If Arizona continues its strong play during the next two months, it’ll be hard for the Selection Committee to keep the Wildcats off the top line out West. That’s where the Wildcats reside in our latest bracket. At No. 4 on the s-curve, Arizona trails Duke, Kansas, and Michigan in the chase for the overall No. 1 seed. Fresh off a win at Louisville on Saturday and Cincinnati at home Monday, Syracuse is an eyelash behind at No. 5. Others on the two-line: Louisville, Indiana, and Florida. When the Gators are good, they are really good.
The bubble remains a mystery. And an ever-changing target. Consider that six of the ten teams just outside the bracket on Saturday morning (s-curve spots 69-78) lost. Then we have a team like Virginia. The up-and-down Cavaliers notched a win over Florida State (editor’s note: this was updated – the earlier post had UVA winning at Florida State; game was at Virginia. My apologies for not catching it sooner), but it’s unrealistic for a team with an RPI in the mid 120s to garner serious at-large consideration. Part of that is a No. 332 non-conference strength of schedule (stats from ESPN’s InsideRPI), and part of it is five losses to teams ranked 100 or lower in the RPI – including a loss to Old Dominion (No. 319). So we have to still go a bit on potential at this point. Thus, Kentucky and Maryland are among the First Four participants.
Big Ten power paid off for Iowa this week. The Hawkeyes represent the eighth Big Ten team in the current Field of 68 after beating Wisconsin and Northwestern. By the time March rolls around, we’ll more likely end up with six or seven Big Ten teams in the dance. Much of that will depend on whether an additional SEC or ACC team steps up to grab an at-large spot. The Mountain West remains strong with six teams in the bracket. But as MWC teams jockey for position, it might limit the number of top five seeds. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
Note: A few teams – including the First Four winners – had to be adjusted a seed line to account for conference conflicts and bracketing principles. This is a common occurrence during the actual bracketing process. For example, Iowa State drops to the 12-line because of related issues with the First Four and finding a spot for Iowa which needed to avoid another Big Ten opponent until a Regional final. While the committee attempts to avoid regular-season rematches in the first two rounds, exceptions can be made; in this case Iowa and Wichita State played but it’s the way the bracket came together.
Enjoy another great week of hoops.
UPDATE (April 23): The NCAA Selection Committee has recommended that the Men’s Basketball Tournament expand to 68 teams – instead of the much anticipated 96. Great news. The recommendation still must be approved, however. Also, we don’t yet know exactly how the three-team addition will work. Will we simply have three more play-in games for 16-17 seeds? … or will we see bubble teams be paired against each other for a 12-seed? Word from the NCAA is that such an announcement will arrive this summer. Either way, the suggestions below would still benefit the overall selection and seeding process.
Perhaps as early as next season, the NCAA Tournament may (will) expand to 96 teams (NCAA has since recommended 68). There are many reasons to dislike the decision. Most have been discussed at length, so I won’t rewind the tape – excuse me, DVR. What we have now (or will) is simply a combination of the NIT and NCAA. Nothing more; one team less. There were 32 teams in the NIT this spring; 65 in the NCAA.
With 31 automatic bids, a whopping 65 “at-large” could be determined by the Selection Committee. Here are five thoughts (suggestions) about how to improve the updated selection and seeding process ….
1. Make the conference season meaningful: Mandate that the regular-season champion earn the league’s automatic bid. Otherwise, what’s the point of playing a 16-18 game conference schedule? The mandate applies to every eligible conference, not just BCS leagues. The next best move would be to dissolve conference tournaments. Since that won’t happen, however, we have to keep the league tournaments relevant. The winner has to receive an automatic bid; in essence, the current format. Teams not selected for the NCAA now earn an NIT bid if they win the regular-season title and fail in their post-season tourney. Potentially, this would use another 31 (or 62 total) bids – leaving us with 34 at-large options, the same amount we currently have.
2. Establish minimum standards for participation: We don’t need 10 teams from the Big 10 or 13 from the Big East or 12 from the ACC competing in the NCAA tournament. Require minimum performance standards related to overall and conference record performance. How about a .500 record in league play? (with possible exceptions made for injuries). If we learned anything this past March Madness, it’s that non-BCS teams and mid-majors can compete in a one-and-done format. Yes, the tournament will be better with more teams like … New Mexico State, Wichita State, San Diego State, Siena, St. Mary’s, etc.
3. Non-conference Strength of Schedule should matter (even more): Great non-conference matchups are what we crave in November and December. Reward teams that schedule better. This would encourage BSC teams in particular to schedule more home-and-homes with mid-majors. Losing a game at Butler or Wichita State shouldn’t be considered a “bad” loss. What we have now is a bunch of teams with inflated records – making it more difficult for the NCAA to “peel the onion” so to speak. Any team with a non-conference SOS ranked in the bottom third of the NCAA shouldn’t be eligible for an at-large bid.
4. At-large selections should be performance driven: There is sometimes a difference between the “best” team and the “most deserving” team on Selection Sunday. While arguments about whether North Carolina is better than St. Mary’s (example only) based on talent or the “eye test” are fun, teams should be selected on how they actually performed. Establish guidelines for Selection Committee members to use. Keep the voting process, just make it less subjective and more objective.
5. Allow the Selection Committee more time for seeding and bracketing: Not ideal for CBS (or whomever ends up with broadcasting rights), but require all conference play (tourney or otherwise) to end Saturday night – not Selection Sunday. As it stands, the Selection Committee often has little time to finalize seeding and bracketing. While selection is most important, seeding and bracketing are important, too. Help keep as many teams close to home as possible. Early-round tourney sites are empty enough as it is.
The premise of these suggestions are valid regardless of expansion. Here’s to hoping we can revisit a number that’s less than 96. But we have to deal with reality. Once the deadline for entry into the NBA Draft is over, I’ll take another early look at the 2011 tournament. How that looks, we don’t yet know.
Two days to go. As of Saturday morning, there are four bracket spots left. There’s some competition, too. Illinois and Minnesota bothed pulled off upsets Friday in the Big 10. Rhode Island got a must win vs. St. Louis. San Diego State beat New Mexico for a second time. Three of those four are among our last give in, along with Washington and Florida. Below is our latest bracket update and Bubble Banter …
There are two wildcards in the ACC: NC State and Miami-FL. Will either survive another day? Utah State appears safe at this point; what if the Aggies lose in the WAC finale? Can both Illinois and Minnesota win another game? Who is safer? All these questions remain. We should be much more certain by early Sunday or later tonight.
Our No. 1 seeds remain: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and West Virginia. Only the Mountaineers’ spot is potentially open. Enjoy a great day of hoops. More updates throughout the day.
Around the Rim (ATR) … Our first in-season bracket projection will be posted on December 7. As a reminder, we don’t build projections based solely on if the season ended at projection time. Bracket projects are based on performance and potential. Early projections are weighted more on potential; later brackets more on performance.
Games of the weekend: North Carolina at Kentucky is the headliner. In a Bracketville preseason poll, the Wildcats were solid favorites to win the NCAA title. So this is an early chance for UK to reinforce its status. So far the ‘Cats have been a bit shaky; note the early squeekers with Miami-OH and Stanford. Then again, remember how different Carolina looked against Syracuse and Michigan State? If I were making a pick, Carolina wins a close one at Rupp. Other games of note: Read more…
When it comes to teams in the Big 6 (BCS) conferences, you can argue that early-season NCAA basketball games are not absolutely critical to post-season aspirations. That’s true to a point, assuming the team in question wins enough conference games or beats enough of its league’s heavyweights. But without some significant out-of-conference wins, NCAA selection becomes more questionable. That’s why Bracketville posts Key Games throughout the season as a way to look at potentially meaningful games. Read more…