We're 44 days away from "Selection Sunday" (March 11), and here is our second look at how we think the 68-team NCAA tournament field will look when it is unveiled that day.
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 today.
We will update this every Thursday until late February, when we will begin to update it daily.
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.
[Forde Minutes: It's the year of the dragon in college hoops]
Breakdown by league
8: Big East, Big Ten
5: ACC, SEC
4: Atlantic 10, Big 12, Mountain West
3: Conference USA, West Coast
2: 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).
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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