Projecting the NCAA tournament field of 68

We’re 12 days away from “Selection Sunday” (March 11), and here is our latest look at how we think the 68-team NCAA tournament field will look when it is unveiled that day.

Thomas Robinson and Kansas can count on a home-court advantage if they earn a No. 1 seed.
(US Presswire)

It’s important to note that this is a projection of how teams are going to finish, not how the field would look if it were decided Tuesday.

We now are updating the projected field daily.

One thing to keep in mind is that if Kansas gets a No. 1 seed, it almost certainly would get St. Louis as a regional site. Kentucky seems a certainty to play the first two rounds in Louisville, while Duke and North Carolina seem headed to Greensboro, N.C., for the first two rounds.

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If Kentucky, as expected, is seeded No. 1 in the Southeast Region, it would play its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome, where a majority of the seats would be filled with folks wearing blue.

In our projection, teams are grouped by projected seed and listed from strongest to weakest within that seed. At the bottom is a breakdown by league of the number of projected bids and some information on the makeup of the field, the selection committee and the sites.

Remember that this is the second season of a 68-team field. There again will be four play-in games: two involving teams that will be No. 11 or 12 seeds and two involving teams that will be No. 16 seeds. To simplify matters, that’s why there are six teams at the Nos. 12 and 16 seedings.

Asterisked teams must win their conference titles to receive an NCAA bid.

No. 1s
2. Kentucky
3. Kansas
Buzz: Syracuse and Kentucky are locks to be No. 1 seeds; each has won its regular-season league title. Kansas has clinched at least a portion of its eight consecutive Big 12 crown. Michigan State has clinched at least a tie for the Big Ten title.
No. 2s
6. Duke
7. North Carolina
Buzz: Missouri and Ohio State are out of the running for a No. 1 seed. But Duke and North Carolina still have a shot; the ACC regular-season title is a key.
No. 3s
12. Louisville
Buzz: Marquette is in good position to finish second in the Big East. Still, each of these teams could end up as a No. 4 seed, depending on how they finish their seasons.
No. 4s
14. Notre Dame
16. Temple
Buzz: Wisconsin has split its past six games, but one of the wins was at Ohio State on Sunday. Notre Dame has lost two in a row. Temple needs one more win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 tourney; the Owls’ 11-game winning streak was ended by Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
No. 5s
19. Purdue
Buzz: Wichita State takes an eight-game winning streak into the Missouri Valley tourney; the Shockers are the No. 1 seed. Purdue has won four of five and is coming off a big win at Michigan. If Vandy wants a seed this high, it has to beat Florida on Tuesday.
No. 6s
21. UNLV
Buzz: Murray State is the No. 1 seed in the Ohio Valley tourney; the same goes for Saint Mary’s in the West Coast tournament. Florida State has lost two in a row to effectively remove itself from the ACC title discussion.
No. 7s
25. Florida
Buzz: Florida has struggled on the road and is at Vandy on Tuesday; the Gators then finish the regular season with a visit from Kentucky. New Mexico has lost two in a row, but closes the regular season with eminently winnable home games against Air Force and Boise State.
No. 8s
Buzz: Memphis has a game lead in Conference USA. Alabama has won three in a row and six of its past eight. SLU has a big game with Xavier on Tuesday.
No. 9s
Buzz: Virginia has 21 wins, but just two are over RPI top-50 teams. Washington owns a one-game lead in the Pac-12 over California. Seton Hall has lost eight of its past 12.
No. 10s
37. Xavier
Buzz: UConn has a lot of good wins, but the Huskies also have 11 losses. For all of the talk about Harvard, the Crimson is tied with Penn for the Ivy lead.
No. 11s
42. BYU
Buzz: WVU and Mississippi State are playing poorly down the stretch, and it’s far from a lock that either is safely in the field. BYU finished third in the West Coast Conference in its first season in the league.
No. 12s
45. California
47. Miami
49. Saint Joseph’s
Buzz: Cal’s at-large hopes took a hit with Sunday’s loss to Colorado. The same goes for Cincinnati, which lost au USF. Miami, on the other hand, beat Florida State to bolster its chances. St. Joe’s upset Temple on Saturday, a huge boost for the Hawks.
No. 13s
53. Iona*
54. Drexel*
Buzz: Long Beach State is unbeaten in the Big West and already has clinched the regular-season title. ORU, Iona and Drexel are the top seeds in their respective league tournaments.
No. 14s
56. Belmont*
57. Nevada*
58. Ohio*
Buzz: Middle Tennessee and Belmont, located about 30 miles apart, are the No. 1 seeds in their respective league tournaments. Nevada has all but sewn up the WAC regular-season title.
No. 15s
Buzz: Valpo won the Horizon League and will play all its league tourney games at home; Butler is the No. 5 seed in the Horizon tourney. Long Island is the No. 1 seed in the Northeast tourney and would get all its conference tourney games at home.
No. 16s
65. UT Arlington*
66. UNC Asheville*
Buzz: Remember that a 68-team field means at least four conference champs are going to end up in play-in games. UNC Asheville already has clinched the Big South regular-season title, which means it will play all its league tourney games at home. Mississippi Valley State and UT Arlington are unbeaten in their leagues.

Breakdown by league
9: Big East
7: Big Ten
5: ACC, Big 12, SEC
4: Atlantic 10, Mountain West
3: West Coast
2: Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Pac-12
1: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, Southwestern Athletic, Western Athletic (20)

Notes on makeup of field
• The NCAA uses an “S curve,” meaning it ranks all 68 teams in order 1-68, 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.
• Jeff Hathaway is the chairman of the 10-member NCAA Tournament Selection Committee this season. He retired as AD at Connecticut in August and was hired in October as a consultant to Big East commissioner John Marinatto; had he not been hired by the Big East, Hathaway would’ve lost his spot on the committee. Each member is selected for a four-year run; this is Hathaway’s final season. Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe lost his spot on the committee when he was forced out by the league in September. Hathaway is one of four members with a “Big Six” affiliation, joining LSU AD Joe Alleva, Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione (he replaced Beebe) and Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman. The other six members: Utah State AD Scott Barnes, Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton, Texas-San Antonio AD Lynn Hickey, SMU AD Steve Orsini and West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich. Hickey is the second woman to serve on the committee, following Charlotte AD Judy Rose (1999-2003).

Tournament sites

The four play-in games – one for each region – are March 13 and 14 in Dayton, Ohio.

March 15 and 17 first- and second-round sites are Albuquerque, N.M., Louisville, Ky., Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore.

March 16 and 18 first- and second-round sites are Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Omaha, Neb.

March 22 and 24 regional sites are Boston and Phoenix.

March 23 and 25 regional sites are Atlanta and St. Louis.

The Final Four is March 31 and April 2 in New Orleans, at the Superdome.

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