Who's in? Our projected men's bracket

We have two extra at-large slots since the men's tournament expanded to 64 teams and we projected the last one to go to Ohio Wesleyan.

As usual our mock selections are a team effort. Dave McHugh, Ryan Scott and Bob Quilman did the heavy lfiting on Sunday's Hoopsville Selection Special. Matt Snyder helped with his indispensible strength-of-schedule work and Gordon Mann dutifully played scribe.

And, as usual, these picks do not influence the NCAA Tournament selection committee's picks, nor does our Top 25 poll. Those are the two most common misconceptions for people who don't like our picks. 

That said, here are our projections.

We start by projecting the regional rankings for each of the eight regions because that's how the process actually starts. The regional committees that have been producing those rankings do it one more time and then send them to the national tournament selection committee. That committee may make adjustments to the regional rankings, which can alter which teams are regionally ranked, which then changes some teams' records against regionally ranked opponents (one of the criteria in selecting at-large teams).

Eventually the national committee ends up with a final list of regional rankings, which we'll get to see after the projections are released this year. The rankings include teams that have clinched automatic bids, which are set aside for the bracketing stage. Then the highest ranked team without an AQ within each region comes to the table for consideration as an at-large candidate. There are eight teams up for consideration at any point, one from each region. When a team is picked, the next highest ranked team within that region comes to the table.

Here's the order of our selections, with the lucky winner noted in bold. In each case the regions are listed in the following order: Northeast, East, Atlantic, Middle Atlantic, Central, South, Great Lakes and West.

1st pick: Babson; Rochester; New Jersey City; Susquehanna; UW-Whitewater; Emory; Hope; Whitworth
2nd pick: Tufts; Rochester; New Jersey City; Susquehanna; UW-Whitewater; Emory; Hope; Whitworth
3rd pick: Tufts; Rochester; New Jersey City; Susquehanna; Augustana; Emory; Hope; Whitworth
4th pick: Tufts; Rochester; New Jersey City; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; Whitworth
5th pick: Tufts; Skidmore; New Jersey City; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; Whitworth

These teams essentially came off the board together. Don't worry too much about order at this point in the process because these teams are all in safely.

6th pick: Williams; Skidmore; New Jersey City; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; Whitworth

The Ephs were only nationally ranked for a moment, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is Williams has a great record against regionally ranked opponents. The Ephs' surge into the NESCAC final with wins over regionally ranked Amherst and Tufts was a major boon to their candidacy. Wesleyan takes Williams' place at the table.

7th pick: Wesleyan; Skidmore; New Jersey City; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; Whitworth

The Pirates' only three losses came to Whitman, which will likely be the No. 1 team in the country when the tournament starts. St. Thomas, which is the defending national champion, is the second at-large candidate up in the West.

8th pick: Wesleyan; Skidmore; New Jersey City; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; St. Thomas

Yes, it's another NESCAC pick. In addition to the Cardinals' scads of games against NESCAC foes, they have the benefit of beating Marietta, which is the top team in the Great Lakes region. With Wesleyan gone, yet another NESCAC team comes to the table -- preseason No. 1 Amherst.

9th pick: Amherst; Skidmore; New Jersey City; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; St. Thomas

We missed on the Gothic Knights last year, predicting they would get in when they didn't. This time they come off the board well before the point of extreme anxiety. Cabrini takes their place as the Atlantic region rep.

10th pick: Amherst; Skidmore; Cabrini; Salisbury; Augustana; Emory; Hope; St. Thomas

The Sea Gulls don't enter the tournament with a lot of momentum after losing three of their last four, but they could've arguably come off the board a round or so earlier and we're still far away from the danger point. Moravian takes the vacated slot in the Middle Atlantic region.

11th pick: Amherst; Skidmore; Cabrini; Moravian; Augustana; Emory; Hope; St. Thomas

This would give the NESCAC five representatives, including conference winner Middlebury. We believe that's a record for number of qualifiers from one conference on the men's side, at least in recent years, so let's pause for a moment.

The NESCAC is a really good conference. Is it that much better than the CCIW, WIAC or UAA that it deserves so many more at-large bids this year? Subjectively speaking, it isn't, but the committee uses objective criteria where the NESCAC looks really good. If the picks happen as we project, we'll probably talk a lot more about this. For now we move Keene State to the table in the Northeast.

