If today were Selection Sunday, and North Carolina was the ACC champion, the Selection Committee would likely be inclined to reward the Tar Heels with a No. 1 seed over a very good Baylor team whose profile is equally impressive but lacks a conference title. In the world of splitting hairs, we just did. On that note, two interesting twists await. First, UNC hosts Louisville on Wednesday, and the Cardinals are No. 6 on the Seed List. If Louisville wins in Chapel Hill, the Cards could make a strong case for the top line on Thursday. Second, the Tar Heels close with an incredibly tough slate, going to Pittsburgh and Virginia before finishing at home with Duke. Baylor can easily play its way back up.
In the race for No. 1 seeds, Villanova and Kansas are sitting in strong positions as the regular season comes to a close. Should Gonzaga finish unbeaten, it would hard to drop the Zags from their No. 1 perch in the West. Which leaves, at least for now, one top seed up for grabs, and it could go any number of ways.
Another meh and blah weekend along the cutline. Should we lose solid mid-major programs like Middle Tennessee State, UNC Wilmington, and say, Monmouth or Illinois State during their conference championships, the Committee will have to heavily weigh a bunch of mediocre power teams versus some solid programs who have fewer chances for marquee wins.
If you’re looking for a quality non-power conference team that could earn an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, Middle Tennessee State should be near the top of your list. If the name sounds familiar, think back to last year’s NCAA tournament. The then 15th-seeded Blue Raiders knocked off No. 2 seed Michigan State in St. Louis before losing to eventual Final Four participant Syracuse in the Round of 32. As we look ahead, Giddy Potts and MTSU are 19-3 with Top 100 RPI wins over UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Belmont. The Blue Raiders are 8-1 on the road and have some pretty solid metric numbers:
Middle Tennessee State … RPI: 37 | BPI: 52 | SOR: 31 | KP: 47
Unfortunately, Conference USA hasn’t provided MTSU with much support; the Blue Raiders are the only team in the RPI’s Top 100, and six of the schools are 300-plus. That’s a recipe for picking up a really bad loss. The good news, MTSU has avoided that issue. If that continues, the Blue Raiders should receive strong consideration were they to lose in the C-USA tournament final.
Here are a few other mid-major hopefuls as we head into February: Read more…
Although this week’s No. 1 seeds remain intact, Kentucky and Florida State are pushing for slots on the top line of the bracket. One could make the case for dropping Baylor after the Bears’ loss at West Virginia, but the seed list doesn’t always work the same as a poll. Baylor’s resume is still quite strong, and a lone loss in Morgantown doesn’t change that – much the same as Villanova’s loss at Butler last week didn’t drop the Wildcats from the overall No. 1 seed position. That said, resumes are still very much a recurring work in progress.
It’s no surprise that the cutline is quite fluid. With another full slate of games tonight, the bottom of the bracket might look different if we updated it again tomorrow. The process slows in mid-February and resumes become more complete.
As a reminder, conference champions are determined by league standings until Championship Week. In the event of a tie in the loss column, the automatic bid for the bracket is awarded to the team with the best RPI at the time of publication. To an extent, this helps simulate some variances that occur in the process. Read more…
If you’re a team that plays in a power conference you can survive an average (or even below average) non-conference slate and still earn an at-large bid. Last year’s Purdue team is a good example. The Boilermakers dropped non-conference decisions to Kansas State, North Florida, Vanderbilt, and Gardner-Webb. What Purdue was able to do, however, was win 8 of 9 Big Ten games during a mid-season stretch and finish 12-6 in league play en-route to a 9-seed in the Midwest Region.
If you’re a team from outside the power conferences, non-conference results become much more critical. Opportunities for resume-changing wins are more limited. With that thought in mind, here are five opening weekend games with March in mind … Read more…
It’s been a topic of discussion for several weeks. What would happen if Gonzaga lost? Would they fall? Who would take their place as a No. 1 seed? Following the ‘Zags home loss to BYU – which also vaulted the Cougars into a First Four game in today’s bracket – we have an answer: Villanova, at least for now.
The Wildcats – there are two of them (Kentucky) on the top line – slide into the West Region; following UK, Virginia, and Duke. We say for now, because Wisconsin and Arizona also continue to push for that final spot. And it’s conceivable we could see a shift among spots 2-6 on the Seed List between now and Selection Sunday. We know that either Virginia or Duke will lose at least one more game – both play in the ACC tournament. If Wisconsin, Villanova, and Arizona all win out it’ll be interesting to see how the Committee dissects that group of profiles.
With just under two weeks until Selection Sunday, we have several unclaimed spots in the bracket. Perhaps more than ever, conference tournament games could prove decisive . It’ll be even more interesting should we have an upset winner or two. The Atlantic 10 race is a good example – as of this posting, there are three teams tied atop the standings. There are another three teams – VCU, Richmond, and Massachusetts – all within a game or two of the top. It’s perfectly conceivable that anyone of those teams could grab the automatic bid.
It’s March. The Madness is almost here.
As the calendar turns to March, Kentucky has entrenched itself as the No. 1 overall seed. Unless the Wildcats lose multiple times between now and Selection Sunday – which is highly unlikely – they will stand atop the bracket when the official Field of 68 is unveiled on March 15. UK’s proverbial “march” will begin in Louisville and head through Cleveland in the Midwest Region.
As for the remaining No. 1 seeds, Virginia has a firm grasp on the East. After that, there’s still a bit of a race. If Gonzaga loses, Villanova is next in line to ascend to the top line. We also can’t exclude Wisconsin, Arizona, or even Kansas – although the Jayhawks will need help from the others in front of them. While winning both Big 12 regular season and tournament titles (if it happens) would be mighty impressive, the Jayhawks’ loss total might be too great to push KU ahead of the other three if those teams continue to win.
The bubble/cutline remains a hodge-podge of rotating resumes. The week ahead – leading into conference tournaments – figures to be huge. And it might be Friday or Saturday of Championship Week before the final Field comes into focus.
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. Read more…