NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06: Herb Pope #15 of the Seton Hall Pirates reacts after scoring against Kadeem Batts #10 of the Providence Friars during their first round game of the 2012 BIG EAST Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 6, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Thanks to the losses of others, the Pirates sneak back into our projected field, joining USF, N.C. State and Drexel as among the last teams in.
I haven't rested much since my Saturday morning projection was posted. In the hours since, I've re-evaluated the teams near the cut line, and created a list of pros and cons for each. With that complete, here's a list of the Last Four In as of Saturday evening, along with an expanded list of teams that are on the outside looking in. Keep in mind that I've left Arizona and Colorado off this list for now, as one of them will surely be in the field tomorrow evening, while the other is likely ticketed for the NIT.
If your mind isn't spinning after reading this list, I would be surprised.
Last Four In
All records are accurate as of 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 10, 2012, and RPI and SOS are accurate as of 2 a.m. ET, Saturday, March 10, 2012 and are courtesy BBState.com. Records only reflect games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee standards.
N.C. State Wolfpack (22-11, 11-7 ACC, RPI: 53, SOS: 26, non-conf. SOS: 65)
Pros: Has head-to-head victories over fellow bubble teams Virginia, Miami (twice) and Texas. Won four in a row, and three away from home, before closing the regular season with a loss to North Carolina in controversial circumstances. Won relatively frequently away from Raleigh (9-6).
Cons: Owns just one win against the RPI Top 50, compared with nine losses (including three in a row to Duke, Florida State and North Carolina). The single win came against Virginia, which compares poorly to teams with a similar record against top competition (Northwestern, Miami, USF). Owns two horrible losses (at Clemson, Georgia Tech at home).
South Florida Bulls (19-13, 13-7 Big East, RPI: 40, SOS: 27, non-conf. SOS: 28)
Pros: Favorable computer numbers, quality wins against Cincinnati in Tampa and at Louisville, and a potential tiebreaking win over Seton Hall. Performed well in the Big East, though the schedule was comparatively soft.
Cons: Like N.C. State, has a 1-9 record against the Top 50. Profile features three bad losses from early in the season (Old Dominion and Penn State in Springfield, at Auburn). Performed poorly away from home (6-11).
Seton Hall Pirates (20-12, 9-11 Big East, RPI: 62, SOS: 44, non-conf. SOS: 31)
Pros: Has three wins against the Top 50 (Georgetown, Connecticut and VCU (in Charleston)), also defeated West Virginia at home and won at Dayton.
Cons: Finished poorly by losing seven of its last 12, including games against Rutgers and at DePaul. Lost at USF and to Northwestern in Charleston. Seven wins in 16 road/neutral games is also not helpful.
Drexel Dragons (27-6, 18-3 CAA, RPI: 70, SOS: 222, non-conf. SOS: 215)
Pros: Finished season by winning 25 of 27 games, claimed Colonial regular season title. If the Committee values wins, the Dragons are in without a doubt. Four Top 100 wins (and three losses), though only the one against VCU came against a Top 50 team. Good road/neutral mark of 14-6.
Cons: Computer numbers are not attractive, thanks to a down CAA and weak non-league schedule. Went 2-4 to start season, when Chris Fouch was out or limited, with losses to Norfolk State and Delaware in that span.
First Four Out
Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-11, 8-9 SEC, RPI: 65, SOS: 66, non-conf. SOS: 52)
Pros: Has seven Top 100 wins and two against the Top 50 (at Vanderbilt, Alabama). Defeated West Virginia at home and Arizona in New York. Split with Mississippi.
Cons: Won just five of last 12. Lost to Georgia twice, as well as at Arkansas and Auburn. A 6-8 record away from home is not as good as it appears simply because the Bulldogs failed to beat an SEC West foe on the road.
Dayton Flyers (20-12, 10-8 A-10, RPI: 79, SOS: 66, non-conf. SOS: 74)
Pros: A .500 record against the Top 50 and Top 100, with four Top 50 wins, including one at Temple. Defeated Alabama, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and Xavier at home.
