Big Board 65: College Basketball

Brad Evans
Yahoo Sports

The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 65 (31 automatic and 34 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out their Tourney Pick 'Em '09 bracket pool today. The Bracket Big Board is updated on a weekly basis until the dance card is officially unveiled on March 15, 2009.


Big Board 65: College Basketball
Rank Team Conf. Overall Top50 RPI SOS Stock Pvs.
1 Duke* ACC 16-1 5-1 1 3 Bedevling opponents on both ends of the floor – second in defensive efficiency and 12th in offensive efficiency nationally --
2 Pittsburgh* BEast 17-1 5-1 2 10 Caged by staunch Louisville D for first blemish of the season, but DeJuan Blair's Windex-wiping abilities means future losses will be few --
3 Wake Forest ACC 16-0 4-0 11 92 Wide a-Wake in the ACC, the Demon Deacons have been hellish to the competition; limited opponents to 41.2 eFG%, second nationally --
4 Connecticut BEast 16-1 4-1 8 29 Rabid Huskies one of the country's most balanced contenders – rank seventh in offensive and 19th in defensive efficiency in D1 --

5 North Carolina ACC 16-2 2-1 7 16 After defensive hiccups versus Boston College and Wake Forest, the Heels have tightened the screws; limited Virginia and Miami to 0.85 pts/poss combined --
6 Michigan St.* BigTen 15-2 7-1 3 8 Played poorly against a rising Illinois team posting a 95.7 offensive rating, their worst since the UNC December debacle, but still gutted out a six-point win --
7 Oklahoma* Big12 17-1 5-0 19 14 Big 12 in retooling phase, but the OK kids corralling the competition with 3-0 start; future Daddy Warbucks, Blake Griffin, 14 double-doubles on the year --
8 Clemson ACC 16-1 3-1 10 41 Downed by Wake at Littlejohn for first loss of year; Athletic frontcourt, spearheaded by Trevor Booker, is terrific but needs to improve on OR% D (292nd in nation) --

9 Marquette BEast 16-2 3-2 16 46 Golden Eagles flapping offensive wings, ranking 11th nationally in offensive efficiency; uncharacteristically loose defense means 5 or 6 Ls likely in BE --
10 Geogetown BEast 12-4 3-3 6 1 Played five top 10 opponents in last six games; murderous schedule has taken its toll on Hoyas, especially defensively – 1.11 pts/poss allowed in L6 --
11 Arizona St.* Pac10 15-3 3-2 24 59 Sparky shocking Pac-10 with 61-58 OT win at Pauley Pavillion; Harden deserves accolades but so does Jeff Pendergraph – 132.0 O-rating 10th in D1 --
12 Xavier* A10 15-2 3-2 5 7 Three Musketeers Derrick Brown, B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson averaging combined 36.9 ppg, 15.0 rpg and 49.4 FG%; Feb. 11 date at Dayton pivotal --

13 Syracuse BEast 17-3 3-2 14 42 Trampled by Zoo animals Monday, losing critical BE battle with Pitt; 63.3 FT% (302nd in D1) will continue to crush Orange in tight contests --
14 Louisville BEast 13-3 3-1 12 5 Stifling top-ranked defense suffocated Pitt, holding them to just 0.86 pts/poss, the Panthers 2nd-worst output of the season; Gs starting to click – watch out --
15 Texas Big12 13-4 3-2 26 28 Second chances and stingy defense keeping Horns' heads above water, but 32.5 3PT% and 65.2 FT% says they'll have problems in close games --
16 UCLA Pac10 14-3 1-3 43 96 Arguably one of Ben Howland's weakest defensive teams, Bruins rank outside the top-30 in D efficiency; two-game Washington swing could be troublesome --

17 Minnesota BigTen 16-2 3-2 18 53 Overachieving Gophers quick start testament to Tubby's coaching prowess, but deflating loss at Northwestern a sign of future Ls to come; 61st in D eff. --
18 Butler* Horiz 16-1 3-1 9 55 Returned only one starter from last year's squad but dynamic freshman duo Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward have dangerous Dogs back in top 20 --
19 Gonzaga* WCC 12-4 3-2 34 25 Underwent an identitiy crisis in December but OT road win in Knoxville springboarded Zags into WCC play; 1 of 3 teams ranked top-15 in Off and Def eff. --
20 California Pac10 15-3 3-3 15 34 Mike Montgomery's Stanford homecoming a nightmare as Cardinal converted 1.09 pts/poss; inability to create turnovers will hurt Bears against tough foes --

21 Illinois BigTen 15-3 2-3 23 43 Resurgent Illini finally clawed their way into national polls; well-rounded execution suggests a top three finish in the Big Ten very likely --
22 Notre Dame BEast 12-5 2-4 63 110 Lopsided Irish tremendous offensive unit but tragically flawed defensively, ranking 160th in D efficiency; 1.18 pts/poss yielded to 'Cuse soon-to-be norm --
23 Purdue BigTen 14-4 3-3 53 74 Belittled by key injuries to Hummel and Kramer in two early conference losses, but return of starters has Boilers on upward swing; solid 111.8 off rating vs IA --
24 Memphis* C-USA 14-3 1-3 13 13 Squeaked out one point road win against unheralded Tulsa club Jan. 13, giving reconfigured Tigers upperhand in C-USA; 4th nationally in defensive efficiency --

