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Updated: Sunday March 16, 2003 5:30 PM


From Thursday to Selection Sunday, Stewart Mandel
gives the lowdown on who's in and who's out.

  Hollis Price Will Hollis Price and Oklahoma play their way into a No. 1 seed?
AP

Only hours remain until the official NCAA tournament bracket is unveiled. Below is our last educated guess, but first a quick explanation about the two parts you're probably most concerned about: the top and the bottom.

Despite the rash of conference tournament upsets, our four No. 1 seeds, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas and Texas, haven't changed since last week. The reason: Most of the next logical contenders -- Syracuse, Marquette, Wake Forest -- also lost this weekend.

The one exception, of course, is Oklahoma, which has advanced further in the Big 12 tournament than either the Jayhawks or Longhorns. But in assessing teams from the same conference, the selection committee has generally put more credence in the regular season than the tourney. Kansas won the championship, and Texas beat OU both times they played.

The same rule applies in establishing a pecking order among the SEC's numerous bubble teams. While Alabama and Auburn are ranked higher than Tennessee in the RPI, the Vols finished with the better conference record while playing in the tougher East division, where it had to face Kentucky, Florida and Georgia twice. Tennessee is the only one of the three that makes our cut.

Admittedly, we're making a big assumption that the committee will reward three mid-majors -- Gonzaga, Butler and Southern Illinois -- that won their conference but lost in their tournament's title game. Part of the reason is there simply aren't a lot of middle-of-the-pack major-conference teams that have respectable cases. Texas Tech, for instance, though it reached the Big 12 semifinals, went 6-10 in the regular season.

Two teams on the opposite end of the spectrum are the Big East's Seton Hall and Boston College, which both went 10-6 in the league.

The Pirates, a miserable 3-12 against top 100 teams, may have been bumped by the conference tourney runs of teams like N.C. State and Indiana, which now seem to be solid tourneys entrants. The Eagles, on the other hand, have benefited -- their road wins against both the Wolfpack and Connecticut now carry more weight.


Breaking down the bubble (teams in RED are in)
In good shape Still alive Ruled out
Colorado (20-11)
Indiana (20-12)
LSU (21-10)
N.C. State (18-12)
Arizona State (18-11)
Boston College (18-11)
Butler (25-5)
Gonzaga (23-8)
Southern Illinois (24-6)
Tennessee (17-10)
Alabama (17-11)
Auburn (18-10)
Seton Hall (17-12)
Texas Tech (18-12)
UNLV (21-10)
Ohio State (17-14)
DePaul (16-12)
Providence (16-13)
St. John's (16-13)
St. Louis (16-13)
Minnesota (16-12)
North Carolina (17-15)
UAB (19-12)
Wyoming (20-10)

Filling out the Dance Card
KEY:
 
Automatic Bids
 
Projected
 
Locks
 
Bubble Teams
No.  East  Midwest  South  West 
 1  Kentucky  Kansas  Texas  Arizona 
 2  Pittsburgh  Marquette  Syracuse  Oklahoma 
 3  Wake Forest  Duke  Florida  Louisville 
 4  Xavier  Illinois  Stanford  Dayton 
 5  Memphis  Utah  Wisconsin  Mississippi St. 
 6  Missouri  Connecticut  Maryland  Notre Dame 
 7  California  Creighton  Oklahoma St.  Michigan St. 
 8  St. Joe's  Oregon  LSU  BYU 
 9  Purdue  Indiana  Cincinnati  Colorado 
10  Gonzaga  Arizona St.  So. Illinois  Tennessee 
11  NC Wilmington  UW-Milwaukee  Butler  N.C. State 
12  C. Michigan  Boston College  W. Kentucky  Weber State 
13  Holy Cross  Manhattan  Penn  Tulsa 
14  Colorado St.  Troy State  Austin Peay  San Diego 
15  Wagner  Utah State  Sam Houston  E. Tennessee St. 
16 
Texas Southern/
NC Asheville
IUPUI  Vermont  S.C. State 
Compiled as if Selection Sunday was March 15. Teams are not matched to locations.

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