they'll be the No. 1 overall seed.
Overall seed: No. 2.
Record: 20-0
RPI: 3.
Best win: 85-60 at Boston College on Jan. 5.
Behind the choice: The Jayhawks have looked every bit like the national-title contender they are. Unlike Memphis, though, a subpar game on the road in the Big 12 will cost them at least one game. No shame in being No. 2 overall.
North Carolina
Overall seed: No. 3.
Record: 19-1.
RPI: 4.
Best win: 90-88 at Clemson on Jan. 6.
Worst loss: 82-80 vs. Maryland on Jan. 19.
Behind the choice: The ACC remains the No. 1 league in the RPI, so its champion almost assuredly will be a top seed. The Tar Heels are fourth in the RPI, one spot ahead of Duke, but the Blue Devils are coming.
Overall seed: No. 4.
Record: 18-2
RPI: 12.
Best win: 68-63 vs. Michigan State in Kansas City on Nov. 20.
Worst loss: 72-63 vs. USC on Jan. 19.
Behind the choice: The Pac-10 is No. 2 in the RPI. It's a strong, deep league that could produce a one, two, three and four seed. The Bruins, who currently lead the conference standings, are the choice to be the one.
Overall seed: No. 5.
Record: 17-1.
RPI: 5.
Best win: 82-58 vs. Wisconsin on Nov. 27.
Behind the choice: The Blue Devils earned some street cred with a 93-84 win at Maryland on Sunday. They will battle North Carolina for a No. 1 seed for the ACC champ. Those two are head-and-shoulders above anyone else in the league.
Overall seed: No. 6.
Record: 17-2.
RPI: 1.
Best win: 80-60 vs. Vanderbilt on Jan. 17.
Worst loss: 72-66 at Kentucky on Jan. 22.
Behind the choice: The shocking loss at Kentucky notwithstanding, the Vols still should finish strongly. If they can beat Memphis it could put them in play for a No. 1.
Michigan State
Overall seed: No. 7.
Record: 18-2.
RPI: 6.
Best win: 78-72 vs. Texas on Dec. 22.
Worst loss: 43-36 at Iowa on Jan. 12
Behind the choice: In a weakened Big Ten (sixth in the RPI), the Spartans will have to finish strong to earn a No. 2. More than four regular-season losses would drop them out of contention for a second seed.
Overall seed: No. 8.
Record: 16-2.
RPI: 9.
Best win: 84-65 vs. Notre Dame on Jan. 19.
Behind the choice: The Big East is ranked fourth in the RPI, but that's a little misleading because nine of its teams are in the top 50. Its champ easily will be a No. 2 seed, and the Hoyas proved with a narrow win at West Virginia that they're up for the challenge the league provides.
Overall seed: No. 9.
Record: 16-3.
RPI: 14.
Best win: 87-78 vs. Tennessee in Newark, N.J., on Dec. 2.
Worst loss: 97-84 at Missouri on Jan. 12.
Behind the choice: Over the next three weeks the Longhorns play Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma twice apiece, with Kansas sprinkled in the middle. At least five wins in that stretch would solidify Texas' spot, maybe even move it up a notch.
Overall seed: No. 10.
Record: 14-6.
RPI: 7.
Best win: 76-64 vs. Washington State on Jan. 24.
Worst loss: 75-72 vs. Virginia on Nov. 17.
Behind the choice: A convincing sweep of the Pac-10's Washington schools displayed the relative strength of the Wildcats. With freshman guard Jerryd Bayless back in the lineup (Arizona was 1-3 without him), this is a dangerous team that could push for a No. 2 seed.
Washington State
Overall seed: No. 11.
Record: 17-2.
RPI: 10.
Best win: 51-47 at Gonzaga on Dec. 5.
Behind the choice: The Cougars jumped eight spots in the RPI despite losing to Arizona. The rise might solidify a high seed, but they can't be seeded higher than the Wildcats, who knocked them from the spot as the likely No. 2 team in the Pac-10 in our eyes.
Overall seed: No. 12.
Record: 17-2.
RPI: 31.
Best win: 70-57 vs. Illinois State in Chicago on Nov. 23.
