Bracketology: Purdue leaps into the field of 68

The first Friday projection of the 2014-15 campaign sees a few more changes than expected. Don’t expect that trend to change as the season winds down.

This post will be considerably shorter than my future Friday offerings, which will look more closely at who has bids locked up (hint: not many teams at the moment) and what’s becoming a very crowded bubble. For example, Purdue jumped all the way up into one of the final slots in this projection after only being in the “Also Considered” list on Tuesday. That’s how small the difference is right now between the final team in the field and a team 12 places out. So, expect a lot of volatility near the cut line between now and Selection Sunday night.

After the full bracket and rundown, I’ll offer up my weekend TV picks. Note that since conference play is halfway over in most cases, I’m now using actual conference leaders to fill the auto bid slots, using the KenPom projected record or ranking as a tiebreaker when necessary. This resulted in one at-large spot disappearing with American Athletic leader Tulsa bumping Illinois. The Ivy, which is only four games into a 14-game schedule, is the exception, which is why Harvard remains in over Yale, who has the league lead right now.

(1) MIDWEST
Cleveland (Thu/Sat)
(2) EAST
Syracuse (Fri/Sun)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
1 Kentucky (SEC) 1 Virginia (ACC)
16 Colgate/St. Francis-Brooklyn 16 New Mexico State/Sacramento State
8 SMU 8 88 Oklahoma State
9 Stanford 9 Dayton
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
5 Wichita State 5 Butler
12 Old Dominion/Ole Miss *122 Tulsa (American)
4 VCU (A 10) 4 Iowa State
13 William & Mary (CAA) 13 Iona (MAAC)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
6 Georgetown 6666 Ohio State
11 LSU/Purdue 11 Miami
3 Notre Dame 3 Utah
14 Harvard (Ivy) 14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
7 Indiana 7 Arkansas
10 Colorado State 10 George Washington
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 Wisconsin (Big Ten)
15 High Point (Big South) *15 Long Beach State (Big West)
(4) WEST
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
(3) SOUTH
Houston (Fri/Sun)
Seattle (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
1 Gonzaga (WCC) 1 Duke
*16 North Dakota State (Summit) 16 Texas Southern (SWAC)
8 Texas 8 Georgia
9 Seton Hall 9 Cincinnati
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Seattle (Fri/Sun)
5 West Virginia 5 Baylor
*12 Western Kentucky (C-USA) *12 Green Bay (Horizon)
4 Maryland 4 Northern Iowa (MVC)
13 Murray State (OVC) *13 Buffalo (MAC)
Jacksonville (Thu/Sat) Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)
6 Providence 6 Oklahoma
11 Wofford (SoCon) 11 Xavier
3 North Carolina 3 Louisville
*14 Georgia Southern (Sun Belt) 14 N.C. Central (MEAC)
Portland (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
7 Michigan State 7 San Diego State (MW)
10 Texas A&M 10 Iowa
2 Arizona (Pac-12) 2 Villanova (Big East)
15 Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun) 15 Albany (AE)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville Tuesday: To Louisville
16 Colgate (Patriot) *12 Old Dominion
16 St. Francis-Brooklyn (NEC) *12 Ole Miss
Wednesday: To Charlotte Wednesday: To Columbus
16 New Mexico State (WAC) 11 LSU
*16 Sacramento State (Big Sky) *11 Purdue

* = new team

BIDS BY CONFERENCE AVOIDING DAYTON ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big 12: 7 Iowa Buffalo Akron
Big Ten: 7 Texas A&M Georgia Southern Eastern Washington
ACC: 6 Miami Green Bay Georgia State
Big East: 6 Xavier Long Beach State Illinois
SEC: 6 LAST FOUR IN North Dakota State Louisiana Tech
American: 3 Purdue Old Dominion N.C. State
A 10: 3 LSU Ole Miss St. John’s
Pac-12: 3 Ole Miss Purdue South Dakota State
C-USA: 2 Old Dominion Sacramento State Tennessee
MVC: 2 FIRST FOUR OUT Tulsa UC Irvine
MW: 2 Illinois Western Kentucky Valparaiso
One-bid conferences: 21 UCLA
St. John’s
Temple
NEXT FOUR OUT
Clemson
Wyoming
Kansas State
Tennessee

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Boise State, BYU, Clemson, Davidson, Eastern Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pepperdine, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Mary’s, Washington

This Saturday, while not quite as packed as Super Bowl Eve on week ago, still features a hefty lineup of contests that will impact the races both at the top of the bracket and on the bubble. The Big Ten takes center stage on Sunday afternoon, while a pair of Big 12 tilts highlight Big Monday.

George Washington at Dayton , Friday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
VCU‘s two main rivals for the Atlantic 10 crown, a pair of teams currently on the right side of the cut line, meet for the only time during the regular season at UD Arena.

Illinois at Michigan State, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
This is the first of two meetings between the pair over a 15-day span. Even though both are on the bubble, a road win for the shorthanded Illini would be the most bracket-significant outcome.

Tennessee at Georgia, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Volunteers fell out this projection after a Tuesday night home loss to Mississippi State, so winning in Athens would be a nice response to that significant setback.

Baylor at West Virginia, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
After crushing both Texas and TCU by 20-plus in Waco, the Bears travel to Morgantown, where a Mountaineer team that was blown out by Oklahoma on Tuesday awaits.

Notre Dame at Duke, Saturday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
This is a rematch of the Fighting Irish’s thrilling 77-73 win on January 28th — one of the season’s most exciting games. I really don’t need to oversell this one.

Providence Friars at Xavier Musketeers, Saturday 1 p.m. ET (FS1)
On January 22nd, the Friars needed overtime to topple the Musketeers by three. On Saturday afternoon, they look to complete the season sweep, while Xavier needs to rebound from Wednesday night’s disappointing overtime loss to struggling Creighton.

Georgetown at Villanova , Saturday 2 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Hoyas were swept by Providence on Wednesday night, and a trip to Philadelphia to face a Wildcat team they stunned by 20 back on January 19th might not be much of a remedy for that disappointment.

Kansas at Oklahoma State, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
While the Cowboys are four losses behind the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race, they should still be capable of giving Kansas a scare in Stillwater.

Texas Longhorns at Kansas State, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The pair’s first meeting of the season comes at an important time for both. On Wednesday night, the Longhorns and Wildcats suffered deflating losses, to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, respectively. While Texas is still reasonably safe, K-State’s hopes are on life support after three straight losses (and due to a poor non-conference record).

Louisville at Virginia, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
On Saturday ago, the Cavaliers fell from the ranks of the undefeated. A loss to the Cardinals seven days later might just drop them from the top line, at least temporarily.

Buffalo at Akron, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Two of the five squads that are 6-3 in MAC play square off in Northeastern Ohio, for the first of three possible meetings. This would be a good one to scout if you’re looking for an upset-minded 12 or 13 seed come mid-March.

SMU at Tulsa, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
On Thursday, the Mustangs lost to Cincinnati at home, meaning this one won’t be for first place in the American after all. Still, SMU has an excellent chance to knock the Golden Hurricane from the ranks of the conference unbeaten.

Michigan at Indiana, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Wolverines’ hopes are on life support, so a victory in Bloomington in the pair’s only regular season meeting is vital.

Maryland at Iowa, Sunday 3:15 p.m. ET (BTN)
Even though the Terrapins have slid slightly, a win over them would still significantly boost the Hawkeyes’ case, especially since their stretch run is far easier than the gauntlet that was their early Big Ten schedule.

San Diego State at Boise State, Sunday 6 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
The Aztecs currently share the Mountain West lead with Wyoming, with both a game up on the Broncos, who have won six in a row. A Boise State win would get them closer to the at-large picture, but would not be enough to get them in, thanks to plenty of non-conference failings.

Oklahoma State at Baylor, Monday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
The Cowboys, winners by a 64-53 margin in Stillwater on January 27th, will aim to repeat the feat in Waco. However, the Bears have only lost once at the Ferrell Center all season, to Kansas.

Iowa State at Oklahoma , Monday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Cyclones and Sooners are both favored to win on Saturday, as they encounter TCU and Texas Tech, respectively, meaning they should each come into Monday’s showdown that will have a significant impact on the race for second in the Big 12.

And that’s just a sample of the games on the schedule for the next four days. Just think of the bracket havoc that may result on Tuesday when they’re all final.

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