Cons: Owns a pair of truly bad losses (at Miami (OH) and Rhode Island at home) and questionable ones against Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers' road/neutral mark of 6-8 leaves a little to be desired.
Mississippi Rebels (20-13, 10-9 SEC, RPI: 59, SOS: 39, non-conf. SOS: 36)
Pros: Victories over Alabama, Miami and Mississippi State, all at home. Decent out-of-conference schedule.
Cons: Road/neutral record of 8-10 is deceptive, as the Rebels best wins away from Oxford came against Tennessee in New Orleans and at Georgia and Arkansas. Mississippi also owns six losses against the Top 50 and 11 against the Top 100, along with a bad loss at Auburn. Lost to Middle Tennessee, Dayton and LSU, though Murphy Holloway was out for those games.
Marshall Thundering Herd (20-13, 12-8 C-USA, RPI: 42, SOS: 26, non-conf. SOS: 86)
Pros: Owns four Top 50 wins, including one at Cincinnati early in the season and two over Southern Mississippi, and six Top 100 wins (against 10 losses). Strong RPI and SOS numbers.
Cons: Lost at Tulsa and East Carolina, fell at home to UAB. Split with UCF and Belmont. Completely manhandled by Memphis in C-USA final. Road/neutral mark of 8-9 is merely OK.
Next Five Out
Iona Gaels (25-7, 16-4 MAAC, RPI: 41, SOS: 144, non-conf. SOS: 174)
Pros: Five wins against the Top 100, favorable RPI, excellent record away from home (15-6).
Cons: Two best wins came against Nevada and St. Joseph's, both of whom will likely be in the NIT. Has three losses to teams ranked 150+ in the RPI (Manhattan, at Siena, at Hofstra).
Washington Huskies (21-10, 14-5 Pac-12, RPI: 54, SOS: 81, non-conf. SOS: 101)
Pros: Pac-12 regular season champions, though that may not mean much this season. Has swept Arizona and split with Oregon, besting the Ducks in Seattle. Won nine of its final 12.
Cons: Has a 4-8 record against the Top 100, but no Top 50 wins. Lost at UCLA and was eliminated from Pac-12 Tournament as top seed by Oregon State. Owns an unimpressive 7-8 record in road/neutral games.
Miami Hurricanes (19-12, 10-8 ACC, RPI: 61, SOS: 43, non-conf. SOS: 52)
Pros: Owns victories over Duke (in Durham) and Florida State. Worst loss is at Maryland, who is just outside the Top 100.
Cons: Victory over UMass at home is the Hurricanes' only other one against a team in the Top 100 (against 11 losses). Won just six of 15 games away from Coral Gables.
Northwestern Wildcats (18-13, 8-11 Big Ten, RPI: 60, SOS: 18, non-conf. SOS: 12)
Pros: Exceptionally strong schedule provides a boost, as do victories over Michigan State and Seton Hall (in Charleston). Worst loss came to Illinois (No. 93 in the RPI).
Cons: Failed to take advantage of the numerous opportunities handed to them, by going 1-10 against the Top 50 and 5-13 against the Top 100. Grabbing a few of them would have also likely improved a 7-8 record away from Evanston.
Tennessee Volunteers (17-14, 10-7 SEC, RPI: 85, SOS: 31, non-conf. SOS: 44)
Pros: Four Top 50 wins, with all coming after Jarnell Stokes became eligible, three more against teams ranked between 51 and 100.
Cons: Quartet of bad losses (at Georgia, College of Charleston and Oakland, plus Austin Peay at home). Lost likely elimination game to Mississippi on Friday night. Not very good in road/neutral contests (3-11).
In reality, I wouldn't be surprised if the final few teams in the field included a mixture of these teams. It's simply been that kind of season.
My next full projection will be out on Sunday morning. In the meantime, keep an eye on the Big West championship game at 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2). If Long Beach State fails to defeat UC Santa Barbara in that one, an at-large spot will likely disappear.