Behind the choice: The Hoosiers looked vulnerable in a surprising home loss to UConn, falling 68-63 and getting outrebounded 41-26. They're the second-best rebounding team in the Big Ten. Michigan State, their chief competition for the Big Ten's highest seeding, is first.
Overall seed: No. 13.
Record: 19-2.
RPI: 22.
Best win: 65-46 vs. Ohio State on Dec. 1.
Worst loss: 43-32 at Wright State on Dec. 8.
Behind the choice: The Bulldogs surged atop the conference standings after Cleveland State lost twice last week. Unless someone else earns the Horizon's automatic bid, it's a one-bid league. Butler is safe even if it doesn't get the automatic bid, but in all likelihood that would cost the Bulldogs a seeding this high.
Overall seed: No. 14.
Record: 14-4.
RPI: 20.
Best win: 81-76 at Wisconsin on Dec. 8.
Worst loss: 89-73 at Connecticut on Jan. 20.
Behind the choice: All four of Marquette's losses have come away from home. The Golden Eagles will need to prove they can win on the road to garner a seed this high, but they're certainly capable. They need to start Saturday at Cincinnati.
Overall seed: No. 15.
Record: 17-4.
RPI: 11.
Best win: 80-65 vs. Indiana in Chicago on Nov. 24.
Worst losses: 59-57 at Miami University on Nov. 13; 78-59 at Temple on Jan. 16.
Behind the choice: With convincing wins over Dayton and UMass, the Musketeers reasserted themselves as the class of the Atlantic 10. The league has a solid RPI of seventh, and its champ figures to land as a No. 4 seed, with an outside shot at a No. 3.
Overall seed: No. 16.
Record: 16-4.
RPI: 18.
Best win: 65-64 vs. Duke in New York on Dec. 20.
Worst losses: 62-59 at Cincinnati on Jan. 19; 77-64 vs. Rutgers on Jan. 26.
Behind the choice: The Panthers have to hang on while outstanding point guard Levance Fields is sidelined with a broken left foot. Pitt suffered an inexplicable home loss to lowly Rutgers last week. Fields, though, is saying his return could be much sooner than expected, maybe even in the next 2-3 weeks.
Notre Dame
Overall seed: No. 17.
Record: 14-4.
RPI: 41.
Best wins: 68-59 vs. Kansas State in New York on Dec. 4; 90-80 at Villanova on Jan. 26. Worst loss: 70-69 vs. Georgia Tech in Virgin Islands on Nov. 19.
Behind the choice: The Irish finally picked up a much-needed road win, and they made it count against a ranked opponent. It jumped them 11 spots in the RPI. They also dropped Villanova into 12th place in the Big East. Notre Dame sits alone in third through Sunday's games, and a top-four finish in the league is required to earn a fifth seed.
Overall seed: No. 18.
Record: 16-3.
RPI: 19.
Best win: 67-66 at Texas on Dec. 29.
Behind the choice: With their loss at Purdue on Saturday, the Badgers opened the door on a three-team race for third place in the league behind Michigan State and Indiana. UW's next two home games are against Indiana and Purdue, sandwiched around road games with Minnesota and Iowa. Three wins would solidify the Badgers as the likely No. 3 team from the Big Ten.
Overall seed: No. 19.
Record: 16-3.
RPI: 29.
Best win: 67-52 vs. Arizona State on Jan. 19.
Worst loss: 79-67 at Siena on Nov. 17.
Behind the choice: The Cardinal began a three-game road trip with a win over California. Next up are the Washington schools. Brook Lopez is playing well after missing the first semester, and Stanford goes 10 deep, which should help it stand up to the rigors of the Pac-10.
Overall seed: No. 20.
Record: 18-1.
RPI: 8.
Best win: 79-73 vs. Illinois State on Jan. 19.
Behind the choice: The Bulldogs are the toast of Iowa and a major surprise in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is a solid No. 8 in the RPI. Drake proved it was for real by winning in overtime at Creighton last week, and the game propelled the Bulldogs all the way to eighth in the RPI, up six places. That puts them between Arizona and Georgetown. Creighton goes to Des Moines this week.
Rhode Island
Overall seed: No. 21.
Record: 17-3.
RPI: 25.
Best win: 91-89 at Syracuse on Dec. 8.
Worst loss: 68-61 at Saint Louis on Jan. 17.
