Sunday, March 13, 2011

NCAA Field of 68 -- FINAL

This is the first and last NCAA Tournament projection of the season.  It's been a long and busy year, in which I've viewed the least amount of college basketball in years.  I also haven't used the same amount of rigor in past years, so this is more of a test to see whether watching less will reflect closer to what the Selection Committee offers at 6pm this evening.

At the top, Notre Dame edges Duke due to the number of quality wins (RPI Top 25).  They were about even on the eye test.  Had Duke won a share of the ACC in the regular season, it would've made the decision that much tougher.  The argument of top 100 wins made by Jay Bilas (if you heard it) lacks relevance, because the top of the bracket is determined by wins against top competition.  By that same token, UConn and Texas claim #2 seeds, and San Diego State lands on the 2 line, and Arizona finds itself outside of the protected seeds.

After Texas A&M with the 23rd overall spot, there is a severe drop-off in quality.  Between the 24th (UNLV) and 37th (George Mason) spots, there is little separating these teams.  From there onward, there is the next tier of teams, which are separated by even less.

Among the final block of teams is Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Alabama, St. Mary's, Georgia, USC, Boston College, and UAB.  Clemson claimed the 33rd at-large spot based on their 10 ACC wins, taking UNC to the limit on Saturday, and their overall quality of play.  Thanks to technology, some grit and luck, Virginia Tech takes the 34th spot.  Meanwhile, Michigan's late season form, which included close losses to good teams, showed they were worthy of a dance ticket. Then came the 2 toughest choices, because neither deserve it.  Alabama's 13 conference wins in the SEC, and overall performance since they were 8-6 was the decider (a win against SEC tournament Kentucky further helped the cause).  In the last spot is St. Mary's, who were deserving for much of the season, save a brief span in February.  As for Georgia, they squandered too many chances, including against Alabama (and Vanderbilt, and everyone else they played) in the SEC Tournament.  If you want to be in the Big Dance, you must play like it.  As for USC and UAB, I would not be shocked to see them in the field.  USC has a number of high quality wins which none of their cohorts have.  UAB won Conference USA, a top 10 conference, by an entire game.  They suffered a really bad loss against East Carolina, which placed them on the outside looking in.

Can't wait for the brackets to unfold!

1: Ohio State (Cleveland), Kansas (Tulsa), Pittsburgh (Cleveland), Notre Dame (Chicago)
2: Duke (Charlotte), North Carolina (Charlotte), UConn (Washington), Texas (Tulsa)
3: Louisville (Tampa), Kentucky (Washington), Purdue (Chicago), San Diego State (Tucson)
4: Florida (Tampa), Wisconsin (Tucson), BYU (Denver), Syracuse (Denver)

5: Vanderbilt, St. John's, Kansas State, Arizona
6: Cincinnati, West Virginia, Texas A&M, UNLV
7: Georgetown, Xavier, Old Dominion, Temple
8: Utah State, Richmond, Marquette, Washington

9:  Florida State*, UCLA, Tennessee, Missouri
10: George Mason, Villanova**, Penn State, Michigan State
11: Butler, Illinois, Colorado, Gonzaga
12: Clemson, Virginia Tech v. St. Mary's (play-in), Belmont, Michigan v. Alabama (play-in)

13:  Memphis, Oakland, Indiana State, Princeton
14:  Bucknell, Akron, Long Island, Morehead State
15: Wofford, St. Peter's, Boston University, Northern Colorado
16: UC Santa Barbara, UNC-Asheville, Hampton v. UT-San Antonio (play-in), Arkansas Little Rock v. Alabama State (play-in)

LAST FOUR IN:  Virginia Tech, Michigan, Alabama, St. Marys
LAST FOUR OUT:  Georgia, USC, Boston College, UAB

*   Moved up 1 seed line due to conflict
** Moved down 1 seed line due to conflict