12th pick: Keene State; Skidmore; Cabrini; Moravian; Augustana; Emory; Hope; St. Thomas
13th pick: Keene State; Skidmore; Cabrini; Moravian; Augustana; LeTourneau; Hope; St. Thomas
14th pick: Keene State; Skidmore; Cabrini; Moravian; Augustana; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas
15th pick: Keene State; St. Lawrence; Cabrini; Moravian; Augustana; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas
16th pick: Keene State; Brockport; Cabrini; Moravian; Augustana; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas
17th pick: Keene State; Brockport; TCNJ; Moravian; Augustana; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas 

We had a flury of picks here. Hope and Emory, which were at the table at the beginning, are taken next. Then the two Liberty League teams come off the board in succession, followed by a second spot for the CSAC. The CCIW finally gets its second team with the 17th pick and UW-Oshkosh takes that spot. 

And now things start to get sticky.

Again, our Top 25 has no bearing on these picks, but none of these teams have been ranked in a while, which gives you a sense how their seasons have gone.

Each team has a potentially fatal flaw. Oshkosh has a relatively low winning percentage (.630) in comparison to the .667 mark that has been do-or-die in prior years. LeTourneau and Mount St. Joseph have low strength-of-schedule numbers. St. Thomas has only three games against regionally ranked teams and lost two of them. When Keene State and Moravian came to the table, we thought they'd sit there a while, and they have. We have to take someone, though, so we forge ahead.

18th pick: Keene State; Brockport; TCNJ; Moravian; UW-Oshkosh; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas 

Keene State gets the nod after a long look at UW-Oshkosh. The Titans' 10-loss record is tough to look past. If it turns out we've made mistakes, this will be the point where it happened. Overlooking Oshkosh here is choosing winning percentage over strength of schedule and it blocks two good candidates in Illinois Wesleyan and UW-Eau Claire who will never make the table.

19th pick: Endicott; Brockport; TCNJ; Moravian; UW-Oshkosh; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas
20th pick: Mass-Dartmouth; Brockport; TCNJ; Moravian; UW-Oshkosh; LeTourneau; Mount St. Joseph; St. Thomas
21st pick: Mass-Dartmouth; Brockport; TCNJ; Moravian; UW-Oshkosh; LeTourneau; Ohio Wesleyan; St. Thomas

Endicott has 23 wins, including one over NESCAC champion Middlebury. Their other numbers are slightly better than Mount St. Joseph, so we took the Gulls next, but MSJ was right behind them. Mass-Dartmouth is the next representative from the New England region and Ohio Wesleyan arrived at the table from the Great Lakes. The last pick was a coin toss between Moravian and Ohio Wesleyan, and we took the Battling Bishops who have three more wins overall.

The hardest call was Oshkosh and we just couldn't get past the 17-10 record. It's very possible that the committee will do so, and we'd understand that. When you get to this point in the process, the picks won't be unanimous or easy.

So there you go. Our projected 21 at-large bids go to Amherst, Augustana, Babson, Cabrini, Emory, Endicott, Hope, Keene State, Mount St. Joseph, New Jersey City, Ohio Wesleyan, Rochester, Salisbury, Skidmore, St. Lawrence, Susquehanna, Tufts, Wesleyan, Whitewater, Whitworth, Williams.

Here's how we would pair them up:

Hosts are awarded for the most deserving teams wherever possible. We needed a host in the southeastern part of the country and Emory was the highest ranked to fit the bill.  We also needed an extra host in the northeast and Tufts women have priority, so Williams got the nod. Wash U and Scranton women are home, so we moved those pods to alternative venues. Finally, Hardin-Simmons deserved to host, but the budget only stretches so far.  Without further ado:

at Whitman: Whitworth vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps; Whitman vs. Texas Lutheran
at Emory: Guilford vs. Mount St. Joseph; Emory vs. LaGrange
at Christopher Newport: Swarthmore vs. Albertus Magnus; Christopher Newport vs. Farmingdale State
at Neumann: Wooster vs. Eastern Connecticut; Neumann vs. Salem State

at Marietta: Susquehanna vs. Staten Island; Marietta vs. Medaille
at St. John Fisher: Tufts vs. Ohio Wesleyan;  St. John Fisher vs. Becker
at Middlebury: Oswego State vs. Cabrini; Middlebury vs. Keene State
at Ramapo: Amherst vs. MIT; Ramapo vs. Husson

at Babson: Skidmore vs. Lycoming; Babson vs. Morrisville State
at Williams: Salisbury vs. St. Lawrence; Williams vs. Endicott
at New Jersey City: Wesleyan vs. New Jersey City University; Scranton vs. Union
at Rochester: Hope vs. Nichols; Rochester vs. Misericordia

at UW-River Falls: Bethel vs. North Central (Ill.); UW-River Falls vs. Northwestern (Minn.)
at Hanover: Benedictine vs. Rhodes; Hanover vs. Westminster (Mo.)
at UW-Whitewater: Augustana vs. Ripon; UW-Whitewater vs. Thomas More
at Wartburg: Hardin-Simmons vs. Wartburg; Washington U. vs. Calvin