Behind the choice: The Rams may be a case of a team that looks better than it is because it beat some good-but-not-great teams early in the season. URI has won three of its past four, but the competition level in those wasn't that good. The Atlantic 10 looks to be in good shape to get four NCAA bids. Right now, URI is our No. 3 team from the league.
West Virginia
Overall seed: No. 22.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 34.
Best win: 79-64 vs. Marquette on Jan. 6.
Worst loss: 63-54 at Louisville on Jan. 10.
Behind the choice: WVU has won three road games, but the best team among those three victims is USF. Beating a legit foe on the road is a necessity to move up the seedings ladder.
Mississippi State
Overall seed: No. 23.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 53.
Best win: 88-68 vs. Ole Miss on Jan. 26.
Worst loss: 67-60 vs. Miami University in Anaheim, Calif., on Nov. 25.
Behind the choice: The Bulldogs have won nine in a row after some early season inconsistency and look like the best team in the SEC West. Still, there's no non-conference win of note and that could hurt down the line in terms of seeding. They play at Arkansas on Wednesday, then play host to Tennessee on Saturday. Wins in both of those, and the Bulldogs can start dreaming of a No. 4 seed.
Overall seed: No. 24.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 36.
Best win: 71-51 vs. Marquette on Jan. 17.
Worst loss: 67-59 vs. Purdue in Indianapolis on Dec. 15.
Behind the choice: The Cardinals are alone in second place in the Big East, one game behind Georgetown. But three of the next four are tough: at Connecticut, at Marquette and home vs., Georgetown. There's also a monster four-game stretch to close out the regular season: at Pitt, vs. Notre Dame, vs. Villanova and at Georgetown. In other words, the Cardinals could end up as a No. 3 seed; they also could end up as a No. 10 or even 11.
Overall seed: No. 25.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 30.
Best win: 85-82 vs. Connecticut in Boston on Dec. 1.
Worst loss: 73-63 vs. Texas Tech in Anchorage, Alaska, on Nov. 23.
Behind the choice: It's a two-team race in the West Coast Conference between the Zags and St. Mary's, but the Zags' non-conference schedule has them in good shape for at least an at-large bid. The win over UConn looks better by the day. The toughest game the rest of the way looks like next Monday's road test at St. Mary's - where first place in the WCC almost certainly will be on the line.
Overall seed: No. 26.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 27.
Best win: 84-82 at Mississippi State on Nov. 15.
Worst loss: 82-72 vs. Charlotte on Jan. 9.
Behind the choice: Right now, the Tigers are our No. 3 ACC team - but it's a long, long drop from No. 2 (Duke) to No. 3. Given the dog-eat-dog nature in the middle of the league, the No. 3 team today could be the No. 7 team in two weeks. The Tigers host Boston College on Saturday in a huge game for both teams. After that one, Clemson plays four of its next five on the road.
Overall seed: No. 27.
Record: 14-4.
RPI: 17.
Best win: 80-55 vs. Pitt on Dec. 29.
Worst loss: 80-63 at Richmond on Jan. 26.
Behind the choice: The Flyers have lost three in a row - by an average of 18 points per game - and their demolition of Pitt seems farther and farther away. They also won at Louisville. They're 1-2 on the road in the Atlantic 10, but of their remaining five league road games, only one (against Rhode Island) looks difficult.
Overall seed: No. 28.
Record: 18-3.
RPI: 42.
Best win: 86-64 vs. Vanderbilt on Jan. 27.
Worst loss: 65-51 vs. Florida State on Nov. 23.
Behind the choice: The Gators have won three in a row and seven of their past eight. Three of the next five are on the road (Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt), and if they can win one of those, they're looking good for an NCAA bid - assuming they also beat the teams they should the rest of the way. A potential problem: The schedule has been easy, and 15 wins have come against teams with an RPI of 105th or worse.
St. Mary's
Overall seed: No. 29.
Record: 17-2.
RPI: 15.
Best win: 72-66 vs. Drake on Nov. 10.
Worst loss: 71-56 at Southern Illinois on Dec. 11.
Behind the choice: The Gaels have won 10 of their past 11 and five in a row - and have seen their RPI drop from third to 15th. The West Coast Conference, other than two games against Gonzaga, is going to be a drag on the Gaels' RPI. Both the Zags and the Gaels look good for an at-large bid.
