Bracket Bits: Placing teams on the top two seed lines
Let’s talk about something positive, like the eight teams positioned along the top two seed lines. For all the middling around the cutline, this group continues to shine: Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke, Kansas, Villanova, Wisconsin, and Arizona. While we can’t “lock” anyone into a position yet, these eight are rapidly pushing toward a slot on the top two lines of the eventual bracket in March. So, here’s today’s question:
How are the teams placed in bracket regions?
As a guideline, geography takes precedence based on the Seed List order. Currently, Kentucky is No. 1 on the list, so the Wildcats would be given first preference. Regional sites are located in Cleveland (Midwest), Syracuse (East), Houston (South), Los Angeles (West). Cleveland is closest to Lexington (KY) so Kentucky slots into the Midwest. The rest of the current No. 1 seeds then fall into place: Virginia (Syracuse – East), Gonzaga (Los Angeles – West), and Duke (Houston – South).
Here’s where the debate begins. Seed List order matters on the second line, but so does geography. Selection Committee members can balance regions (based on the first four seed lines) using spots 9-12 and 13-16. Monday – before Kansas lost at West Virginia – the Jayhawks were No. 5 on the Seed List. That would put them opposite the No. 4 team (Duke) in the South Region. In this case, the so-called s-curve worked perfectly, as that would be KU’s preferred location. Next up was Villanova. If the true s-curve model were followed, Villanova would go West, opposite Gonzaga. But the Committee also knows that Arizona (No. 8 on the list) will be placed on the two-line. Thus, it offers them the opportunity to keep Villanova in its home region (East); a win for both teams and their fans. Wisconsin would naturally choose the Midwest, so the Badgers move opposite Kentucky. If this set-up holds, placing the top two lines into the bracket will actually be an easy exercise.
To balance regions, the top three seed (Notre Dame in Monday’s projection) headed West. After that, bracketing principles took over: Louisville (at No. 9) could not go East or South (opposite ACC foes Virginia/Duke) because the first four teams from a conference have to be in separate regions if they all fall among the first four seed lines. With so many ACC teams bunched on the top four lines, the situation could not be avoided. Thus, Louisville defaults into the Midwest Region. Kentucky fans might disagree, but there’s not a conspiracy for a rematch. Iowa State had to be placed away from Kansas (South), same rule applied; so the Cyclones went East. That left Utah in the South Region.
Maybe that helps explain why Wisconsin would be in the Midwest. We’ll see if any of the top eight stumble down the stretch. If not, we could soon know which teams will be among the top two regional seeds.