In some seasons, the general picks that fill in lines # 11 and # 12 in the NCAA box (and those referenced to # 1 seeds in the NIT) are better than others. While it is possible that this year’s final is overall qualitatively better than previous selections on the edge of the field, it is also a mathematical fact that the 37th best team will make it to the tournament for the first time.

Whether this additional space will go to a particularly unworthy team is still far too early to say. Only a relatively small percentage of schools are in the middle of their league schedule, and almost every power conference team has at least 12 regular season games planned.

It can be a bit enlightening when people like Duke and North Carolina are on the edge right now, but experience shows that programs with a lot of talent and a track record have more than enough time to turn things around when they have less than -stellar CVs in mid-January.

Those titans of Tobacco Road need only look where Virginia sat at this time last year. The Cavaliers, fresh from a national title, were 12-6, fighting on the offensive after losing to NC State on Jan. 20. But they won 11 of their next 12 to end the regular season and were safe on the tournament field when the pandemic halted the season.

There is a lot of fluid at the moment. A good week against the right opponents can still make a noticeable difference to the rest of the field. Of course, if enough teams have bad weeks, one can assume that the annual rite of bubble bashing will be on its way to a climax.

Field notes

The last four were: Wichita State, Indiana, Duke, Pittsburgh

The first four outside: Loyola Chicago, North Carolina, Stanford, Colorado

The next four outside: Marquette, Maryland, San Diego State, St. Bonaventure

Conference call: Big Ten (10), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big East (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), Atlantic 10 (3), American Athletic (2), Berg West (2), West Coast (2)

Moved in: Georgia State, Jacksonville, Montana State, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Maryland Baltimore County, Utah State, Wichita State

Excerpt: Carolina Coast, Liberty, North Carolina, State of NC, State of San Diego, Southern Utah, Stanford, Stony Brook

Bracket projection

West against East, South against Midwest

(1) WEST COAST / Gonzaga vs. (16) MID-EASTERN / Florida A & M-BIG SKY / State of Montana

(8) MOUNTAIN WEST / Boise State versus (9) Xavier

(5) PAC-12 / UCLA versus (12) Duke / Wichita State

(4) Ohio State vs. (13) SOUTHERN / Furman

(3) ACC / Virginia versus (14) BIG WEST / UC Irvine

(6) Illinois versus (11) ATLANTIC 10 / Virginia Commonwealth

(7) Connecticut versus (10) Rutgers

(2) Texas vs. (15) WESTERN ATHLETIC / Grand Canyon

There weren’t many semi-heavy bullets Gonzaga could dodge in conference play. The trip to Saint Mary’s counted as one. After a 14-point win later (while hitting a season low of 73 points), Gonzaga should trigger blowouts again for at least a few weeks. … who knows how the committee would deal with Duke? Slotting the Blue Devils in a play-in game is basically a boat for this exercise. …

The metrics love Illinois, but it’s a 9-5 team with a few stumbling blocks at home. It probably belongs on line # 6 or # 7 at this point … Connecticut-Rutgers would not only be a rematch of old Big East rivals, it would be the first pair of former American Athletic teams to enter the postseason. You can look it up.

(1) BIG EAST / Villanova vs. (16) NORTHEAST / Bryant

(8) Louisville versus (9) Purdue

(5) Oregon versus (12) MID-AMERICAN / Toledo

(4) SEC / Alabama vs. (13) SUMMIT / South Dakota State

(3) Texas Tech versus (14) SUN BELT / Georgia State

(6) Virginia Tech versus (11) Arkansas

(7) Saint Louis versus (10) Utah State

(2) Michigan versus (15) HORIZON / Cleveland State

Villanova is expected to return to action on Tuesday against Seton Hall, the first game in 27 days. On Saturday, Saint Louis is set to end a 31-day layoff and hit St. Bonaventure. … You can tell that a program had a long drought in NCAA tournaments when it played in the Middle East bracket in its previous appearance. Such is the case with Toledo, which last received an NCAA nod in 1980. …

Alabama is in the SEC game for the first time since their eighth straight win 6-0 to start the 1986-87 league schedule. The Crimson Tide had a good test at LSU on Tuesday. … A tip for the state of Utah, which overtook the state of San Diego last weekend to bring their winning streak to 10. The Aggies have kept their last seven opponents below 60 points and rank eighth on KenPom.com’s customized metric for defensive efficiency.

(1) BIG 12 / Baylor vs. (16) ATLANTIC SUN / Jacksonville-SOUTHWESTERN / Southern

(8) Minnesota versus (9) Brigham Young

(5) Missouri versus (12) Indiana / Pittsburgh

(4) Colorado vs. (13) ATLANTIC SUN / Belmont

(3) AMERICAN ATHLETIC / Houston versus (14) SOUTHLAND / Abilene Christian

(6) Clemson vs. (11) Oklahoma

(7) West Virginia versus (10) Seton Hall

(2) Wisconsin vs. (15) COLONIAL / Northeastern

If only Minnesota could play all of its games at home. The Big Ten games at Williams Arena make it 4-0, which translates into an average profit margin of 16.8 points. It’s 0-4 in league games and is defeated averaging 19.8 points. … Colorado is getting a bit of a boost (# 7 on the NET through Sunday), but the Buffaloes earned all 11 of their wins by at least seven points, beating Oregon and Southern California, and having no puzzling losses. …

Clemson is not nearly as bad as it looked against Virginia. However, this competition is a great reminder that teams could take long breaks early in the postseason and get unusually out of rhythm. Speaking of breaks: West Virginia will play Kansas State on Saturday, their first game in 14 days.

(1) BIG TEN / Iowa vs. (16) AMERICA EAST / UMBC

(8) LSU vs. (9) MISSOURI VALLEY / Drake

(5) Florida State vs. (12) Richmond

(4) Creighton vs. (13) CONFERENCE USA / UAB

(3) Kansas versus (14) METRO ATLANTIC / Siena

(6) Southern California vs. (11) BIG SOUTH / Winthrop

(7) Oklahoma State vs. (10) Michigan State

(2) Tennessee versus (15) PATRIOT / Navy

UMBC as seed No. 16? What could possibly happen there? … The last time Creighton dropped a conference game that it could and should have won, it started a six-game winning streak. The Bluejays are bringing Providence and Connecticut home this week. …

Winthrop is 13-0 and won 18 in a row from last season. There are also no Quadrant 1 wins and only one Quadrant 2 win (Furman), and there are no more opportunities for high-end wins. It would be a wonderful case study to see how the committee treated the Eagles if they got their way. … Michigan State is expected to play Illinois on Saturday, the first game in 15 days. The Spartans hold on to this exercise, at least for the time being.