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It's the sum of the whole, not the parts

Editor's note: Charlie Creme will project the 2005 NCAA Tournament bracket right up until the official field of 64 is unveiled Sunday (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET). Click here for a glance at this month's field of 64, check out Creme's first-round pairings and be sure to check back later this week. This projection includes games through March 7.

Before anyone reads any further, there is a key, three-word phrase everyone needs to read, say out loud and repeat: body of work.

Say it one more time. And commit it to memory. It is the one essential concept to keep in mind throughout this column and the latest projections. Because after a weekend that featured so many great games, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement. The temptation, then, is to judge teams by one game, one half, or even from one TV timeout to the next.

However, we must not forget that those games in December and January count, too. A loss in a conference tournament has impact and can be the deciding factor in seeding or determining "in or out" when teams are close. But it doesn't wipe out an entire -- here we go -- body of work. The same goes for a dramatic win.

I raise this point because I anticipate a groundswell of enthusiastic support for North Carolina, which just beat Duke for the third time this season to clinch the ACC Tournament crown, as a top seed. So before the volcanic eruption from Chapel Hill, remember our phrase, body of work, and not just that of the Tar Heels. LSU, Tennessee, Stanford and Michigan State can't be ignored when debating which teams deserve a No. 1 seed, because one would have to be displaced for UNC to move in.

However, none should. The excitement of Monday's trouncing of Duke does not erase that UNC has just two top-50 wins outside of the ACC.

Meanwhile, LSU and Tennessee both have five top-25 nonconference victories, and Michigan State beat four top-50 teams outside the Big Ten.

The Tar Heels scheduled poorly relative to their immediate competition. We know North Carolina can beat Duke, but do we really know that much more? Frankly, had Miami played a smarter final 2½ minutes in the ACC quarterfinals, the Tar Heels would not have been around for a third game against the Blue Devils.

None of this is to knock North Carolina. The Tar Heels have been outstanding, but these are some of the areas that the selection committee will be examining when making some of these difficult calls.

On the other end of the decision-making process, Virginia Tech remains the most intriguing case. The Hokies have not finished well, have a losing conference record and weren't good on the road. But they also have a high SOS, a solid RPI and have beaten three top-25 opponents. How the committee views the entire ACC might be reflected in what happens to Virginia Tech, which received a No. 11 seed in these projections.

It doesn't help that clubs such as the Hokies now have to compete with Gonzaga and Chattanooga for possible at-large berths. The parity bug struck the West Coast and Southern conferences with middle-of-the-pack Santa Clara and Western Carolina winning those tournaments. The problem is we don't have any recent precedent to help predict the fate of the Zags and Lady Mocs. In the last five years, these sorts of teams – which dominated their leagues, had gaudy overall records and RPI numbers within the usual NCAA Tournament-type range – haven't failed to win their league tournaments.

Right now, at least in this prediction, Gonzaga is in and Chattanooga out. And that is, in fact, remembering the entire body of work.

Last four in: Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Iowa.

Last four out: Purdue, Old Dominion, Rice, Houston.

Next four out: Xavier, Auburn, Chattanooga, Nebraska.

Charlie Creme can be reached at cwcreme@hotmail.com. RPI and SOS ratings courtesy of collegerpi.com.