Conference season has started in earnest, and it's time to reflect on where teams stand for the NCAA Tournament.
This isn't Bracketology. We'll leave that to the Professor of Bracketology, Joe Lunardi. This is merely an exercise. We have solicited some outside opinion from some trusted sources to ensure that we're on the right path.
At-large bids are usually developed in nonconference games, but they are earned in conference play. Plenty of teams can salvage a bid by playing well enough in a high-major conference. Mid-major and low-major teams don't have as much room for error. They usually have to earn their bid by at least picking off someone of note in nonconference games.
Don't look for a magic number in a conference, and the selection committee won't discriminate against sub-.500 conference teams in a high-major conference (read: especially in the ACC this season).
The RPI doesn't mean squat right now and won't until things start to really shake out by February. It probably would only make sense to look at the RPI in February, not November, December or January. And the RPI is just a tool, not a deciding factor.
The selection committee always goes through a similar exercise the first day of selection weekend. They go around the room and each committee member, who is assigned three or four conferences, will give a report. They will discuss the good wins, good losses and bad losses as well as injuries and game reports to get a better understanding of what occurred.
They examine each conference by conference to get a handle on the pool of teams they're dealing with as they start the selection process.
So, here is our early assessment. If the conference isn't listed, then it means it's likely a one-bid league, meaning the conference tournament champ is the lone representative. Remember, there are 34 at-large spots and that's what we're concerned with here:
Ten of the 11 teams are still in play for bids with Virginia Tech the only school that is likely out of the chase.
We don't see how Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Maryland will play their way out of the field. But for the purpose of this exercise, we'll continue to point out the wins of note.
Duke: Good wins over Michigan State and Oklahoma in New York.
North Carolina: Good win in Maui over Iowa, USC, at Indiana, Kentucky
Wake Forest: Won Preseason NIT by beating George Washington at home, Providence and Arizona in New York; Texas, at New Mexico; only loss at Illinois.
Maryland: Best win is over Memphis in Springfield, Mass.; good losses at Wisconsin and to GW in D.C.
Georgia Tech: Best wins are at Illinois-Chicago, Michigan, Georgia and over Air Force, which isn't going to help seeding. Good losses to Gonzaga in Las Vegas and at Kansas.
Miami: Best win is at Florida and at home over Massachusetts; bad loss to South Carolina State at home.
N.C. State: Best win is over Purdue and at BYU, which once again isn't saying much. Bad loss was to St. John's in New York; good loss at Washington and possibly to West Virginia at home.
Virginia: Great win over Arizona, good win over Richmond, at Northwestern and over Auburn; good loss at Iowa State.
Clemson: Good wins at South Carolina and Ohio State; good loss at Boston College; bad loss to Georgetown at home.
Florida State: Good wins at Minnesota, at Ole Miss, Florida; Bad loss: Florida International.
Clemson, Miami, Florida State, Virginia and N.C. State have the most work to do in the ACC. Where the wins come from will be important. These teams must beat a few of the top teams in the league.
George Washington: The Colonials are the only team that has left its mark in nonconference games. GW has good wins over Maryland, Michigan State as well as good losses at Wake Forest and at West Virginia.
At-large bids: The consensus is that the A-10 will only get a second team in the field if GW doesn't win the conference tournament or UMass, Temple or Xavier have stellar A-10 records. UMass has the win over Connecticut; Temple beat Villanova and Xavier won at Miami and beat Iowa State.
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas seem to be the only locks at this juncture.
Kansas: Great win over Georgia Tech; good wins over South Carolina, Pacific, Vermont, TCU, Nevada, UWM all as the home team.
Oklahoma State: Great win over Syracuse in New York; good wins at UNLV, UAB and at SMU. Good loss: Gonzaga in Oklahoma City.
Texas: Good win at Seton Hall, also beat Tennessee in Maui and UNLV at home; Good losses to Iowa in Maui and at Wake Forest.
Texas A&M: Best wins were over Houston and at Penn State. Nothing else stands out, and this team must win quality games in the Big 12.
Kansas State: Best win was at Wyoming. Not much else to put on re´sume´ outside of gaudy record.
Oklahoma: Best win was over Minnesota in Alaska and at Purdue; good losses were to Washington and Duke in New York.
Iowa State: Best win was over Virginia; the good losses are mounting with Iowa, Northern Iowa and Xavier all on the road.
Missouri: Best wins were over Indiana and Gonzaga at home; questionable losses were to Arkansas and Davidson at home and then Creighton and Houston on neutral court in Kansas City.
