Saturday, March 01, 2008


Welcome to March...

We're now officially into the homestretch, which means hopefully we'll get some clarity in terms of the at-large pool in the coming days. There are three changes at the bottom of today's bracket and one shift on the top four lines.

Top 12 Overall Intact

Tennessee remains the overall number one seed and the top seed in the East, despite their loss to new four seed Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. Memphis remains second and the top seed in the South. North Carolina holds the top seed in the Midwest. Why aren't the Tar Heels in the East? Well, just like with the first weekend, the top seed is given the chance to go to the closest available regional site. Since Tennessee is first overall and Charlotte is the closest site, they get the East's top seed. Texas is the last remaining one seed and is placed in the West.

Some shuffling on the two line results in these potential Elite Eight matchups: Tennessee and Xavier in the East, Texas and UCLA in the West, North Carolina and Kansas in the Midwest, and Memphis and Duke in the South. Is it potentially unfair for the Longhorns to have to face the Bruins and the Tar Heels to play the Jayhawks in the lower seeds' natural regions? Perhaps. However, the committee doesn't concern themselves with matchups beyond the first weekend. Duke is ahead of Kansas on my S-curve; however, the Blue Devils can't be placed in the same region as UNC.

Today, the three seeds are the same as on Monday (Louisville, Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Stanford). There has been one change among the fours, however. Vanderbilt rises up from the five line, knocking down Purdue, and joining Indiana, Notre Dame, and Connecticut.

Nearing Safety

Looking at the bracket, with two weeks to go until Selection Sunday, I'd say that only about half of the field can feel safe about getting in. At the bottom of the bracket, conference tournaments will undoubtedly result in some newcomers (more on that in a second). The real fun involves seed lines 8 through 13, however. In a season where so many teams are significantly flawed, few of these teams can feel confident at this point about where they'll be on March 16. At this point, 8 seeds like Pittsburgh and Miami and 9s like Texas A&M and Arizona should be feeling pretty good about getting in. The problem is a late season slump (particularly for these four, who've been inconsistent of late) could drop them a few lines down or off the board completely. Struggles by these teams could benefit teams like Florida, Syracuse, and Ohio State, who have marquee games remaining or Maryland, Arkansas, and Massachusetts, who have highly winnable ones left. Be aware there will be a lot of turbulence over the next two weeks, and the major conference tournaments may carry more weight than usual.

In and Out

St. Joseph's and Villanova, who joined the bracket on Monday are now back out. The Hawks dropped a game to St. Louis on Hawk Hill Thursday night. You remember the Billikens. A few weeks ago, they managed an unfathomable 20 points at GW. Well, now they and the Colonials are playing the role of spoiler in the Atlantic 10. Rhode Island bubble burst thanks to a barrage of 3s late in the first half at the Smith Center on Wednesday night. Watch out for the Billikens and Colonials at the A14 tourney in Atlantic City. (Well, watch out for GW if they make it.) Nova drops out after losing to Marquette almost immediately after my Monday bracket came out. Wake Forest also drops out after dropping consecutive games to UNC and Maryland.

Syracuse moves back in, only because they haven't played since Sunday (and therefore they haven't lost since then). A win against Pitt today will keep them in on Monday and greatly boost their chances of being in the real bracket in two weeks. Virginia Tech is also in today. They have very little in their non-conference resume to suggest inclusion, but 8-6 in the ACC (albeit with no wins against the top 3) and a sweep of Maryland could be enough this year. UAB also joins the party, despite only three top 100 wins (Cincinnati, at Kentucky, and Houston). A 9-3 mark in their last 12, with one of the losses being a one-pointer to Memphis, puts them here.

Housekeeping Matters

Tomorrow, I'm going to release another bracket, but a slightly different one. Tomorrow's version will be based solely on Ken Pomeroy's Friday RPI numbers (with some movement allowed for bracketing procedural rules). I'll do this to show you how the RPI is only a tool, and how things would be radically different (and perhaps unfair) if it was the only metric used in the selection and seeding process.

Since Championship Week is approaching, I'll be making a slight tweak to how I award automatic bids starting Monday. When a conference's standings become final and the seeds are released for the conference tournament, the highest remaining seed will have the auto bid. Previously, if there was a tie in the standings, I took the team with the highest RPI. Since teams are even in terms of the number of conference games at the end of the year, this is no longer necessary.

We may have our first auto bid tonight. Cornell can clinch the Ivy League with a win over Harvard or a Brown loss to Penn.

Conference Breakdown

Big East - 8
ACC - 6
Big 12 - 6
Pac 10 - 6
Big 10 - 5
SEC - 5
Atlantic 10 - 2
Conference USA - 2
Mountain West - 2
West Coast - 2

New This Bracket
Virginia Tech

Out of the Bracket
Saint Joseph's
Wake Forest

Last Four In

Ohio State
Virginia Tech

Last Four Out
New Mexico
Saint Joseph's
Southern Illinois

Next Four Out
Wake Forest
Western Kentucky

Also Considered
Florida State
George Mason
Illinois State
Seton Hall
Stephen F. Austin
Western Kentucky

E-mail me with comments or questions.

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