Friday, March 11, 2011

The Anatomy of the Bracket Part II

By Nate Noy

Before I resume the discussion of the bracket, I wanted to make note of a conversation I had earlier today with FDH’s Rick Morris. We discussed how many at-large bids will go to the teams from the six BCS conference schools and how many from the remaining schools and the politics of these selections.

Last year there were 26 at-large bids awarded to the six BCS conferences and 8 to the other conferences. With the field expanding by three this year, Rick and I agree that the number of non-BCS bids HAS to remain at a minimum of 8. The politics of expanding the field and reducing the number of slots for the non-BCS schools are too great. Therefore, the next step in projecting the bracket is to establish what 8 teams I think will be awarded these at large bids.

In the MWC, we have two givens; either New Mexico, BYU, SDST, or UNLV will win the conference, and UNLV, SDST, and BYU are all locks for the tournament -- so 2 of the 8 can be chalked up here.

In the CAA George Mason is a lock, so we are at 3/8.

The A-10 gives us Temple and Xavier as locks, with Richmond and their win over Purdue as a strong possibility (plus since Xavier just lost to Dayton, there is a chance someone other than Temple wins the tournament.) I predict that Richmond makes the field as long as they win today and Xavier is a lock, so we are at 5/8.

The remaining three are a little more difficult. If Harvard loses the Ivy playoff against Princeton, then I think they are in (an RPI of 32 with W’s over bubble teams Colorado and Boston College). But for now, I am assuming Harvard wins and I don’t see Princeton as an at-large.

Also, if Utah State somehow loses the WAC tournament they would be in like last year, but for now I’m projecting they win as well.

That leaves us with three regular season conference champions/co-champions that should get in. The three I project are: UAB (30 RPI) Missouri State (40 RPI) and Saint Mary’s 47 RPI.

Teams that are still alive for consideration/auto-qualifying include: Memphis (33 RPI) and New Mexico (66 RPI), plus as aforementioned a number of teams other than Temple could still win the A-10. I also think UTEP pulls of the C-USA title on their home floor to claim the auto-bid.

That means that there are 29 at-large and the six auto spots remaining for the six BCS conferences. 14 of these 35 spots are represented in my top 16 teams from yesterday’s post. leaving us 21 at large spots.

In the ACC, Florida State is above the line with Boston College, Clemson, and Va Tech on the bubble.

In the Big Ten, I think Illinois is safe, with Michigan State and Michigan on the bubble.

The Big 12 gives us Texas A&M, Kansas State, and Missouri as safe teams, with Colorado on the bubble.

In the SEC we have Vanderbilt as safe with Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama on the bubble.

The Pac-10 has UCLA as safe, Washington is fairly safe but I’ll put them at the top of the bubble and USC is a long shot.

Finally the Big East has St. Johns, UConn, West Virginia, and Georgetown as very safe, Cincinnati and Villanova at the top of the bubble and Marquette on the bubble.

The sum total of “safe” teams is 11, leaving 10 spots. If we add UC, Nova, and UW, we are down to 7 spots for 10 legitimate teams. The next team in for me is Tennessee, dropping us to 6 spots. I also think the winner of Alabama/ Georgia gets in, dropping us to 5. The winner of Boston College / Clemson should be in, dropping us to 4. Of the final four spots I think Michigan State with their strong SOS gets in, so the final three spots come down to these teams with what they need to do:

^ Va Tech, likely needs to beat FSU today or they are gone
^ Michigan, likely needs to beat Illinois today or they are gone.
^ Marquette needs either Michigan or Va Tech to lose, or I think they could miss the tournament.

The losers of Ga/Bama and BC/Clemson will need help from a combination of factors to get in after today. Georgia has the best RPI of this group and may still survive with a loss.

Colorado is a true wild card in all of this as well, beat Kansas today and we have to drop someone out; lose horribly today and they are in the mix but possibly on the wrong side of the bubble. As of today, they have an RPI of 64; last year Minnesota made a run to the Big Ten title game and finished with an RPI of 62, grabbing the last at-large from the BCS schools.

If multiple things above happen (for example MSU gets drilled by Purdue tonight), then they could drop out as well.

So with a little more than 48 hours to go there are clearly some unknowns remaining.

I also think Harvard deserves consideration for a 12 or 11 seed, depending on who wins the remaining auto bids.

None of my top-16 teams from yesterday drop out of the top-16. And for now, we will leave the place holders where they are holding down seeds 13-16. Here is how I currently allocate the remaining seeds 5-12:

5 seeds: St. Johns; U Conn; Vandy; Texas A&M
6 seeds: WVU; Georgetown; Kansas State; Utah State
7 seeds: Old Dominion; Xavier; UNLV; Temple
8 seeds: Cincinnati; George Mason; Missouri; Florida State
9 seeds: Illinois; UCLA; Tennessee; Villanova
10 seeds: Butler; Washington; Gonzaga; Clemson
11 seeds: Alabama; Colorado; Marquette;
11 seed play-in Richmond v Michigan State
12 seeds: UTEP (Harvard); UAB; Saint Mary’s
12 seed play-in: and Missouri State v Georgia

Note I think Harvard will be a 12 if they win and UTEP will drop to Harvard’s spot on the 13-line.

So as of now I have Michigan, Va Tech, and Boston College missing the cut. But as I noted a lot can change in the next 48 hours. To make my official “last four out” list you can add USC to the list, but they are a real longshot.

I’ll take a final comparison look at my bubble teams after tonight’s games and present a close to final bracket projection tomorrow with all the projected match-ups.

UPDATE: Michigan just won, so they are in. Georgia lost, so for now I am taking them out, move Michigan to the 11 line, and drop Marquette to the play-in game. Also BC got drilled by Clemson, so they are likely headed to the NIT.

No comments: