Reigning NCAA champion Louisville opens as the top overall seed in the Midwest Region, which again goes through nearby Indianapolis. The Cardinals are followed by Michigan State (East), Kentucky (South), and Kansas (West) as favorites to reach AT&T Stadium in April. Close behind are Duke, Arizona, Syracuse, and Oklahoma State. Need more heavyweights? How about Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, and North Carolina as possible three-seeds?
Beyond conference realignment – and remembering that Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are now in the ACC, for example – the NCAA has changed a few of its bracketing principles for 2014. If you want to read them for yourself, visit www.ncaa.com. The most significant updates are an emphasis on maintaining a team’s true seed (from the seed list), and allowing teams from the same conference to potentially meet before a regional final if they played less than three times during the regular season. (Note: This could happen previously but only if more than eight teams from a conference were selected). There are a lot of variables, but the goal is to provide the Selection Committee with more options during the bracketing process. In year’s past, bracketing procedures often required moving several teams up or down a seed line to avoid such things as conference conflicts within the region. While this may still occur, it should be less frequently. What we can’t predict in the preseason is how many times conference foes will actually meet because conference tournament games are included.
With the arrival of the American Athletic Conference (AAC), there will also be one less at-large bid in 2014. We now have 32 automatic qualifiers and 36 at-large spots. In our preseason bracket the First Five out are Illinois, California, Providence, Massachusetts, and Xavier. Purdue, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Missouri, Washington, and Florida State are next. A host of other potential at-large candidates were also evaluated. View the full s-curve for the preseason bracket.
Our opening First Four? BYU, Indiana State, San Diego State, and SMU (Southern Methodist).
Fortunately, the actual bracket will develop over the course over four and a half months. At this point, it’s guesswork. The journey will be tremendous. Think about the storylines we already have: Will John Calipari blend his vaunted recruits into a championship team? Can the Cardinals repeat? Will Tom Izzo return Michigan State to the Final Four? Who will be this year’s Wichita State, Butler, VCU, or George Mason? And the list goes on.
It’s almost time for tip-off. Grab a seat. It’s going to be quite a ride toward Selection Sunday.
We’re down to voting for the final four spots in our readers’ preseason Power 24. Here is where we stand at this point.
1. Louisville 2. Michigan State 3. Kentucky 4. Kansas
5. Duke 6. Arizona 7. Oklahoma State 8. Syracuse
9. Michigan 10. VCU 11. North Carolina 12. Florida
13. Wichita State 14. Ohio State 15. Memphis 16. Colorado
17. Gonzaga 18. Marquette 19. Connecticut 20. Tennessee
As we’ve noted before, use the poll below to vote for teams 21-24. Teams already voted into the Power 24 will not be listed. Use “Other” to include a different team and please list the team in the space provided.
Thanks for your interest.
If you look at our preseason bracket projection, you’ll notice two teams from the Missouri Valley. Looked good a month ago. Now, not so much. It hasn’t been a November to Remember for the MVC.
Through Tuesday (Nov. 23) Missouri Valley teams are 1-7 versus BCS conference opponents. The lone win was Bradley over Southern Cal. And while USC was a sleeper pick to sneak into the field – which isn’t looking good, either – the Braves’ one-point win over the Trojans is not the type of victory that figures to elevate how MVC teams are viewed next spring.
Wichita State and Missouri State – the MVC’s highest projected teams – have yet to win an NCAA-level game. The Shockers blew a late lead against Connecticut in Maui and Missouri State lost at Tennessee. Neither was a bad loss, but both were missed chances. And Missouri Valley teams don’t get that many chances for marquee out-of-conference wins. Missouri State also lost at Tulsa – a potential bubble team from Conference USA. Two other top-half MVC teams – Northern Iowa and Bradley – have lost games to TCU and Milwaukee. Creighton lost Sunday to Iowa State, and the Cyclones aren’t projected to finish in the top half of the Big 12.
It’s still early and teams do not earn at-large bids in November and December. But bids can be lost. There are limited chances to make good impressions.
Those remaining chances? Wichita State heads to San Diego State (Dec. 4); Missouri State visits Oklahoma State (Dec. 11); Bradley hosts Utah (Dec. 4) and visits Duke (Dec. 8); Northern Iowa heads to Indiana (Dec. 22); and Creighton goes to Northwestern (Nov. 28) and hosts BYU (Dec. 1).
If the Missouri Valley hopes to send more than one team Dancing in March, the next three weeks are critical. Have a different opinion? Rebounds are always welcome.
Defending champion Duke sits atop our first 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket for 2011. The other teams on the top line: Purdue, Kentucky, and Michigan State. With the Wildcats moving up (from our April look-ahead), Kansas now headlines a strong group of No. 2-seeds that include Ohio State, Texas, and Villanova.
UPDATE (8/3): Since this look-ahead was first published on July 24, Northwestern’s Kevin Coble has decided not to return to the Wildcats for the 2010-2011 season. With that information, I have updated the bracket, moving NC State into the Opening Round and Northwestern into the First Five out.
The first real question, however, is … which teams face off in the new Opening Round (considered the First Four). These four games will be played in Dayton, with winners moving into the traditional 64-team bracket design. The last four at-large teams are paired, along with teams seeded 65-68 on the S-curve. Our initial projection looks like this … St. John’s vs. NC State | St. Louis vs. Miami-FL | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. SF Austin.
As I have time, I’ll be working on a graphic to showcase these pairings. For now, these teams are listed in the bracket with a “/” in between; the winner goes on the seed line indicated. The St. John’s-St.Louis winner becomes a 12-seed in the East, playing Missouri in Tampa. The Northwestern-Miami winner gets a 12-seed opposite national runner-up Butler (game in Tucson, Southeast Region). The other winners earn 16-seeds in the Southwest and West.
Enough talk for now. Several teams moved one seed line to accommodate bracketing issues. BYU always creates some chaos because the Cougars cannot be placed in Friday-Sunday sites. Have a different opinion? Send a rebound. The breakdown by conference and other teams considered are listed below the bracket.
Continue reading to see the bracket …
Shocked it is.
The NCAA has announced the set-up for its 68-team field that will be unveiled on Selection Sunday in March 2011. By now you know there will be two types of play-in games – dubbed the First Four. The four lowest ranked teams (S-Curve 65-68) will pair up to play for 16-seeds in two regions. The last four at-large teams will also be paired with the winners falling on a 10-12 seed line against a pre-determined opponent in the other two regions.
Is it a good compromise? Depends on your perspective. If you want to improve opening-round TV ratings (and the NCAA just renegotiated its deal with CBS and Turner for broadcast rights) then matchups between the final at-large selections makes some sense. More people would likely watch a Virginia Tech-Illinois game (two teams that just missed last year) than would watch three more pairings of lower-level conference champions. That said, here’s why I’m shocked by the decision …
1) The NCAA must tell us its final four at-large selections – How many Selection Committee chairs have danced around this very question? Despite a more open approach to the selection process in recent years, there remains a behind-closed-doors element to actual bracket development. Only recently have we been privy to the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed and rankings of the other No. 1s. Same for the final two teams on the S-curve who were paired in the 64-65 game. Now, us fans will know exactly who the last four at-large teams are. Didn’t think that would happen. Will the actual S-curve rankings be next?
2) A team either deserves an at-large bid or it doesn’t – Selecting teams has been – and should be – the NCAA’s most important task. As former Committee Chair C.M. Newton once noted … a team can play its way out of a bad seed, it can’t play it’s way out of not being selected. But once a team is deemed worthy of an at-large bid, should that team then be told it’s not yet in the actual bracket? Congratulations, you received an at-large bid. All you have to do now is win one more game to play in the main tournament that starts on Thursday. Of course, you can say the same thing for the automatic qualifiers, but that’s the rub of a 65 or 68-team field.
Overall, a 68-team field is far better than a 96-team set-up. And three at-large candidates who would otherwise miss the NCAA Tournament will now be playing in the newly touted First Round. But the only way to create a bracket based on team rankings (s-curve) is to seed the field 1-68 and pair the lowest eight seeds with winners on the 16-seed line. Doing that actually creates a stronger bracket because the 16-seeds would be more like 15-seeds – meaning a better chance for upsets and a stronger overall field. Thought that was the goal. Then again, when money talks people listen. Even the NCAA and its member schools – who, by the way, shouldn’t complain if they are one of the at-large opening-round participants, because they could be at home.
Now it’s time to move on … an updated 68-team bracket projection (for fun and practice) on it’s way. The NCAA Tournament will always be the most exciting three weeks in sports. Have a different opinion? Send a rebound.