By Jeff Falconio
I'm happy to report that for the ninth straight year I can say with full confidence that I'm one of the incredibly few who take time off from work just to watch Championship Week. As such, I've just digested 14 hours of basketball. Now that might sound a bit geeky but I like to think that gives me a bit of an edge so I will enter the fray of those who project what the NCAA Tournament will look like.
As of now, and this will change by the hour between now and 5 p.m. Sunday, I have Massachusetts grabbing the last at-large spot. The bubble got a bit smaller when Atlantic 10 favorite Xavier lost to St. Joseph's. As I see it, the winner of the St. Joseph's-Temple game gets the automatic bid and the loser goes to the NIT. UMass has a slightly stronger resume than the other two and thus gets the second bid for the A-10. The Pac 10 is strong this year, so for the second-to-last spot Oregon gets in over Arizona State. The Sun Devils have a pathetic RPI and did not play well down the stretch.
For the local schools, I see Wisconsin as a three seed with the possibility of jumping to a two seed. The Badgers must be impressive tomorrow if they want to get the bump up. With the late Sunday tip-off for the Big 10 title, it's likely the selection committee will already have the top eight seeds in place, meaning the outcome of a potential Badgers win over say Michigan State won't have an impact on Wisconsin's resume. Marquette had a nice run in the Big East tourney but the Golden Eagles won't get higher than a five seed. Even if the Eagles had won tonight I don't think Marquette would've gotten a bump to a four seed. So Marquette gets an extra day of rest in preparation for the Big Dance. The projections are below. We'll have plenty to talk about on the Saturday extravaganza, so tune in after the Brewers game for more bracketeering.
EAST REGION MIDWEST REGION SOUTH REGION WEST REGION
1-North Carolina Tennessee Memphis UCLA
16-Ala State/Mt St Mary's American Morgan State UM-Balt County
8-Gonzaga Davidson West Virginia Kent State
9-Mississippi State Kansas State Arizona Texas A&M
4-Connecticut Notre Dame Indiana Purdue
13-Oral Roberts Temple Cornell George Mason
5-Butler Wash State Drake Marquette
12-Massachusetts South Alabama Western Kentucky Kentucky
6-Clemson Michigan State USC Vanderbilt
11-Ohio State Oregon Illinois State Stephen F Austin
3-Louisville Xavier Wisconsin Stanford
14-Austin Peay Utah State UC-Santa Barbara Siena
7-BYU Oklahoma Miami Pittsburgh
10-Arkansas UNLV Baylor St. Mary's
2-Texas Duke Georgetown Kansas
15-Belmont Winthrop San Diego Portland State