Editor's note: Charlie Creme will project the 2004 NCAA Tournament bracket each month throughout the season. Click here for a glance at this month's field of 64.
You've already seen which teams we predict to reach the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Now here's why (projected pairings listed below):
1. LSU: Subtract the slip at Rutgers and there's no debate who the nation's best team is.
2. Michigan State: After Sunday's convincing win over Minnesota, Spartans are clear No. 2 in Big Ten.
3. Texas Tech: Two losses are by a total of four points.
4. North Carolina: Seven sub-200 opponents explain huge disparity between Tar Heels' rank in the polls and the RPI.
5. Louisiana Tech: Young Lady Techsters dominating the WAC.
6. TCU: Three wins over teams in the RPI top 25, but also an inexplicable loss to Arkansas State.
7. Florida: Started 2-0 in the SEC for the first time in four seasons.
8. Virginia: Should be starting a new streak of tournament appearances.
9. Arizona: Sunday's win over UCLA was first over a top 50 opponent.
10. Wisconsin-Green Bay: With RPI in the top 30, Phoenix living up to preseason status as Horizon's heavy favorite.
11. Tulsa: Wins over Georgia Tech and Oklahoma get the Golden Hurricane in.
12. Delaware: Out in front in Colonial thanks to big win at Old Dominion last week.
13. Liberty: Far and away the highest-rated member of the Big South.
14. Long Beach: UC Santa Barbara's surprising struggles have been the 49ers' gain.
15. Columbia: Ivy season barely under way.
16. Alcorn State: Played Louisiana Tech to a one-point game.
1. Baylor: Lenin would have been envious of Kim Mulkey-Robertson's five-year plan.
2. Stanford A Shanna Zolman 3-pointer away from a No. 1 seed
3. Minnesota: Six-game winning streak came crashing down Sunday in East Lansing.
4. Virginia Tech: Big East or ACC, the Hokies still seem to exist under the radar.
5. Connecticut: Dominating or struggling, Huskies are still the talk of women's basketball.
6. Richmond: Unquestionably the most impressive A-10 team thus far.
7. Georgia Tech: Still has something to prove, but wins over Georgia and Old Dominion made Yellow Jackets legit.
8. Arizona State: Moved into the ESPN/USA Today poll and then got drilled at Southern California.
9. Utah: Beat TCU and nearly stunned Michigan State in Hawaii.
10. Houston: Nothing little about Sancho Lyttle's 33-point, 20-rebound performance against South Florida on Sunday.
11. Oregon: Ducks have a big challenge in improved Pac-10.
12. Marquette: Win over Penn State might go a long way.
13. Bowling Green: Looking to take that last step after playing in MAC title game a year ago.
14. Hartford: Jen Rizzotti already the winningest coach in Hawks history.
15. Niagara: Sophomore scoring machine Shaunna Ambrose leads the way.
16. Western Illinois: Will have to hold off perennial Mid-Continent favorite Valparaiso.
1. Ohio State: Top team in the Big Ten, No. 3 team in the nation in latest top 25 poll.
2. Rutgers: Tennessee, Texas, LSU. Has any team ever had a better eight days?
3. Maryland: There are now expectations in College Park, but Terps still need that one defining win.
4. Boston College: Overshadowed by UConn's struggles and Rutgers' upsets.
5. Georgia: In a season full of head-scratchers, perhaps the biggest is the Lady Dogs having five losses by mid-January.
6. Iowa State: Broke into top 25 rankings for the first time in three years.
7. Texas: Schedule has been tough, but five losses are hard to believe.
8. UCLA: Next week's four-game road trip, which includes Stanford and Oregon, might be the key to Bruins' season.
9. Temple: Win over Rutgers much meatier now than it was on Dec. 13.
10. DePaul: Double-double machine Khara Smith still leads the way.
11. Creighton: Already has two one-point wins and a pair of three-point victories.
12. Middle Tennessee State: Early leader in bunched-up Sun Belt.
13. Tennessee Tech: Still unbeaten in OVC play.
14. Lehigh: Mountain Hawks have win at St. Joe's and the Patriot League's only winning overall record.
15. Texas-Arlington: Scored just 24 points in a loss to Texas.
16. Robert Morris: Will need to beat St. Francis (Pa.) this week to hold onto spot.
1. Duke: Did anyone think Duke would be this good A.B. (After Beard) and with just eight scholarship players?
2. Tennessee: Struggling? Maybe by the Lady Vols' standards. But no one can match their eight top 50 wins.
3. Notre Dame: Lost opportunity against UConn in South Bend might haunt the Irish come March.
4. Iowa: High RPI, but taking a beating in the Big Ten.
5. Kansas State: Has not been involved in a game decided by single digits all season.
6. USC: Notable win at TCU propelled fast beginning to Pac-10 schedule.
7. Florida State Gaudy record aside, Seminoles still need to prove themselves in the ACC. Win over Maryland helps.
8. Purdue: New lineup not quite gelling yet.
9. Alabama: Consecutive losses not a good sign.
10. Penn State: Still playing to erase that 0-3 start, but seems to have righted ship.
11. Oklahoma: Consecutive home games against Texas and Iowa State in two weeks will be crucial.
12. Gonzaga: Zags are the class of the WCC, as expected.
13. Chattanooga: Already more losses than in all of last season.
14. Weber State: Two meetings with Montana will be Wildcats' biggest games of the season.
15. Lipscomb: Forty-six point loss to UNC is the Bisons' only game against anyone in the RPI top 150.
16. Howard: Daisha Hicks hoping to lead the Bison to first NCAAs since 2000.
(1) LSU (SEC) vs. (16) Alcorn State (SWAC)
(8) Virginia vs. (9) Arizona
Chapel Hill, N.C.
(5) Louisiana Tech (WAC) vs. (12) Delaware (Colonial)
(4) North Carolina vs. (13) Liberty (Big South)
(6) Texas Christian (C-USA) vs. (11) Tulsa
(3) Texas Tech (Big 12) vs. (14) Long Beach State (Big West)
College Park, Md.
(7) Florida vs. (10) Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon)
(2) Michigan State vs. (15) Columbia (Ivy)
(1) Baylor (Big 12) vs. (16) Western Illinois (Mid-Continent)
(8) Arizona State vs. (9) Utah (MWC)
(5) Connecticut (Big East) vs. (12) Marquette
(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Bowling Green (MAC)
(3) Minnesota vs. (14) Hartford (America East)
(6) Richmond (A-10) vs. (11) Oregon
(7) Georgia Tech vs. (10) Houston
(2) Stanford (Pac-10) vs. (15) Niagara (MAAC)
Chapel Hill, N.C.
(1) Duke (ACC) vs. (16) Howard (MEAC)
(8) Purdue vs. (9) Alabama
(5) Kansas State vs. (12) Gonzaga (WCC)
(4) Iowa vs. (13) Chattanooga (Southern)
(3) Notre Dame vs. (14) Weber State (Big Sky)
(6) USC vs. (11) Oklahoma
(7) Florida State vs. (10) Penn State
(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun)
(1) Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. (16) Robert Morris (NEC)
(8) UCLA vs. (9) Temple
(5) Georgia vs. (12) Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt)
(4) Boston College vs. (13) Tennessee Tech (OVC)
College Park, Md.
(3) Maryland vs. (14) Lehigh (Patriot)
(6) Iowa State vs. (11) Creighton (MVC)
(7) Texas vs. (10) DePaul
(2) Rutgers vs. (15) Texas-Arlington (Southland)
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.