Ohio State
Overall seed: No. 30.
Record: 14-6.
RPI: 21.
Best win: 79-65 vs. Syracuse in New York on Nov. 21.
Worst loss: 75-68 at Purdue on Jan. 12.
Behind the choice: The Big Ten is a five-bid league at best. Right now, the Buckeyes are our fourth Big Ten team. Ohio State doesn't have a true "bad" loss, but the Buckeyes also lack a true marquee victory. The next three games look winnable: at Penn State, at Iowa and vs. Michigan.
Ole Miss
Overall seed: No. 31.
Record: 15-2.
RPI: 15.
Best win: 85-82 vs. Clemson in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 22.
Worst loss: 80-77 at Auburn on Jan. 19.
Behind the choice: The Rebels have lost three of their past five and were blown out by 20 at Mississippi State in their last game. Up next is a home game against Vanderbilt, so the losing could continue. Then again, Vandy is struggling even more than the Rebels. Getting another road win (or two) is vital. Ole Miss has just one true road victory, over UCF, and is 0-3 on the road in SEC play.
Texas A&M
Overall seed: No. 32.
Record: 16-4.
RPI: 44.
Best win: 70-47 vs. Ohio State in New York on Nov. 23.
Worst loss: 68-53 at Texas Tech on Jan. 16.
Behind the choice: The Aggies have dropped three of their past four, and Texas and Oklahoma are the next two opponents. That means the Aggies could slide down our seedings list next week. They're 1-3 in true road games, and of their remaining five road contests, only one (Iowa State) looks easily winnable.
Kansas State
Overall seed: No. 33.
Record: 14-4.
RPI: 39.
Best win: 84-82 at Oklahoma on Jan. 12.
Worst loss: 87-77 vs. George Mason in Orlando on Nov. 22.
Behind the choice: K-State has won five in a row and nine of its past 10 going into Wednesday's home game with Kansas. After the showdown with the Jayhawks come five eminently winnable games. The Wildcats have played just two true road games, and four of their final six regular-season games are away from home.
Overall seed: No. 34.
Record: 17-3..
RPI: 13.
Best win: 97-88 vs. Massachusetts on Jan. 5.
Worst loss: 79-73 at Kentucky on Jan. 12.
Behind the choice: The Commodores started 16-0 but have hit a bad patch. Plus, three of their next four are on the road, including Wednesday night at Ole Miss. The good news is that five of the final seven regular-season games are at home, and Vandy is tough to beat in Memorial Gym.
Overall seed: No. 35.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 23.
Best win: 68-63 at Indiana on Jan. 26.
Behind the choice: The Huskies have won three in a row after losing three of four in one stretch, and they have a chance to further solidify their resume with a home game against Pitt on Saturday. In all, three of their next four are at home.
Overall seed: No. 36.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 24.
Best win: 88-82 at West Virginia on Dec. 29.
Worst loss: 66-62 vs. Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 8.
Behind the choice: The Sooners benefited from a much-sooner-than-expected return from injury by freshman F Blake Griffin. It was hard to imagine OU making the field with an extended absence from Griffin.
Overall seed: No. 37.
Record: 16-3.
RPI: 33.
Best win: 68-64 vs. Notre Dame in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 18.
Worst loss: 85-78 vs. Arkansas in Dallas on Jan. 5.
Behind the choice: The Bears, who have been surprisingly good, haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1988. A trip this season would be just their second since 1950. Three of the next four are on the road, including visits to Texas and Kansas. If things break right, the Bears still could get as high as a No. 4 seed; they also could slide to No. 11 or 12.
Illinois State
Overall seed: No. 38.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 45.
Best win: 62-52 vs. Cincinnati on Dec. 8.
Worst loss: 72-63 at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 4.
Behind the choice: The Redbirds - who returned four starters - are looking for their first NCAA bid since 1998. A road loss to Bradley last week hurts a bit, but they're still solidly the No. 2 team in the Missouri Valley. The MVC ranks eighth in conference RPI, but it's hard to imagine the league getting more than two bids this season because the middle of the league is so balanced.
Arizona State
Overall seed: No. 39.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 90.
Best win: 77-55 vs. Xavier on Dec. 15.
Worst loss: 62-47 at Nebraska on Dec. 2.
Behind the choice: Three impressive wins against Xavier, Oregon and Arizona give the Sun Devils big-time hope they'll make the NCAA field. But they have just one true road victory (a two-overtime thriller over California) and it's going to be tough to win on the road in the Pac-10 other than at Oregon State. The next three - all on the road - are against UCLA, USC and Arizona, so the Sun Devils may not be in our field that much longer.
Overall seed: No. 40.
Record: 13-4.
RPI: 57.
Best win: 70-41 vs. BYU on Jan. 15.
Worst loss: 65-53 at Air Force on Jan. 12.
Behind the choice: We think the Runnin' Rebels are the best team in the Mountain West. And we think the MWC will get two bids. But the league ranks 10th in the RPI, so there are no guarantees. Saturday's home game against New Mexico (16-5) is a chance for the Runnin' Rebels to put the Lobos further back in the pack.
Kent State
Overall seed: No. 41.
Record: 16-4.
RPI: 35.
Best win: 65-59 vs. Illinois State in Chicago on Nov. 24.
Worst loss: 61-60 at Detroit on Nov. 10.
Behind the choice: The Mid-American Conference is solid, but one bid is all it can hope for. Kent State has a one-game lead in the MAC East race over Akron and Ohio, arguably the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the league. The Golden Flashes' next five games are against teams with losing records, so they need to take advantage of the winnable games.
Overall seed: No. 42.
Record: 15-4.
RPI: 32.
Best win: 64-58 at Mississippi State on Dec. 13.
Worst loss: 76-70 vs. Winthrop on a neutral court in Miami
Behind the choice: The Hurricanes are the fourth of four ACC teams in our field. The ACC is No. 1 in conference RPI, but only four league teams are among the top 48 in RPI. Four of UM's next five games are on the road. The flipside is four of their final six regular-season games are at home.
Saint Joseph's
Overall seed: No. 43.
Record: 12-5.
RPI: 43.
Best win: 98-92 at Massachusetts on Jan. 9.
Worst loss: 71-66 vs. Holy Cross on Dec. 4.
Behind the choice: The Atlantic 10 certainly appears strong enough to get four bids, and right now, St. Joe's is our No. 4. The Hawks finished off a season sweep of UMass last week, which is why they're in our field and not the Minutemen. St. Joe's has won eight of its past nine. A Feb. 4 home game against the Big East's Villanova will be huge for both teams' NCAA hopes.
Overall seed: No. 44.
Record: 13-6.
RPI: 37.
Best win: 72-63 at UCLA on Jan. 19.
Worst loss: 96-81 vs. Mercer on Nov. 10.
Behind the choice: The Trojans followed up a three-game losing streak by winning four in a row. They can solidify their spot in the field over the next two weeks, when they play Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State, UCLA and Oregon. The Pac-10 looks as if it will get six bids, and the Trojans are our sixth team from the league.
South Alabama
Overall seed: No. 45.
Record: 17-3.
RPI: 28.
Best win: 71-67 vs. Mississippi State on Dec. 15.
Worst loss: 64-59 to Miami University in Anaheim, Calif., on Nov. 22.
Behind the choice: The Jaguars have won 13 in a row - including the victory over Mississippi State that looks more impressive by the day - and definitely could play their way into a better seed. The best news for South Alabama: It is the host team for the Sun Belt tourney.
Overall seed: No. 46.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 48.
Best win: 78-76 vs. Louisville in Las Vegas on Nov. 23.
Worst loss: 73-70 at Boise State on Dec. 29.
Behind the choice: The Mountain West seems likely to get two teams, and BYU is our second from the league this week. UNLV remains our pick to win the league. BYU is coming off back-to-back home victories over San Diego State and New Mexico, but still has to face those teams on the road in late February.
Overall seed: No. 47.
Record: 15-5.
RPI: 59.
Best win: 60-56 vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 26.
Worst loss: 69-66 vs. Wofford.
Behind the choice: The Boilermakers have some nice home-court wins, but they haven't beaten anyone with a pulse in a true road game. A non-conference schedule rank of 152nd could end up causing worry in March. But Purdue has won eight of its past nine, and the Big Ten isn't exactly filled with a lot of powerhouse teams.
Overall seed: No. 48.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 47.
Best win: 85-78 vs. Baylor in Dallas on Jan. 5.
Worst loss: 70-66 vs. South Carolina on Jan. 16.
Behind the choice: The Hogs are our sixth team from the SEC. The next five will determine whether Arkansas is a legit NCAA team: Mississippi State, Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Mississippi State again, with the last two on the road.
Virginia Commonwealth*
Overall seed: No. 49.
Record: 15-4.
RPI: 57.
Best win: 86-76 vs. Maryland in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2.
Worst loss: 62-61 at James Madison on Jan. 2.
Behind the choice: The Rams own a two-game lead in the Colonial Athletic Association, which is down this season compared to the past few years. George Mason is the other top contender. The teams meet just once this season: Tuesday at GMU. YCU and GMU are the only league teams whose RPI is better than 140th.
Davidson* (8-6)
Overall seed: No. 50.
Record: 13-6.
RPI: 87.
Best win: 71-60 at Appalachian State on Nov. 26.
Worst loss: 83-76 at Western Michigan on Nov. 21.
Behind the choice: The Wildcats have played a lot of power-conference opponents close they lost to North Carolina by four, to NC State by one, to Duke by six, to UCLA by 12 but they don't have any marquee wins. That means they better win the Southern Conference or they have no NCAA shot. They're the only team without a conference loss despite having played six of their past seven league games on the road.
Utah State*
Overall seed: No. 51.
Record: 15-6.
RPI: 104.
Best win: 76-55 vs. Oral Roberts
Worst loss: 83-69 at Cal Poly on Nov. 15.
Behind the choice: The Western Athletic Conference is way down this season, and the well-coached Aggies have a half-game lead in the loss column as they aim for their sixth NCAA bid this decade. Some concern: Four of their next six are on the road, and they still must play at each of the three of the other four league title contenders.
Oral Roberts*
Overall seed: No. 52.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 56.
Best win: 74-59 vs. Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City on Dec. 20.
Worst loss: 86-71 to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in College Station, Texas, on Nov. 14.
Behind the choice: The Golden Eagles have a two-game lead in the Summit League over IUPUI. No one else in the league other than those two has a legit shot at the title. ORU plays at IUPUI on Feb. 16. The Summit tourney is in Tulsa, ORU's home city.
Stephen F. Austin*
Overall seed: No. 53.
Record: 15-3.
RPI: 73.
Best win: 66-62 at Oklahoma on Dec. 8.
Worst loss: 58-57 at Nicholls State on Jan. 10.
Behind the choice: SFA is four points away from having a 15-game winning streak. The Lumberjacks trailed UT Arlington by a game in the loss column in the Southland Conference West race, but SFA still looks like one of the two best teams in the league, along with Sam Houston State.
Overall seed: No. 54.
Record: 13-7.
RPI: 101.
Best win: 76-70 vs. Miami on neutral court in Miami.
Worst loss: 62-61 at High Point on Jan. 12.
Behind the choice: The Eagles - looking for their fourth consecutive NCAA bid and their seventh this decade - trail UNC Asheville by a game in the Big South, making Saturday's game at UNC Asheville a big one in determining the league's pecking order. That'll be the second game in a three-game road swing for the Eagles.
Cal State Northridge*
Overall seed: No. 55.
Record: 14-4.
RPI: 85.
Best win: 78-68 at Cleveland State on Nov. 28.
Worst loss: 83-75 at Chicago State on Jan. 22.
Behind the choice: Pacific and Cal State Fullerton look to be the other main contenders in the Big West, and Northridge already has beaten Pacific and gets Fullerton on Saturday. One potential negative: Five of the Matadors' final six regular-season league contests are on the road.
Overall seed: No. 56.
Record: 13-7.
RPI: 114.
Best win: 79-67 vs. Stanford on Nov. 17.
Worst loss: 53-52 vs. Fairfield on Jan. 8.
Behind the choice: The Saints are in a tie for first in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with Rider and Marist. Coincidentally, the Saints' next four games are against Rider and Marist. In a weird bit of scheduling, Siena plays Rider on Saturday and on Feb. 10, and the Saints play Marist on Feb. 4 and Feb. 8.
