SEE ALSO: Projected Field of 64
With the season halfway complete, now's the perfect time to start piecing together the postseason picture. This Field of 64 will fluctuate over the next few weeks, as teams still have ample opportunity to rise and fall. But this exercise should provide a useful snapshot of where programs stand right now.
Oregon State, clearly, is the frontrunner for the top national seed. The Beavers have won 20 games in a row, rank No. 1 in the RPI on WarrenNolan.com and are the first team to open Pac-12 play 9-0 since the conference eliminated its division format in 1999. They've lost just once all year—on Feb. 24 in a neutral site game against Ohio State—and are coming off of impressive back-to-back sweeps of Arizona and Stanford.
The Tar Heels have the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country, according to WarrenNolan.com and are coming off of their first-ever road sweep of Florida State in Tallahassee. The Tar Heels have won every ACC series, and a season-opening sweep of Kentucky is looking more impressive, as the Wildcats now project as one of the 16 regional hosts. No. 4-seed Clemson and No. 7-seed Louisville round out the ACC teams in the top eight, with fast-rising Wake Forest—No. 15 in the RPI—projected as a regional host, as well.
In the Big 12, Texas Tech currently has the best resume, ranking No. 5 in the RPI, with Texas Christian at No. 9. However, Oklahoma could enter the national seed conversation if the Sooners continue to trend up. They won key conference series against both the Red Raiders and Baylor. They rank No. 19 in the RPI but could continue to surge.
The Southeastern Conference is a little more up in the air, especially with Auburn and Kentucky shaking up the SEC's traditional power structure. As of now, Florida, which ranks No. 6 in the RPI, seems like the safest bet, but the Tigers, Wildcats, South Carolina and Arkansas are all within striking distance. The SEC has nine schools projected to earn regional bids—the most in the country.
In the Pac-12, Oregon State and Arizona rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the RPI respectively. The standings are cloudier behind those two programs, with Stanford, Oregon and Washington looking likeliest to earn regional bids. A hot UCLA team could earn its way into that mix, as well.
As for now, the 13-13 Bruins are firmly on the bubble, and are among the first four out, joined by South Florida, Texas A&M and Central Florida. North Carolina State and East Carolina—both Top 25 teams in the preseason—are on shaky ground. Neither team has played up to its talent level at this point but are on the right side of the bubble for now.
The field is still very much shaking itself out at this point of the season. RPI is meaningful at this point, but is still normalizing. Some teams projected as hosts or to get at-large bids still have work to do to improve their RPI, such as Auburn, which is No. 37, and Louisiana-Lafayette, which is No. 82. We still believe both will be able to get their RPI to a level they would need to host (in Auburn’s case) or make a regional (in Louisiana’s case).
St. John’s is projected as a host for now. This could end up being one of the committee’s more difficult decisions later this spring. The Red Storm is No. 18 in RPI, in range for a host, but that number will likely fall because they have just nine games left against teams in the top 150 of RPI and no more top 50 opponents. St. John’s will likely need to dominate the Big East Conference this season to remain a host.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64
|Corvallis, OR||New York|
|1. (1) Oregon State^*||1. St. John’s^*|
|2. Missouri State||2. Virginia|
|3. Mississippi||3. Connecticut|
|4. Niagara*||4. Binghamton*|
|Chapel Hill, NC||Columbia, SC|
|1. (2) North Carolina^*||1. South Carolina^|
|2. McNeese State*||2. West Virginia|
|3. Charlotte||3. North Carolina State|
|4. Navy*||4. Liberty*|
|Lubbock, TX||Winston-Salem, NC|
|1. (3) Texas Tech^*||1. Wake Forest^|
|2. New Mexico*||2. Mississippi State|
|3. Washington||3. Coastal Carolina*|
|4. New Mexico State*||4. UNC Wilmington*|
|Clemson, SC||Auburn, AL|
|1. (4) Clemson^||1. Auburn^|
|2. Baylor||2. Florida State|
|3. East Carolina||3. Oregon|
|4. Mercer*||4. Alabama State*|
|Gainesville, FL||Norman, OK|
|1. (5) Florida^*||1. Oklahoma^|
|2. Florida Gulf Coast*||2. Louisiana State|
|3. Southeastern Louisiana State||3. Old Dominion|
|4. Bethune-Cookman*||4. Oral Roberts*|
|Fort Worth||Fayetteville, AR|
|1. (6) Texas Christian^||1. Arkansas^|
|2. Houston*||2. Southern Mississippi*|
|3. Dallas Baptist*||3. Oklahoma State|
|4. Bryant*||4. Louisiana-Lafayette|
|1. (7) Louisville^||1. Kentucky^|
|2. Michigan||2. Maryland*|
|3. Kent State*||3. Wright State*|
|4. Dartmouth*||4. Morehead State*|
|Tucson, AZ||Fullerton, CA|
|1. (8) Arizona^||1. Cal State Fullerton^*|
|2. Long Beach State||2. Stanford|
|3. Vanderbilt||3. Minnesota|
|4. Rhode Island*||4. San Diego*|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
Last Four In: Mississippi, North Carolina State, East Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette
First Four Out: South Florida, Texas A&M, Central Florida, UCLA
Next Four Out: Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, Loyola Marymount
Bids by Conference:
6: Big 12
3: American, Big Ten, Conference USA
2: Sun Belt, Big West, Missouri Valley, Southland
1: A-10, A-Sun, America East, Big East, Big South, CAA, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Summit, SWAC, WAC, WCC