Here is the final prediction of who’s in and who’s out, one night before the 2011 NCAA tournament field is announced.
|Charlottesville, Va.||Los Angeles||Chapel Hill, N.C.||Corvallis, Ore.|
|1.(1) Virginia^*||1. UCLA^*||1. (5) North Carolina^||1. Oregon State^|
|2. Florida International||2. Arkansas||2. East Carolina||2. Creighton|
|3. James Madison*||3. UC Irvine||3. Charlotte*||3. Oklahoma State|
|4. Navy*||4. New Mexico*||4. Princeton*||4. Seton Hall*|
|Gainesville, Fla.||Atlanta||Tallahassee, Fla.||Tempe, Ariz.|
|1. (2) Florida^*||1. Georgia Tech^||1. (6) Florida State^||1. Arizona State^|
|2. Central Florida||2. Stetson||2. Southern Mississippi||2. Miami|
|3. Jacksonville||3. Alabama||3. Troy||3. Kansas State|
|4. Alcorn State*||4. Georgia Southern*||4. Bethune-Cookman*||4. Illinois*|
|Columbia, S.C.||Clemson, S.C.||Houston||Austin|
|1. (3) South Carolina^||1. Clemson^||1. (7) Rice^*||1. Texas^|
|2. North Carolina State||2. Georgia||2. Baylor||2. Arizona|
|3. Coastal Carolina*||3. Connecticut||3. Mississippi State||3. Texas State*|
|4. Maine*||4. Sacred Heart*||4. Arkansas-Little Rock*||4. Manhattan*|
|Nashville||Fullerton, Calif.||College Station, Texas||Fort Worth|
|1. (4) Vanderbilt^||1. Cal State Fullerton^*||1. (8) Texas A&M^*||1. Texas Christian^|
|2. Stanford||2. Fresno State*||2. Louisiana State||2. Oklahoma|
|3. Belmont*||3. California||3. Kent State*||3. Dallas Baptist|
|4. Austin Peay State*||4. San Francisco*||4. Wright State*||4. Oral Roberts*|
• The most difficult part of constructing the field of 64 is deciding between Florida State, Rice, Texas A&M, Texas and Arizona State for three national seed spots. For geographic balance, it would be useful to have a national seed in the West, and ASU has the best resume of the four Western hosts, a 10-3 record against the top 25 in the RPI and a 25-12 mark against the top 100. But Arizona State lost two of its final three series and finished behind UCLA in the Pac-10 standings. It’s hard to award the Sun Devils a national seed over Rice and Texas A&M when both those teams shared regular-season titles and won conference tournament titles, and have very similar RPIs. The conference tournament titles give both teams slight edges over Texas, even though the Longhorns shared the Big 12 regular-season title with the Aggies and won two of three against the Aggies in the final weekend. But Texas lost twice to Missouri in the conference tournament, while Texas A&M ran unbeaten through the tournament. It’s almost a coin toss. One other potential separating factor: strength of schedule. A&M ranks 12th, according to warrennolan.com, while Rice is 14th and Texas is 44th. Again, we’re splitting hairs—but there can only be eight national seeds, so somebody with a strong resume has to be disappointed.
We’re giving Florida State the nod over all those teams thanks to a 15-11 record against the top 25 (by contrast, A&M and Texas have six wins apiece against the top 25). Five of FSU’s wins have come against the top five, and eight have come against the top 10. It’s simply an outstanding collection of quality wins, and FSU finished strong, beating Clemson and Georgia Tech to reach the ACC title game against Virginia.
• Having two national seeds in Texas allows us to pair the four Lone Star State regionals, but it also results in four Western regionals paired with ACC and SEC teams—a necessary reality anyway when half the hosts and three-quarters of the national seeds come from the ACC and SEC.
• The top overall seed goes to Virginia, on the strength of ACC regular-season and tournament titles, the No. 2 RPI and a gaudy 49-9 overall record. SEC regular-season co-champ and tournament champion Florida gets the No. 2 seed.
• It’s possible that UCLA could host as a No. 2 seed because of its RPI (No. 33 entering Sunday, per Boyd’s World). Last year, Connecticut hosted as a No. 2 seed despite an RPI of No. 23. But Connecticut was the Big East champion; UCLA is the Pac-10 champ, and that’s a major distinction. When Oregon State won the Pac-10 in 2006 with an RPI of No. 30, it still hosted as a No. 1 seed—and we think UCLA will be a No. 1 as well. If the committee was impressed enough with the Bruins’ Pac-10 championship to make them a host over Arkansas, it clearly likes UCLA’s resume better than Arkansas’. But we’ll send Arkansas—the strongest No. 2 seed—to Los Angeles for competitive balance purposes.
• We broke down the race for the last at-large spots in Saturday’s blog. Since that post, one fewer at-large spot became available when Arkansas-Little Rock won the Sun Belt automatic bid. That knocked Mississippi (a team we were never comfortable with as an at-large team) out of our field of 64; Dallas Baptist is the last team in.