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.
With July upon us, we NCAA Tournament fans await word from the Men’s Selection Committee regarding the bracketing procedures for 2011. Next spring, we’ll have a Field of 68. Andy Katz of ESPN recently had a look at some of the options being considered. Link to ESPN story.
Since the decision was made to expand to 68 (and not 96, thankfully), there have been two popular schools of thought. 1) Rank the teams on the S-Curve from 1-68, then take the bottom eight teams and pair them as “play-in” games in each region. In other words, have a 16 vs. 17 seed in each region with the winner playing the No. 1 seed. 2) Pair up the final eight at-large teams with the winner falling on the 12-seed line (or something similar). This scenario is obviously more complicated: conference conflicts, regular-season rematches, etc.
Given the importance of balancing each region (regardless of our debates on Selection Sunday), the easiest and most sensible option is No. 1. That’s why it will come as no surprise when we learn there will be four 16 vs. 17 matchups in the Opening Round. Play them all at Dayton on Tuesday – an afternoon and evening session with two games each. Sure, the matchups won’t be a juicy as two bubble teams, but it’s the fairest and most sensible scenario. It may also increase the potential for a 16-over-1 upset. Why? Because teams matching up with No. 1s will be more the equivalent of current 15 seeds.
Different opinion? Rebounds are always welcome. An updated look at the 2011 Field of 68 coming soon.
The initial dust has settled from the underclassmen and NBA Draft. Coming soon: an updated early projection for the 2011 NCAA Tournament – complete with 68 teams. Fortunately, some key college returnees in both the ACC and Big 10 set up another great ACC-BigTen challenge this fall. Can the Big Ten win two events in a row? I would say: yes. Below is a quick look at the matchups.
- Michigan State at Duke – Headline game between two teams likely to be ranked among the top five (or three) in preseason rankings. Kyle Singler returns to Duke, the Spartans will have Kalin Lucas back at point. It wouldn’t be a shock to see both teams in Houston next spring. Pick: Duke
- Purdue at Virginia Tech – Boilers could open at the nation’s No. 1 team. Tough road game, but one the Boilers should win against a Hokies’ team that shouldn’t miss the NCAA’s this time-around. Pick: Purdue
- North Carolina at Illinois – Demitri McCamey and Mike Davis returned for the Illini. UNC will be much better – or should be. Both have excellent incoming talent, too. Pick: Illinois
- Ohio State at Florida State – With Evan Turner departing, it might be easy to overlook OSU, but that would be a mistake. Almost everyone else returns along with a strong incoming freshman class. No reason to think the Seminoles won’t be an NCAA team again, but they won’t be as strong as the Buckeyes. Pick: Ohio State
- Virginia at Minnesota – At the Barn, this could be one of the least competitive games. Pick: Minnesota.
- Michigan at Clemson – Likely a toss-up with a slight edge to the home team. Pick: Clemson
- Georgia Tech at Northwestern – With Kevin Coble back, the Wildcats might actually be favored. Plus, Tech loses some NBA level talent (again). Pick: Northwestern
- Iowa at Wake Forest – Despite a coaching change, the Deacons should have little trouble at home with the rebuilding Hawkeyes. Pick: Wake Forest.
- NC State at Wisconsin – Badgers will be in the Big Ten’s upper-half, not too mention the game is at the Kohl Center. Pick: Wisconsin.
- Indiana at Boston College – Interest matchup. The Hoosiers will be better; BC has questions with a new coach and system. Slight edge (for now) to the home team. Pick: Boston College
- Maryland at Penn State – The Nittany Lions should be better and have Talor Battle back in the fold. Maryland will be an NCAA-level team again, too. Pick: Maryland.
All this can and may change by the time we get to late November and early December. Right now, Big Ten wins 6-5. These matchups are always a highlight of the early college hoops season. As always, send a rebound or follow Bracketville on Twitter.
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.
Yes, it’s ridiculous to project an NCAA tournament bracket for 2011 on the very day the current season crowns its champion. But since when has projecting brackets ever been exactly sane? It’s all about fun, right? So let’s have a little.