Texas Tech: Best win is at UTEP; Good losses to Ohio State in Dallas and Iowa in Chicago, although by a wide margin.
Kansas State, Texas A&M, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Missouri and Oklahoma still have loads of work to do in the Big 12 to earn a bid.
Villanova has a nifty record with only one loss but doesn't have a good win yet. Seton Hall doesn't own one either. So, those teams still have lots to prove. The Wildcats will get a chance with Kansas coming to Philadelphia this month.
Boston College: Good wins over Clemson, UCLA in Anaheim, at UMass, Kent State. But Big East record still needs to be solid.
West Virginia: Best wins in the league at LSU, George Washington and at N.C. State.
Syracuse: Good wins over Mississippi State and Memphis in New York; good loss to Oklahoma State in New York.
Pittsburgh: Good wins over Memphis in New York, South Carolina and Richmond at home; bad loss to Bucknell at home.
Connecticut: Good win over Indiana at home; plenty of chances coming up with road game at Oklahoma and North Carolina at home.
Notre Dame: Best win was at Indiana; lost at home to DePaul and at Michigan.
Providence: Best wins were over Michigan, at Memphis and at San Diego State; bad loss was to Winthrop at home and what could turn out to be a good loss at home was to Wichita State. Also lost to Florida in Miami and Wake Forest in New York.
Rutgers: Best win was at Charlotte and had a good win at Kansas State for the Wildcats only loss; good loss at Air Force and to Wisconsin at home but also lost at home to Penn State.
Villanova, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Providence and Notre Dame have the most work to do, but the others can't afford to falter too much, either.
Illinois: A lock (just look at good wins over Gonzaga in Indianapolis, Wake Forest, at Arkansas, at Georgetown, Oregon in Chicago and Cincinnati in Las Vegas).
Iowa: Strong candidate with wins over Louisville and Texas in Maui, at Drake, Iowa State, Texas Tech in Chicago, Air Force and a good loss to North Carolina in Maui.
Wisconsin: Big wins over Maryland, Alabama at home and at Rutgers; loss at Pepperdine shouldn't hurt.
Michigan State: Best wins were over Stanford and UCLA in the state but losses at Duke and to GW in D.C. are quality defeats.
Michigan: Best win is over Notre Dame at home; good losses were to Arizona and Providence in New York and at Georgia Tech and UCLA; bad loss might be Boston University at home, depending on the Terriers. Michigan still has plenty of work to do but is getting healthier with Daniel Horton returning to the lineup.
Indiana: Played a tough schedule but didn't win any of the six quality nonconference games. The Hoosiers must have a winning record, possibly 10 wins to get a sniff from the selection committee.
Once again this conference, which got six teams in last season, is going to be tough to figure.
Marquette: A quality win over Wisconsin and a good loss to Arizona at home as well as a good win over Air Force.
Cincinnati: Won at Dayton, beat Purdue and Miami of Ohio and had a quality loss to Illinois in Las Vegas.
Louisville: Won at Florida and had a quality loss to Kentucky at home.
Charlotte: Won at Indiana on a buzzer beater and won road games at Valparaiso and at Davidson to stay undefeated on the road. Lost a triple overtime game to Alabama at home and a game to Rutgers at home, so the 49ers are looking strong.
UAB: Beat Clemson in Hawaii and won games at South Alabama, at Marshall and beat Nebraska at home. The Blazers had a good loss at Oklahoma State, but were handled down the stretch at Richmond. UAB also lost to USC late in Hawaii. The Blazers still need to improve the re´sume´.
DePaul: The Blue Demons are getting better every game, but their best win is at Notre Dame. Losing to Northern Illinois, at Bradley and at Northwestern puts this team back a few pegs.
Memphis: Played a great schedule but only has one win, a road win at Purdue and a neutral site win over Saint Mary's that stands out in name only. The Tigers have quality losses to Maryland in Springfield, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in New York and to Providence at home. But also lost to Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech at home.
The safe bets are likely Louisville, Charlotte, Cincinnati and probably Marquette. UAB, DePaul, Memphis and anyone else has to prove it even more in the league.
Wichita State: In the best position with wins at Providence, Tulsa and at Austin Peay. The only loss was at home to Manhattan. But the Shockers still need to finish in the top two.
Southern Illinois: Beat Vanderbilt, UTEP, Saint Louis and Wyoming, putting the Salukis in position, too.
