Big Board 65: College Basketball

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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%

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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%

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!!

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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%

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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