25 Baylor Big12 14-3 2-2 35 48 Bears boast five players who average 11 points or more per game, but appalling 85th-ranked defensive efficiency will eventually mitigate them if not corrected --
26 Davidson* SoCon 14-3 1-2 31 73 Stephen Curry's adjustment to point has made outside shooting erratic, but he's still netting 29.1 ppg; need Archambault and Bryant to ease Curry's load --
27 Villanova BEast 13-3 1-3 30 52 Enigmatic Scottie Reynolds has been all or nothing, dropping 40 at Seton Hall then follwing with just 11 in one-point loss to Louisville; consistency a must --
28 Kentucky* SEC 14-4 2-3 56 118 Jodie not meekly – record-setting 54 points and 10 threes at Tennessee has thrust junior into Wooden Award race; Off. TO% 314th nationally --

29 Missouri Big12 15-3 1-2 41 89 Up-tempo Tigers play at NASCAR pace but have executed brilliantly on both ends – rank 8th in offensive and 16th in defensive efficiency --
30 Ohio St. BigTen 13-3 3-3 22 30 Standout freshman B.J. Mullens in lower class compared to Oden/Koufas but has averaged 14.3 ppg and swished 71% from field in L4; major test at IL Tues. --
31 Tennessee SEC 11-5 3-4 28 6 The Notre Dame of the South, Vols' offensive and defensive contributions polarized – 103rd-ranked defensive efficiency Ls harbinger --
32 Florida St. ACC 15-3 2-3 20 32 Underappreciated Seminoles on fast-track to return to tourney for the first time since 1998 but must curtail turnovers to get there; 282nd in off. TO% --

33 BYU* MWC 14-3 1-2 33 60 Senior swingman Lee Cummard continues to be the country's best kept secret – 128.3 offensive rating 21st in D1; Showdowns with UNLV/SDSU huge --
34 Florida SEC 16-2 1-2 27 85 Storming out to 3-0 conference start, Erin Andrews-U is a top contender in down SEC; Net-scorcher Nick Calathes averaging 26.0 ppg since Dec. 30 --
35 St. Mary's WCC 17-1 0-0 51 262 Aussie populated Gaels snacking adversaries as though they were Vegemite sandwiches; ridiculous 1.34 pts/poss average in last two wins --
36 West Virginia BEast 13-4 2-3 25 21 Many current Mountaineers may have a Pittsnoggle double-wide future, but Hugs Lugs' stalwart defense is a tourney luxury – 7th in D efficiency --

37 Wisconsin BigTen 12-5 2-4 17 2 Brutal schedule and abnormal suspect defensive play has Badgers on downward swing; 1.16 pts/poss conceded in consecutive losses to Purdue/Minnesota --
38 Michigan BigTen 13-5 3-4 45 22 Wolverines hideous 129th-ranked defense suggests wins versus Duke and UCLA were anomalous; if D doesn't improve, a .500 Big Ten record awaits --
39 Washington Pac10 13-4 2-3 37 37 Huskies are the real dark-horse of the Pac-10, sprinting out to a 4-1 start; Will never win a FT contest, but stiff D and Brockman's rebounding are eye-opening --
40 Kansas Big12 14-4 5-2 39 44 Entered year with cupboard bare, but Self has enough talent for Jayhawks to Dance again; Collins' leadership and Aldrich's advancements major pluses --

41 Miami (FL) ACC 13-4 0-4 32 20 Amazing 17-point comeback win against Maryland Jan. 14 greatest in conference history, but blowout loss at UNC proves the 'Canes are second-class ACC --
42 USC Pac10 12-5 1-3 65 71 DeRozan hasn't made a Michael Beasley-type impact yet, but his 56.8 FG% in Pac-10 play shows growing improvements; hard-nose defense says look out --
43 Dayton A10 16-2 3-0 38 185 Terribly vanilla offensively, the Flyers have avoided Ls by handcuffing opponents defensively – 14th nationally in defensive efficiency --
44 Oklahoma St. Big12 12-4 2-4 19 14 Shootout loss against Baylor expected considering statistical structure of both clubs; similar to Bears, 'Boys are offensive giants, but defensive midgets --

45 Stanford Pac10 12-3 2-2 42 83 Cardinal gained signature win against Cal, and former bench coach Mike Montgomery, last week; Must improve interior D if they want to dance (52.9 2PT% D) --
46 Illinois St.* MVC 16-2 0-0 50 229 Champ Oguchi and Osiris Eldridge are a dynamite 1-2 punch who should vault ISU into the tourney for the first time in 13 years; average combined 30.6 ppg --
47 Siena* Metro 14-5 0-4 29 33 Experienced Saints tagged as this year's Davidson by several pundits in preseason, but have underperformed versus marquee competition; 224th in 3-PT% --
48 UNLV MWC 14-4 1-1 54 114 Barely getting their foot in the door, Rebels' non-conference win at Louisville looking better and better; Tussle with BYU Wednesday enormous for resume --

