SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean, editor of Blogging The Bracket, returns with his projection for the Monday before Selection Sunday. He'll be updating this stream throughout the week with updates. The next will come Wednesday.
Selection Sunday is just six days away. Hopefully in that time, there will be some clarity regarding the teams at the bottom of the at-large pool. You know, the ones I've been tracking over on Bubble Watch.
It's become increasingly difficult and frustrating to try to separate the last 12 or so teams fighting for the final five or six spots. Would you have thought, just one week ago, that teams like Arizona State, Memphis and Washington would seriously be in the hunt for an at-large?
While I may not take their chances as seriously as some (especially in the case of the Tigers), they all have a chance over the next few days to get in, either by winning their conference tournaments or by winning enough games to pass the teams who are sure to fall simultaneously.
But for the moment, I have 10 Big East teams in Monday's projection.
Why? (Especially since I had Ole Miss as the last team in for my Sunday Bubble Watch update.) Well, the Pirates have more wins over teams in this projection than USF or Mississippi do. The Rebels have a better road/neutral mark than both, and the Bulls have more top 50 wins. In this case, I knock Ole Miss down a peg because of the weakness of the SEC West. All nine of their conference wins came against teams that are fighting for NIT spots at best, with several of those being closer than necessary.
Of course, all three teams will have to win some games in their conference tournaments this week to get closer to the real bracket.
Here's a look at how the field breaks down with less than a week to go.
Top Four Seeds: Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke
Last Four In: Seton Hall, San Diego State, South Florida, Illinois
First Four Out: Mississippi, Arizona State, Washington, Dayton
Next Four Out: UAB, Connecticut, Memphis, Rhode Island
Temple (4), Xavier (6), Richmond (7)
Gonzaga (5), St. Mary's (11)
One Bid Leagues (23): America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Pacific-10, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic
Stories To Watch
The Battle For The Last One Seed: Duke replaced Kansas State after the Blue Devils throttled North Carolina and the Wildcats lost at home to Iowa State Saturday. Duke is in the driver's seat, but if Purdue can claim the Big Ten tournament crown without Robbie Hummel, they could squeeze in because of their overall profile. Ohio State, West Virginia and even K-State could jump in with a tourney title as well.
Mid-Major Conference Championship Games: Monday, in particular, is a big night for nervous bubble teams. They'll be cheering for Old Dominion in the CAA final at 7 p.m. Eastern, as Old Dominion is likely to snag an at-large if they fall. St. Mary's can ease their bubble worries by claiming the West Coast crown at 9 p.m. ET. To do that, they'll need to beat a Gonzaga team they've struggled against over the past few seasons, who is fighting to stay in Spokane for the first round. That won't happen if they fall to a six or seven seed.
Siena can book their place if they win the Metro Atlantic final at home (7 p.m. ET). A loss would be likely be fatal because of their lack of non-conference wins. However, in my opinion, if you are considering Memphis for an at-large at this point, the Saints deserve a look as well.
Later in the week, pay attention to the WAC Tournament in Reno, as Utah State has legitimate at-large chances if they don't win the conference crown.
Teams On The Verge: I already mentioned that Seton Hall and USF have little margin for error. (I discuss their cases a bit more in Bubble Watch.) But Florida, Georgia Tech and Illinois have to grab some wins in their conference tournaments.
The Gators open the SEC Tournament against Auburn Thursday night, looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat. If they win, a quarterfinal with barely-alive Mississippi State would be an elimination game.
The Yellow Jackets cannot lose to North Carolina in the 7/10 game of the ACC Tournament on Thursday. A game with Maryland awaits in the quarterfinals if they knock off the Tar Heels.
The Illini are in similar boat to Florida. They've lost three straight, including two at home. Next up, a rematch with Wisconsin in the Big Ten quarterfinals on Friday. The Badgers handled Illinois at Assembly Hall Sunday, but the Illini beat Wisconsin in Madison when Jon Leuer was hurt.
As I will be on the road back from Richmond tonight, my next projection will come on Wednesday morning.
Visit Bubble Watch for a detailed look at the last few teams in and the group that hopes to replace them, along with game previews and recaps.