WINTER WONDERLAND, MN -- Now that we're a solid month into the 2012-13 college hoops season, enough time has passed to put together our first in-season NCAA Tournament "Field of 68" projection. Not surprisingly, in early December the Gophers are easily projected into the field, a common occurrence during Tubby Smith's six years in Dinkytown. However, we all know how that has turned out. ... just two NCAA tourney appearances. RTSS is sayin' come March the Gophers -- with authority -- will make it three appearances in six years, but let's keep in mind November, December, and even January are for pretenders. February and March are for contenders.
Unlike tournament field projections we'll make later in the season, this is a hybrid. This one is not projected solely on "if the tournament were held today", where it's based strictly on who you've played, where you've played, who you've beat, who you've lost to, top-50 RPI wins, top-100 RPI wins, bad losses, strength of schedule, etc. This version combines on-court performance (up to this point of the season) along with projecting ahead to how teams will perform in the last three-plus months of the season. That's why you'll see some crazy (read: poor) RPI ratings for some of the teams, as well as a few surprises in the at-large pool. For the half-dozen conferences that have started league play (Colonial, Metro Atlantic, MEAC, Southern, Summit, and Sun Belt), the team with the best conference record is projected as the automatic qualifier. RPI ratings (courtesy of Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com) are listed in parentheses.
Field of 68 Projection (through Dec. 9)
America East (1): Albany (56)
ACC (7): Duke (1), NC State (12), Miami-Florida (46), North Carolina (49), Maryland (84), Virginia Tech (88), Virginia (136)
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast (52)
Atlantic 10 (5): Butler (8), Temple (30), VCU (41), Xavier (59), Dayton (75)
Big East (7): Syracuse (11), Louisville (16), Georgetown (19), Cincinnati (22), Pitt (48), Notre Dame (61), Marquette (91)
Big Sky (1): Weber State (67)
Big South (1): Gardner-Webb (144)
Big 10 (7): Michigan (2), Illinois (6), Indiana (10), Minnesota (T-13), Ohio State (24), Michigan State (62), Wisconsin (116)
Big 12 (4): Kansas (9), Oklahoma State (37), Baylor (54), Kansas State (107)
Big West (1): Pacific (42)
Colonial (1): William & Mary (249)
Conference USA (1): Memphis (102)
Horizon (1): UIC (32)
Ivy (1): Princeton (202)
Metro Atlantic (1): Canisius (53)
MAC (1): Ohio (97)
MEAC (1): Norfolk State (158)
Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State (18), Creighton (25)
Mountain West (5): New Mexico (5), UNLV (21), Wyoming (39), Boise State (74), San Diego State (T-79)
Northeast (1): Robert Morris (122)
Ohio Valley (1): Murray State (33)
Pac 12 (4): Colorado (3), Arizona (15), Cal (27), Oregon (55)
Patriot (1): Bucknell (35)
SEC (4): Florida (4), Alabama (44), Missouri (T-76), Kentucky (83)
Southern (1): Davidson (90)
Southland (1): Stephen F. Austin (T-13)
SWAC (1): Prairie View A&M (171)
Summit (1): Western Illinois (182)
Sun Belt (1): Western Kentucky (82)
West Coast (2): Gonzaga (20), Saint Mary's (60)
WAC (1): Utah State (130)
Last 4 In: Saint Mary's (60), Boise State (74), Wisconsin (116), Virginia (136).
First 4 Out: Charlotte (31), Saint Joseph's (71), Eastern Kentucky (94), Stanford (99).
Others On the Radar: Texas A&M (7), LSU (23), Oklahoma (26), Arizona State (34), LaSalle (36), Colorado State (38), Middle Tennessee State (40), Saint Louis (43), Illinois State (45), Ole Miss (47), Georgia Tech (63), Iowa (68), Northwestern (69), Louisiana Tech (78), Lehigh (92), Richmond (98), UCLA (117), Tennessee (134).
Non-BCS At-Larges (10): Wichita State (18), UNLV (21), Temple (30), Wyoming (39), VCU (41), Xavier (59), Saint Mary's (60), Boise State (74), Dayton (75), San Diego State (T-79).
(1) I've seen enough of Michigan State and Wisconsin to say I'll be disappointed if the Gophers don't finish ahead of both of 'em in the Big Ten standings, especially Wisconsin. With the coaches they have on their sidelines, there's little doubt MSU and UW will get better as their seasons progress, but it's apparent these aren't vintage Sparty and Badger teams. MSU makes too many sloppy turnovers and lacks leadership and perimeter pop (other than Gary Harris), while the Badgers look lost at PG without the injured Josh Gasser and the departed Jordan Taylor.
