Madness is finally up us. Conference Tournaments are in full swing and our first bids have been given out and our first NCAA Tournament bids have been stolen (maybe, should Belmont get in). A lot can be decided in the final weeks of the season (although not as much as some would have you believe, more on that below). UVA looks pretty good, having wrapped up a number one seed with their eyes on the East Regional. So without further ado, on to the bracket.
East and Midwest Regionals
|East Regional||Midwest Regional|
|East Regional||Midwest Regional|
|1. Virginia (1)||1. Kentucky (4)|
|16. Norfolk State / Iona||16. Montana|
|9. UCF||9. North Carolina St.|
|8. Mississippi||8. Iowa|
|5. Auburn||5. Marquette|
|12. Liberty||12. TCU / UNC Greensboro|
|13. New Mexico State||13. Hofstra|
|4. Kansas||4. Wisconsin|
|3. LSU||3. Texas Tech|
|14. Northern Kentucky||14. Vermont|
|11. Indiana||11. Clemson|
|6. Nevada||6. Maryland|
|7. Villanova||7. Iowa St.|
|10. Belmont||10. Minnesota|
|15. Old Dominion||15. Colgate|
|2. Michigan||2. Duke|
West and South Regionals
|West Regional||South Regional|
|West Regional||South Regional|
|1. Gonzaga (2)||1. North Carolina (3)|
|16. Abilene Christian||16. Fairleigh Dickinson / Texas Southern|
|9. Utah St.||9. Washington|
|8. VCU||8. Oklahoma|
|5. Wofford||5. Kansas St.|
|12. Ohio St. / Seton Hall||12. Murray State|
|13. UC Irvine||13. Yale|
|4. Florida St.||4. Virginia Tech|
|3. Purdue||3. Houston|
|14. Georgia Southern||14. South Dakota State|
|11. Temple||11. Texas|
|6. Buffalo||6. Mississippi St.|
|7. Cincinnati||7. Louisville|
|10. Syracuse||10. Baylor|
|15. Gardner Webb||15. Bradley|
|2. Tennessee||2. Michigan St.|
Last Four In: Seton Hall, TCU, UNC Greensboro, Ohio State
First Four Out: Florida, Furman, St. Mary’s, Creighton
ACC at the Top - At this point in the season, the only team I am comfortable with as a lock for a number one seed is our Hoos. And with their sweep over the Duke Blue Devils, the North Carolina Tar Heels have taken hold of one of the four coveted number one seeds. HOWEVER, I am a believer that injuries can be taken into account when it comes to seeding. I feel that in certain circumstances a team can be evaluated differently with and without a player. I’m not saying Duke’s three losses without Zion Williamson should be forgotten. What I am saying is the committee can and should weigh their resume accordingly. That doesn’t mean the losses to UNC didn't happen and UNC shouldn’t be given due credit for winning those games on the court. What I am saying is if Williamson comes back for the ACC Tournament and Duke should win, I fully believe they should be the number one overall seed and the number one seed in the East Region. With him at peak Zion, they’re the best team in the country. Without him, they’re not. If they can show that they’re playing at that level heading into the tournament, I think they should be recognized as such.
Race for the other Number Ones - Competing with the three-headed monster from the ACC for the number one seeds are Gonzaga, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Tennessee. Gonzaga is all but a lock, though I wouldn’t feel bad moving them to the two line with a loss in the West Coast Conference Final. I don’t expect it to happen, but a loss to a significantly inferior team would discredit all the capital they built up from destroying their league this season. After the Bulldogs comes the SEC. The SEC champ (Kentucky or Tennessee) has the inside track to a number one seed, but the two teams will play each other in the semifinals, not the finals. So it is possible that neither comes away victories. I’ve seen some chatter about LSU maybe sneaking into that spot, but it would take a perfect storm of results for that to occur. Much like the one that paved the way for UVA to get a number one seed in 2014. Finally, there’s Michigan State. They’ll have to win the Big Ten and then get some help.
Nobody is Good - In all my years of doing brackets, I’ve honestly never seen a back end of the at-large pool this BAD. All I keep hearing from pundits and fans alike is X team needs to win. Y team goes home with a loss. Well I have a secret to tell you. There are something line 15 X and Y teams and 10 of the them are going to get in. Take for instance the “elimination” game between NC State and Clemson Wednesday. I have them as the 36th and 41st ranked teams respectively in this bracket. 48 teams make up the Multi-Bid champs and at-large pool. I’d say by that measure the loser is pretty safe. And if you think those are generous rankings, here’s a smattering of the teams I have right around them
Washington (35th in my ranks) - Washington has exactly ZERO wins over teams featured in this bracket. ZERO. Pittsburgh and their 13 game losing streak has two. Add to that the Huskies lost to KenPom’s 248th ranked team, Cal a few weeks ago. I want to leave them out just because of that, but given where they are relative to everyone else, even should they lose in the PAC-12 Tournament, they’re safely in.
Indiana (42nd) - Indiana is the poster child for team with a boat-load of losses, but several high quality wins. I’m higher than most on the Hoosiers, as I’m willing to forgive losses as long as the wins are both high in number and quality. Two things Indiana can boast in comparison to other bubble teams. BUT, Indiana went through a stretch where they lost 12 of 13 games. They barely one a game in the month of January. Yet, here we are.
Texas (43rd) - Texas is currently 16-15 with an opening round game with the Kansas Jayhawks looming. I’m not even sure the Longhorns are eligible with a .500 record, but it could happen
Temple (44th) - Temple currently ranks 69th in KenPom. If we were to simply use that metric to build a field of 68 teams, they would not be in it.
TCU (46) - Unfortunately, the epitome of a mediocre team in a good conference. The Horned Frogs are 3-8 in KenPom “A” games with 4 losses in KenPom “B” games, and no bad losses. Their three “A” game wins came against Iowa State at home and on the road and at Texas. Iowa State is a #7 seed in this bracket while Texas is hanging on by a thread just to get in. Not exactly a stable of high quality wins.
If you wanted to put any of those teams in over Clemson or NC State, I wouldn’t argue with you. I only use the comparisons to reiterate the point that games with bubble teams shouldn’t be looked at in a vacuum. All bubble teams have serious warts. All bubble teams will lose their last game. All that is to say there is likely less movement among bubble teams, especially this year, as fans and writers are willing to admit. It’s not as if as soon as one team falls, another is stepping up and getting a quality win to give it an edge.
Mid-Major Madness - Belmont should be in (37th in my ranks). UNC-Greensboro could be in (47th). I’d love to see Furman (50th) and Lipscomb (54th) get a solid look. Unfortunately, what is likely to happen is that UNC-G, Furman, and Lipscomb will be relegated to the NIT while Belmont will head to Dayton. Those teams will be left out in favor of a 16-16 Texas, Ohio State who’s just lost three in a row include an 18 point drubbing at the hands of the mighty Northwestern Wildcats, and Florida who recently lost to Ken Pom’s 125th ranked Georgia Bulldogs on their home floor.
Ok, let me know who I did. What’s your thought on the #1 seeds? Is UVA at risk of losing out on playing in DC? How would you rank the bottom of the field?