Bradley: Beat DePaul and Pepperdine.
Creighton: Beat Missouri and Ohio State in Kansas City, Xavier on the road, and won at Nebraska.
Northern Iowa: Beat Iowa State and had a quality loss at Iowa.
But the likely scenario is two teams receiving bids, possibly three if a third team were to win the tournament that didn't finish first or second.
This could be a one bid league, although Utah is starting to distance itself from the pack with wins over Colorado and LSU at home. The Utes had a quality loss at Arizona and to Washington in Alaska. But the Utes still need to finish first or second.
New Mexico: Beat Tennessee and Santa Clara at home and had quality losses to Wake Forest and at Oregon, but the Lobos need to be right with Utah for a bid.
UNLV: Won at Cal, Auburn and beat Oregon State and had a quality loss to Oklahoma State at home, but the Runnin' Rebels are hardly a safe bet.
Air Force: Has wins over Ole Miss and Rutgers and quality losses to Marquette and Georgia Tech, but the Falcons likely have to win the league.
Arizona: A lock by January this season after playing a tougher nonconference schedule and winning quality games. The Wildcats have good wins at Marquette, over Michigan in New York, Mississippi State in Anaheim and over Utah and Wyoming at home. The Wildcats have a good loss to Wake Forest in New York and a decent loss at Virginia.
Washington: A lock after winning the Great Alaska Shootout over Utah, Oklahoma and Alabama and a win over N.C. State at home. The lone loss is a quality one to Gonzaga.
Arizona State: Has a gaudy record but best wins are over Vanderbilt in Las Vegas, at Temple and over Northwestern and Santa Clara, probably not a tournament team in the bunch. Loss to UTEP is fine in Las Vegas, but the Sun Devils need to earn it in the league.
Oregon State: Has a great record but lost to a bad Georgia team in Atlanta, East Carolina in Raleigh and at UNLV and its best nonconference win is over Colorado. Once again, not a tourney team in the bunch, leaving the Beavers to earn it in the Pac-10.
Oregon: Beat New Mexico, won at Marshall, took out Vanderbilt and won at Fresno State. The Ducks lost to Illinois in Chicago. But the Ducks must make a stand in the league.
UCLA: Beat Pepperdine and Michigan at home and had quality losses at Michigan State and to Boston College in Anaheim. But the Bruins must have a top-four finish to be considered.
Stanford, USC and Cal all lack quality nonconference wins to be considered at this juncture.
Kentucky: A lock with wins over Indiana in Louisville, at Louisville and a quality loss at North Carolina.
Mississippi State: Undefeated in true road games this season and had wins over Saint Mary's in New York, at Xavier, at New Orleans and Virginia Tech in New Orleans. The good losses were to Arizona in Anaheim and Syracuse in New York, putting them in lock status.
Alabama: Has played a strong schedule and appears to be a lock with wins at Charlotte, over Minnesota in Alaska, Temple and at Alabama State. The quality losses were to Washington in Alaska and at Wisconsin.
Florida: The Gators beat Providence in Miami and had a good loss to Louisville at home, but the loss to Miami at home and at Florida State mean this squad needs to do more work in the league.
Arkansas: Has a quality loss to Illinois in Little Rock but the best win for the Razorbacks is at Missouri. The Hogs have more to do in the SEC to earn their keep.
South Carolina: Has a win over Temple but a losses at home to Clemson and at Pittsburgh. That's fine but the Gamecocks need to do much more for a bid.
Auburn: Beat Temple on the road, but that's about it for the Tigers.
LSU doesn't own a quality win yet and Ole Miss' best work was at Memphis. Florida and Arkansas are likely the two teams that could end up getting bids by winning enough games in the SEC amid this bubble group.
No team in the league has a big-time nonconference win. UTEP is probably in the best situation with a win over Arizona State in Las Vegas and a close loss to Southern Illinois.
Rice and Hawaii would need gaudy league records for consideration. Rice has quality losses at Syracuse and Connecticut.
Gonzaga: A lock with wins over Washington, Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City, Georgia Tech in Las Vegas and UMass in Seattle. Quality losses were to Illinois in Indianapolis and at Missouri.
Santa Clara: Has two quality wins over North Carolina in Oakland and Stanford but has lost too many games since like those to Central Connecticut and Yale.
Saint Mary's: Best shot is to win the league or tie with Gonzaga without a quality win outside of winning at Cal.
Pepperdine: Beat Wisconsin and UNLV at home, but that's about it for the Waves.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.