(2) Is anyone else wondering why ESPN switched from using the USA Today Coaches Poll to the AP Poll on its bottom line (scroll)? The USA Today and ESPN polls used to go hand in hand. That's good news for the Gophers. ... currently they're ranked higher by the writers (AP) than the coaches (USA Today).
(3) Great move by the BTN to add former Badger Mike Kelley as an analyst. Have always thought Kelley was one of the best in the business. The BTN has an exceptionally strong stable of analysts that now includes Kelley, Dan Bonner, Jimmy Jackson, Greg Kelser, and Shon Morris (my favorite). Please note that Timy Doyle is not on this list. I hope we get to see more of these talented analysts in the future (hint: Hey BTN, put more nonconference games on your airwaves, not on frickin' computers).
We're down to 14 undefeated teams. Who's left, and who they play next.
1. Arizona -- host Florida on Saturday.
2. Charlotte - @ Miami-Florida on Saturday.
3. Cincinnati -- vs. Marshall on Saturday.
4. Duke -- host Cornell on Dec. 19.
5. Eastern Kentucky -- @ Illinois on Sunday.
6. Florida -- @ Arizona on Saturday.
7. Illinois -- host Norfolk State on Tuesday.
8. Indiana -- vs. Butler on Saturday.
9. LSU -- host Chattanooga on Tuesday.
10. Michigan -- host Binghamton on Tuesday.
11. New Mexico -- host New Mexico State on Saturday.
12. Syracuse -- host Canisius on Saturday.
13. Wichita State -- @ Tennessee on Thursday
14. Wyoming -- host Denver on Dec. 18.
The B1G in the RPI (through Dec. 9)
2. Michigan (8-0)
6. Illinois (9-0)
10. Indiana (9-0)
T-13. GOPHERS (10-1)
24. Ohio State (6-1)
62. Michigan State (8-2)
68. Iowa (8-2)
69. Northwestern (7-3)
101. Nebraska (6-2)
116. Wisconsin (6-4)
148. Penn State (5-4)
189. Purdue (4-5)
RPI of Gophers' Nonconference Opponents
1. Duke (9-0)
89. North Dakota State (6-2)
98. Richmond (8-2)
99. Stanford (6-3)
102. Memphis (6-2)
112. USC (3-6)
151. North Florida (2-6)
155. Florida State (5-4)
173. South Dakota State (5-3)
190. Tennessee State (3-6)
242. Toledo (3-6)
248. American (4-6)
310. Lafayette (4-8)
Mano-a-Mano Report: Top 8 Conferences Head to Head
Last Week's Results: Arizona over Clemson; Arkansas over Oklahoma; Butler over Northwestern; Colorado over Colorado State; Dayton over Alabama; Duke over Temple; Florida over Florida State; Georgetown over Texas; Georgia Tech over Georgia; Iowa over Iowa State; Kansas over Colorado; Kansas State over George Washington; LaSalle over Penn State; Marquette over Wisconsin; Michigan over Arkansas; Minnesota over USC; Nebraska over USC; Nevada over Washington; New Mexico over USC; NC State over UConn; Northwestern over Baylor; Oklahoma State over USF; Pitt over Duquesne; Providence over Rhode Island; Saint John's over Fordham; Seton Hall over Wake Forest; Temple over Villanova; UCLA over Texas; UNLV over Cal; Utah over Boise State; Vanderbilt over Xavier; Virginia over Tennessee; Washington State over Fresno State; and West Virginia over Virginia Tech.
Standings (Big East closing in on Big Ten)
1. Big Ten (27-16, 62.8%)
2. Big East (29-18, 61.7%)
3. ACC (23-18, 56.1%)
4. Mountain West (9-8, 52.9%)
5. Big 12 (15-15, 50%)
6. Pac 12 (18-22, 45%)
7. Atlantic 10 (16-24, 40%)
8. SEC (14-30, 31.8%)
This Week's Games To Watch
(Thursday) Wichita State @ Tennessee. (Friday) Charlotte @ Miami-Florida, LSU @ Boise State. (Saturday) Alabama @ VCU, Butler vs. Indiana, Creighton @ Cal, Florida @ Arizona, Gonzaga vs. Kansas State, Iowa vs. Northern Iowa, LaSalle @ Bucknell, Louisville @ Memphis, Michigan vs. West Virginia, (Sunday) Eastern Kentucky @ Illinois.
Upset Special (should probably call it the Clueless Special?)
Not much to choose from this week, as a lot of schools are heading into "finals" mode. I'll play it safe and go with a mild upset. Not even sure if there will be a line for this game, but I suspect Bucknell would, at worst, be a slight favorite.
Last Week: Ohio over Memphis (L, Tigers belt Ohio, 84-58)
This Week: LaSalle to win @ Bucknell (Saturday)
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball