by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

We are now into single-digit days before Selection Sunday and as usual the proverbial "bubble” is going to transform from soft to something more approaching solid in the run-up to March 13. By that point, asis usually the case, there will probably be few mysteries left as to the composition of the field, with a handful of at-large places remaining the only question marks.

Of course, that list can contract within the next ten days if any of the notorious “bubble thieves” surface in conference tourney action. Last March we saw Georgetown and Oregon State out of nowhere steal auto bids out of the Big East and Pac-12, respectively, with the Beavers progressing all of the way to the Elite 8 (don’t expect lightning to strike twice this March for the Beavers). Also, the tourney is shaping up to perhaps have a bit more room for the mid-majors, though we suspect the Mountain West is going to swallow up most of those bids (currently we have four MW entries penciled into our field of 68).

Now is also as good of a time as any to remind of a subtle change in the metrics used by the Selection Committee in recent years. With the old RPI effectively replaced by the new NET, we generally arrive at the same place, only now the measurements are swayed even more toward the power conference teams, as the powers-that-be have devised a system that rewards quality (“Quadrant 1") wins but doesn’t really punish team for losses unless they fall into the Quadrant 2, 3 ,or 4 categories. Which is why a team from the Big East like Xavier, which has seemingly forgotten how to win, can still be appearing in most bracket projections despite the fact the Musketeers continue to lose down the stretch. Similarly, a team like Michigan State seems to be in little danger even after losing in six of its last eight. The days of the Dance in the early 80s when Dave Gavitt was the chair and a premium was placed on how a team finished a season (the old “las ten games” factor) is long gone. Conference standings also play little or no role any longer except for those entries who gain the auto qualifier out of their leagues. The entire season’s worth of results is measured, so a team finishing third in the Big Ten is not necessarily going to be rated higher by the Selection Committee than a team finishing in seventh place in the conference.

For all of the alterations, however, the eventual fields look much the same as in years past, and we suspect no one is going to notice much difference in the composition of the 2022 field from those in the recent past. .

Following are our Big Dance projections as of March 3. We retain the right to be a little more flexible than some bracketologists and project future results into some of the calculations (such as putting Duke on the top line, as we suspect the Blue Devils have a better chance of winning their conference tourney than some of the other contenders for Number one seeds). After all, projecting results is what we do at TGS!

Current loop breakdowns for the Dance as follows:

Big Ten-8
Big East-7
Big 12-6
Mountain West-4
Pac 12- 3
West Coast-2

1-Gonzaga, Arizona, Duke, Baylor
2-Kansas, Auburn, Purdue, Kentucky
3-Villanova, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Illinois
4-Arkansas, Houston, UCLA, Providence
5-Texas, UConn, Alabama, Texas Tech
6-USC, Saint Mary’s, Iowa, LSU
7-Ohio State, Boise State, Murray State, Seton Hall
8-Notre Dame, Michigan State, Colorado State, TCU
9-Wake Forest, Iowa State, Marquette, Miami-Fla
10-Creighton, Davidson, North Carolina, Michigan
11-Xavier, North Texas, South Dakota State, San Diego State
12-Rutgers, Iona, Florida*, Virginia Tech*, Memphis*, Wyoming*
13-New Mexico State, Chattanooga, Northern Iowa, Toledo
14-Towson, Vermont, Princeton, Montana State
15-Colgate, Cleveland State, Jacksonville State, Texas State
16-Bryant, Long Beach State, Texas Southern*, Norfolk State*, Winthrop*, Nicholls*

*- Play-in game participants

Last four in- Florida, Virginia Tech, Memphis, Wyoming
Last four byes- Rutgers, Xavier, San Diego State, Michigan
Last four out- USF, Loyola-Chicago, SMU, Oregon
Next four out- Indiana, Virginia, BYU, VCU

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