Now, keep in mind, we have yet to learn the status of several college athletes. Some we know have declared early for the NBA Draft; others are waiting until mid-April. We feel confident that some will go. Others haven’t hired agents, yet. So as you look at how the 2011 field of 65 might look, remember that at this point it’s a balancing act between what we know, what we don’t, and what we anticipate. Then there’s also those incoming freshman, many of who have yet to sign.
Couple of quick notes … the NCAA has renamed a couple of regions for 2011. We will have the East (Newark), Southeast (New Orleans), Southwest (San Antonio), and West (Anaheim). As to potential NCAA expansion, that’s a topic for another day. Until we know otherwise, let’s stick with what works. So a 65-team projection it is. As usual, teams listed in CAPS are projected league champions unless a school typically goes by an abbreviation (BYU, UCLA, etc).
Continue here to see our very early 2011 NCAA Bracket Projection (based on 65 teams): Read more…
Maybe it’s because the Mountaineers toppled Kentucky in the East Region final. Maybe it’s because the Spartans are down a key player and the Bulldogs are considered a mid-major by most standards. Maybe it’s because Duke is often a polarizing team among fans. Whatever the reason, visitors to Bracketville tabbed West Virginia (44%) as the favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis on Monday night. WVU was followed by Duke (32%), Michigan State (16%), and Butler (8%).
The one common denominator among the last four standing – defense. You can’t listen to a commentary and not hear the word defense mentioned. We credited West Virginia’s 1-3-1 zone with disrupting Kentucky’s offense. Duke puts a lot of pressure on the ball and has size around the basket as back-up. Tom Izzo demands that his Michigan State team commit to defense. All Butler has done is hold every one its NCAA opponents to 59 points or less. This in mind … here’s a quick preview of what to expect at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Butler vs. Michigan State
A great matchup of two teams who prefer to play half-court. Safe to say, the game could very well be decided in the 50’s. Most likely, it’ll come down to two or three possessions. The Spartans thrive on rebounding. Butler out-rebounded Kansas State despite a disparity in size. Repeating that task against MSU won’t be easy. It’s not critical for the Bulldogs to outrebound the Spartans, but Butler can’t get destroyed on the offensive glass. Second-chance points will be at a premium for both teams. If Ronald Norad can keep Durrell Summers in check on the perimeter – MSU could have trouble scoring. The other key is Korie Lucious. Butler forces turnovers by clogging passing lanes and playing physical chest-to-chest defense on the perimeter. So who wins? Gut says Michigan State finds a way; heart says Butler earns the right to play for a national championship. The pick? Butler with a last-possession defensive stand.
West Virginia vs. Duke
As you may have noticed in our final 2010 Bracket Projection, West Virginia was the final No. 1 seed, Duke a No. 2 seed. Does that mean West Virginia is favored here? Not necessarily. The Mountaineers – in my opinion – accomplished a tad more than Duke in the regular season, thus the No. 1 seed projection. Once the ball is tipped, however, none of that matters. Both teams excel at offensive rebounding, so that stat-line bears watching. Duke beat Baylor largely because of second-chance points down the stretch. West Virginia gave up 22 offensive boards to Kentucky, but won because the Wildcats missed a lot of shots. Duke has a little more firepower on offense than West Virginia, and it’s hard to imagine the Blue Devils missing as many shots as Kentucky did against the zone. The pick? Duke makes a couple of extra shots late and advances.
Championship: Butler vs. Duke
Classic matchup between a college basketball program on the rise and one that’s been consistently good for decades. Much like Syracuse and Kansas State, Duke has technical advantages at most positions. They also have a Hall-of-Fame coach. But … sometimes none of that matters. Sometimes, it’s about the right team at the right time in the right place. Would there be a more compelling story than Butler winning the national championship in its home city? So I’ll go with Butler to cut down the nets. Enjoy the games. I’ll be in Indy doing some stuff for NBCSports.com. Follow along on Twitter. We’ll have a very early look at the 2011 tournament field on Monday.