49 Utah St.* WAC 17-1 1-1 46 222 Legendary clipboard-scribe Stew Morrill has Aggies riding 12-game win-streak, the fourth-longest in school history; Gary Wilkinson 12th in D1 with 131.0 ORtg --
50 George Mason* CAA 14-3 0-1 48 179 Far from Jim Larranaga's most talented team, this year's Colonials are a gritty defensive bunch, ranking 24th nationally in eFG% allowed (44.0) --
51 Portland St.* BigSky 14-5 1-2 130 289 Nearly knocking off Washington in early December and upending Gonzaga later that month, the Vikes are a dangerous club who should pillage the Big Sky --
52 Miami (OH)* MAC 9-6 1-5 18 36 Unforgiving non-conference schedule (at UCLA, at Pitt, at Xavier, at West Virginia), has prepared RedHawks for watered-down MAC comeptition; 40th in D eff. --

53 Western Kentucky* SunBlt 12-6 1-3 60 100 Marquee win at Louisville in late November makes Slaughter House Five the Sun Belt favorites; AJ Slaughter has scored double-figures in 14 of 16 games --
54 Virginia Military* BigSth 14-3 0-1 118 316 Impersonated Gardner-Webb earlier this year, upsetting Kentucky in early November, lightning-quick Keydets class of Big South; tango with 6-1 Radford Wed. --
55 Stephen F. Austin* Sthlnd 11-4 0-1 67 141 Cloudy-headed guard Eric Bell, who missed three pre-conference games due to a concussion, is back to his precise-passing ways – 3.7:1 AST:TO L3 --
56 Cornell* Ivy 11-6 0-3 102 181 Big Red is the sweet-tasting pace-setter of the Ivy this year; Outside sniper Ryan Wittman, who averages 3.2 made threes/game, has splashed 20-plus 7 times --

57 North Dakota St.* Sum 12-5 0-1 132 290 Bison have best chance to dethrone Summit darlings, Oral Roberts, in their first season in the league; Stat-sheet stuffer Ben Woodside avg. 23.6 ppg, 6.8 apg --
58 Long Beach St.* BigWst 10-7 1-3 106 157 With wins at Pacific and UC-Davis, the 49ers have struck it rich early in Big West play; Former Zags/Gophers coach Dan Monson's club is young, but talented --
59 American* Patriot 11-6 0-2 90 189 Starr Jones-U went dancing for the first time in school history a year ago, with seven seniors they should emerge the Patriot victors again come March --
60 Austin Peay* OVC 10-7 0-1 107 131 One of the nation's most prolific long-distance teams, the Governors have drilled 40.4 percent from three, the fifth-best mark in the country --

61 Robert Morris* NEC 12-7 0-2 130 289 Named after the financier of the Revolution, RMU evidently is recession proof; Senior guard Jeremy Chappell is averaging 17.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg on the year --
62 Vermont* AmEast 12-6 0-2 139 243 Unquestionably the most talented team in the Am-East, the Catamounts, led by slasher Marqus Blakely (15.5 ppg), are off to a sluggish start, but will rebound --
63 Jacksonville* AtlSun 8-8 0-2 155 162 Marcus Allen has come out of retirement to play for the Dolphins? Not the NFL HOFer, Jacksonville's senior forward has three double-doubles in his L6 --
64 Hampton* MEAC 9-8 1-0 223 283 The Pirates have driven their cutlasses through the hearts of MEAC enemies limiting them to a mere 0.87 pts/poss – AAARRGGGHHH!! --
65 Alabama St.* SWAC 8-7 0-1 192 278 SWAC Daddies again setting the pace early in conference action; The greatest name in college hoops, Chief Kickingstallionsims, 9th nationally in Blk% --

ON THE BUBBLE: Maryland (12-5), Texas A&M (15-4), Mississippi St. (13-5), Arkansas (12-4), Boston College (13-6), Utah (12-6), Virginia Tech (12-5), San Diego St. (12-4), Nebraska (12-4), LSU (14-3)

DROPPED OUT: None.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: American East (1), ACC (6), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (2), Big East (9), Big Sky (1), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (7), Big West (1), Colonial (1), Conference USA (1), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Metro (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (2), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (5), Patriot (1), SEC (3), Southern (1), Southland (1), Southwestern Athletic (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (2), Western Athletic (1)

* = Projected automatic bids
RPI = Ratings Percentage Index
SOS = Strength of schedule
Top50 = Record versus RPI top 50
*RPI ratings from Rivals.com *Efficiency statistics courtesy of kenpom.com
*For games played through Sunday, January 18