Overall seed: No. 57.
Record: 11-6.
RPI: 111.
Best win: 64-55 vs. Virginia Commonwealth on Nov. 29.
Worst loss: 60-52 vs. Holy Cross on Nov. 17.
Behind the choice: The Pirates have played a solid schedule, and look to be the best team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Three of their next four games are against key contenders (Morgan State, Norfolk State and Delaware State), and four of their next five overall are on the road.
Overall seed: No. 58.
Record: 10-5.
RPI: 91.
Best win: 83-77 vs. Siena on Nov. 25.
Worst loss: 76-73 vs. Colgate on Dec. 1.
Behind the choice: Either Penn or Princeton has represented the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament every season since 1987-88, but this looks as if this will be the season that changes. Then again, full-fledged league play doesn't begin until this weekend, so who really knows?
Northern Arizona*
Overall seed: No. 59.
Record: 14-7.
RPI: 125.
Best win: 64-61 vs. Western Kentucky on Dec. 1.
Worst loss: 69-67 at Idaho State on Jan. 27.
Behind the choice: The Lumberjacks have a half-game lead in the Big Sky despite having played five of their past seven conference games on the road. Good news for NAU is that five of its final seven regular-season league contests are at home.
Overall seed: No. 60.
Record: 13-7.
RPI: 132.
Best win: 87-84 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County on Nov. 20.
Worst loss: 98-92 to Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 16.
Behind the choice: The Leopards are used to close games - they are 6-0 in overtime - and they play four of their next five games at home. They are tied for the Patriot League lead with Bucknell, but beat the Bison last week. The Patriot League regular-season winner gets to play all of its conference tourney games at home.
Austin Peay*
Overall seed: No. 61.
Record: 13-8.
RPI: 130.
Best win: 93-84 at Belmont on Dec. 19.
Worst loss: 72-62 at Evansville on Dec. 8.
Behind the choice: The Governors, looking for their first NCAA bid since 2003, have lead Murray State by one game in the Ohio Valley Conference, and they play host to the second-place Racers on Thursday. The OVC is ranked 30th among the 31 Division I leagues in RPI.
Maryland-Baltimore Co.*
Overall seed: No. 62.
Record: 13-7.
RPI: 127.
Best win: 70-68 at Richmond on Nov. 17.
Worst loss: 77-74 vs. Maine on Jan. 12.
Behind the choice: The Retrievers are in a three-way tie for the league lead in the loss column in the low-rent America East Conference. Five of UMBC's next seven games are at home. Finishing first in the regular season is important because the conference tourney is hosted by the highest remaining seed.
Overall seed: No. 63.
Record: 13-8.
RPI: 139.
Best win: 86-75 at Cincinnati on Nov. 9.
Worst loss: 83-75 at Campbell on Jan. 5.
Behind the choice: The Bruins are aiming for their third consecutive NCAA trip as Atlantic Sun champs. Belmont is one of just three teams in the 12-team league that is above .500 overall. The Bruins have three of their next four games at home, including a contest Feb. 7 against league leader Jacksonville in the teams' only meeting this season.
Overall seed: No. 64.
Record: 14-5.
RPI: 145.
Best win: 64-55 vs. Bucknell on Nov. 24.
Worst loss: 72-69 at St. Peter's on Nov. 17.
Behind the choice: The Seahawks, coached by Mike Deane (who has taken Siena and Marquette to the NCAAs), leads the Northeast Conference race by a game in the loss column. The Northeast winner appears a likely candidate for the play-in game.
Overall seed: No. 65.
Record: 7-11.
RPI: 252.
Best win: 75-61 at SMU on Nov. 10.
Worst loss: 84-81 vs. Paul Quinn in Dallas on Nov. 11.
Behind the choice: The Jaguars are our pick to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference the weakest of the 31 Division I leagues. The Jaguars also are our pick to be one of the two teams involved in the play-in game. Actually, the SWAC champ will be in the play-in game, whoever it is.
7: Big East
6: Big 12, Pac-10, SEC
5: Big Ten
4: ACC, Atlantic 10
2: 2: Missouri Valley, Mountain West, West Coast
1: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic

- 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.

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

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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