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2019 Bracketology: Stretch Run Edition

Virginia takes over the overall #1 seed

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Nashville Practice Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s March, which for all of us hoopheads might as well be December heading into Christmas. The bracket is rounding into form with some jockeying at the top (8-9 teams could legitimately be in play for the four number one seeds) while everyone from about an eight seed and down are really shaky. The Hoos are in solid shape and looking for that top spot in DC. So without further ado, here’s the bracket.

East and Midwest Regionals

East Regional Midwest Regional
East Regional Midwest Regional
1. Virginia 1. Kentucky
16. Norfolk State / Texas Southern 16. Montana
9. Oklahoma 9. Texas
8. Washington 8. North Carolina St.
5. Buffalo 5. Florida St.
12. Clemson 12. Furman / Alabama
13. New Mexico State 13. South Dakota State
4. Wisconsin 4. Marquette
3. Tennessee 3. Purdue
14. Old Dominion 14. Hofstra
11. Syracuse 11. TCU
6. Kansas St. 6. Nevada
7. Iowa 7. Auburn
10. St. John's 10. Belmont
15. Northern Kentucky 15. Loyola-Chicago
2. Houston 2. North Carolina

South and West Regionals

South Regional West Regional
South Regional West Regional
1. Duke 1. Gonzaga
16. Abilene Christian 16. Fairleigh Dickinson / Rider
9. Mississippi 9. Baylor
8. Ohio St. 8. Louisville
5. Iowa St. 5. Mississippi St.
12. Murray St. / Minnesota 12. Lipscomb
13. Yale 13. Vermont
4. LSU 4. Virginia Tech
3. Kansas 3. Texas Tech
14. Georgia Southern 14. UC Irvine
11. UCF 11. Utah St.
6. Wofford 6. Maryland
7. Villanova 7. Cincinnati
10. VCU 10. Florida
15. Radford 15. Colgate
2. Michigan 2. Michigan St.

Last Four In: Minnesota, Furman, Murray State, Alabama

First Four Out: Saint Mary’s, Nebraska, Indiana, UNC Greensboro

Bracket Thoughts

Virginia’s the new #1 - This will come off as a pretty abrupt about face considering up until Tuesday, I was adamant that the Duke Blue Devils’ two wins over the Virginia Cavaliers were enough to catapult the Blue Devils to the overall number one seed. Even though my model showed UVA to have the better resume, I still felt the head to head wins were enough. Then Duke lost to VaTech and the gap widened enough that the H2H record couldn’t close the gap. Thus Virginia is the new number one in this bracket. And it’s not even close. In fact, based off the weighted composite score I assign to each team in order to build this bracket, the difference in score between Virginia and Duke is similar to the difference between Duke and sixth place Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Gonzaga and Houston - Speaking of Gonzaga, I admit above I have them rated out as the sixth best team according to my model, but I just can’t make them a two seed. My score is very volume driven, and the Bulldogs just don’t have the sheer number of games to compete with the teams from Power Five schools. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t good, and they aren’t worthy of a number one seed. I’m confident in saying that if they switched schedules with an ACC, SEC, or Big Ten team, they’d likely have only 3-4 losses overall which would put them squarely on the one line. So, if I’m going to make a concession for two-loss Gonzaga I feel that I have to do the same for one-loss Houston. The Cougars are also legit despite not playing the volume of competition of a Michigan or Tennessee. They’re also a bad call away from being undefeated. Switch conferences and I have no doubt Houston could rack up KenPom A games wins against the likes of Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana, Rutgers, and Minnesota just like the Wolverines have (and beat Penn State which Michigan didn’t do).

What are you doing Washington? - The PAC-12 troubles this season are well documented, but Thursday night was probably a season low. All season long, the Washington Huskies have been the flag-bearer for the league and has represented as the conference’ only consensus tournament team. But the unthinkable came true. The Huskies dropped a game on the road to Cal. Now normally a road loss in conference isn’t the worst thing in the world, but Cal might be setting a record for worst power conference team ever (can I get stat boy to check that out?). The Bears, after beating a top-40 KenPom team, check in at 264th in Pomeroy’s rankings. 264th. For comparison, that would have been the equivalent of Virginia losing to Towson. Also of note, of the teams included in this bracket, only Cincinnati (loss to 268 East Carolina) and Baylor (loss to 305 Stephen F. Austin) have worse losses on the season. I felt like leaving them out of the bracket out of spite, but alas then I would have had to include the PAC-12’s second best team Arizona State, a team that lost to 195 Washington State just under a month ago.

Mid Majors - With historic multi-bid leagues struggling to get more than one team into the tournament, the door is wide open for several mid-majors to get into the tournament. Furman and Murray State each find their way into the at-large conversation with Lipscomb, Wofford, Buffalo and Belmont all having done enough to qualify for the dance should they slip up in their conference tournament. Furthermore, you’ve got St. Mary’s with a huge opportunity to derail Gonzaga with a shot at a bid and New Mexico State, Liberty, and UNC Greensboro with chances at quality wins in their conference tournaments, a luxury not usually available to mid-major squads who have to get their wins in the non-conference.

The Commonwealth - Take a look at the Commonwealth of Virginia. While our beloved state may not look too hot politically right now, its college basketball teams are really showing out. In this bracket there are six teams from Virginia, the Hoos, VaTech, VCU, ODU, Radford, and Norfolk State. Plus, as I noted above, Liberty is on the bubble and is at worst co-favorite to win the Atlantic Sun Tournament. The teams from the Commonwealth will be chasing the 2011 season when five teams from the state made the big dance.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with another bracket after the regular season wraps up, then finally on Selection Sunday with one final look before the NCAA Tournament. Until then, Go Hoos!