The Washington Times - January 30, 2012, 10:04AM

As is almost always the case, the middle of a projected NCAA tournament field is starting to take shape by the end of January. The No. 9 and No. 10 seeds now have increasingly tourney-like profiles, while the final half-dozen or slots remain a fluid situation and subject to erratic changes.

For example, Notre Dame – a team with basically no nonconference profile to speak of – beat Seton Hall and Connecticut this week to vault into the field. The Irish were a complete afterthought a week ago.

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Those sorts of leaps will be harder to come by deep into February, let alone in early March. But for the moment, it’s more than plausible.

Here’s the full 68-team projection for the week:

EAST REGION

Pittsburgh

(1) BIG EAST/Syracuse vs. (16) BIG SOUTH/UNC Asheville-AMERICA EAST/Stony Brook
(8) Temple vs. (9) Memphis

Portland

(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) SUN BELT/Middle Tennessee
(5) WEST COAST/Saint Mary’s vs. (12) Iowa State

Nashville

(3) Florida vs. (14) SOUTHERN/Davidson
(6) San Diego State vs. (11) BIG WEST/Long Beach State

Omaha

(2) Missouri vs. (15) PATRIOT/Bucknell
(7) Virginia vs. (10) Purdue

SOUTH REGION

Louisville

(1) SOUTHEASTERN/Kentucky vs. (16) NORTHEAST/Long Island
(8) Wichita State vs. (9) PAC-12/California

Nashville

(4) Michigan vs. (13) SUMMIT/Oral Roberts
(5) Louisville vs. (12) Mississippi/Saint Louis

Omaha

(3) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (14) MID-AMERICAN/Akron
(6) Gonzaga vs. (11) Colorado State

Greensboro

(2) ATLANTIC COAST/Duke vs. (15) COLONIAL/George Mason
(7) Illinois vs. Seton Hall

MIDWEST REGION

Pittsburgh

(1) Ohio State vs. (16) BIG SKY/Weber State
(8) Connecticut vs. (9) New Mexico

Portland

(4) MISSOURI VALLEY/Creighton vs. (13) ATLANTIC 10/Massachusetts
(5) Vanderbilt vs. (12) Notre Dame/Washington

Louisville

(3) Georgetown vs. (14) METRO ATLANTIC/Iona
(6) Florida State vs. (11) Dayton

Albuquerque

(2) Baylor vs. (15) ATLANTIC SUN/Belmont
(7) Mississippi State vs. (10) Minnesota

WEST REGION

Greensboro

(1) North Carolina vs. (16) SWAC/Mississippi Valley State-SOUTHLAND/Texas-Arlington
(8) Kansas State vs. (9) CONFERENCE USA/Southern Mississippi

Columbus

(4) Marquette vs. (13) WESTERN ATHLETIC/Nevada
(5) Indiana vs. (12) IVY/Harvard

Albuquerque

(3) MOUNTAIN WEST/UNLV vs. (14) HORIZON/Cleveland State
(6) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State vs. (11) Xavier

Columbus

(2) BIG TEN/Michigan State vs. (15) MID-EASTERN/Norfolk State
(7) West Virginia vs. (10) Alabama

Last four in: Washington, Saint Louis, Mississippi, Notre Dame
First four out: Arkansas, Oregon, Northwestern, N.C. State
Next four out: Cincinnati, Miami, Texas, Brigham Young

Conference call: Big East (8), Big Ten (8), SEC (6), Atlantic 10 (5), Big 12 (5), ACC (4), Mountain West (4), Conference USA (2), Missouri Valley (2), Pac-12 (2), West Coast (2)

Patrick Stevens