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SEE ALSO: Field of 64 Coverage
Only a few short days from now, there will be no more projections and the Field of 64 will be etched in stone.
Much can change between now and then as teams on the bubble fight for their postseason lives in conference tournaments. It's desperation time, and desperation can bring out the best—and also the worst—in some teams.
This Projected Field of 64 is the latest prognostication and most up-to-date glimpse at what the NCAA Tournament field could look like, and there will be another projection to come just before Selection Monday.
But for now, here are the changes and races worth noting:
Stanford, at No. 11 in the RPI and second place in the Pac-12 Conference, remains a national seed at No. 8; however, the Cardinal will have plenty of competition. Kentucky, whom Louisiana State leapfrogged in the national seed race, is still firmly within striking distance with several impressive series wins on its resume and the No. 7 RPI.
Clemson, at No. 10 in the RPI, is on shakier ground than it was a few weeks ago. At one time looking like a near-lock for a national seed, the Tigers lost three straight Atlantic Coast Conference series down the stretch and lost its opening game to Duke in the ACC Tournament. The Tigers could fall out of the hosting race if they go 0-2 in Louisville. Teams such as Wake Forest, Virginia, Southern Mississippi and Arkansas could all potentially emerge as national seed candidates, as well, depending on their performances this week.
Central Florida, the regular season champion in the American Athletic Conference, joins the hosting ranks but by the slimmest of margins. The Knights lost their first game of the AAC Tournament, an inauspicious start in Clearwater, Fla., and they will have to bounce back quickly to keep their hosting hopes alive. South Florida or Houston could supplant UCF if they win the AAC Tournament, as well as Arizona out of the Pac-12 or Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference.
On the other end of the spectrum, Miami, Louisiana-Lafayette, Mississippi and Indiana are the last four teams in. Miami has turned its season around after a poor start and finished 16-13 in ACC play, but at No. 47 in the RPI and with no marquee series wins, the Hurricanes will need a good showing in the ACC Tournament, where they're off to a good start. The Ragin' Cajuns have series wins over Southern Miss and South Alabama to buttress a somewhat-pedestrian No. 50 RPI. Ole Miss is the definition of a bubble team with a mid-30s RPI and a 14-16 record. The Rebels' quick exit from the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Tuesday didn't torpedo their chances, but will leave them sweating out Selection Monday.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64
|Corvallis, OR||Long Beach, CA|
|(1) Oregon State^*||Long Beach State^*|
|North Carolina State||Arizona|
|Chapel Hill, NC||Fayetteville, AR|
|(2) North Carolina^*||Arkansas^|
|Coastal Carolina*||McNeese State*|
|UNC Wilmington*||Oral Roberts*|
|(3) Florida^*||Central Florida^|
|Lubbock, TX||Clemson, SC|
|(4) Texas Tech^*||Clemson^|
|Missouri State*||Mississippi State|
|Texas Southern*||Tennessee Tech*|
|Fort Worth||Winston-Salem, NC|
|(6) Texas Christian^||Wake Forest^|
|New Mexico State*||Winthrop*|
|Baton Rouge, LA||Hattiesburg, MS|
|(7) Louisiana State^||Southern Mississippi^*|
|Stanford, CA||Charlottesville, VA|
|Cal State Fullerton||South Florida|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
Last four in: Louisiana-Lafayette, Indiana, Miami, Mississippi.
First four out: Louisiana Tech, South Alabama, Missouri, Loyola Marymount.
Next four out: Florida Atlantic, South Carolina, Kansas, Charlotte
New hosts: Arkansas, Central Florida
New Auto Bids: Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (WCC), Texas Southern (SWAC), Virginia Commonwealth (A-10)
New At-Large Bids: Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami
Dropped Out: Kansas, Louisiana Tech
6: Big 12
4: AAC, Big Ten, Pac-12
2: Big West, CUSA, Southland, Sun Belt
1: A-10, A-Sun, America East, Big East, Big South, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Summit, SWAC, WAC, WCC