Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Final Bracket Projection

A couple of things of note as I unveil my final bracket projection before the committee announces the field of 65 at 6 pm. First I have Ohio State and Purdue slotted and the results of there game will have no outcome on my bracket. I think their body of work is complete enough without their third game in three days meaning much.

My number 1 seeds are Louisville, Pitt, UNC and UCONN in that order. Louisville by virtue of winning the Big East regular season and tournament title has earned the number 1 overall seed. I considered Memphis for a one seed but in the end I do not think their body of work compares to the other four teams. I think they are certainly better now than early in the season, but we have nothing to compare them to the other one seeds with. With the absence of a meaningful way to evaluate them against the other 1 seeds I cannot justify putting them on the top line of the bracket.

I think Syracuse has played themselves into a 3 seed with their run to the Big East tournament finals. Syracuse has wins over Kansas, UCONN and Memphis… I don’t think any team in the country has a more impressive set of three victories. Similarly I think Florida State’s run in the ACC played them into a 3 seed.

I have never seen such a run of dwindling at large spots because of conference tournaments. The Horizon, Atlantic Ten, Pac Ten, and SEC all eliminated at large opportunities for a number of teams.

My breakdown by conference is as follows:
Big East- 7
ACC- 7
Big 10- 7
Pac Ten- 6
Big 12- 6
SEC- 3
Atlantic 10- 3
Mountain West- 2
Horizon- 2
All other leagues- 1 each

Last Four In

First Five Out
San Diego State
Penn State
St Mary’s

Here are some thoughts on those last teams in and first few out.

Dayton- I am very confident they are in.

Minnesota- Also very confident they are in. Their non-conference victory over Louisville has a lot of legs and I think they did enough in the Big 10.

Maryland- I think they left the committee with a good impression and they have three of the best victories in the country beating Michigan State, North Carolina and Wake Forest. They have been inconsistent much of the year, which hurts, but they won when they had to in the ACC tournament to get a bid. I think the committee will put them in because of that.

Arizona- Here is the spot I am most likely to be wrong on. Many have Arizona out. They have been dreadful on the road going 2-9, which will hurt. In the past the committee has continually rewarded teams that scheduled and won out of conference. In their non-conference schedule the Wildcats beat Kansas, San Diego State, and Gonzaga. In the conference they beat Washington, UCLA and Southern Cal. That gives Arizona 6 RPI top 50 victories (two top 25), which is considerably better than most of the teams they are competing with. I think the committee once again will reward a team that scheduled ambitiously and beat some teams by giving them the last spot.

The Five I Have Just Out
San Diego State- They did everything that I thought they had to do in the Mountain West tournament and it might not be enough. I would have no problem with the committee selecting San Diego State over Arizona or Maryland.

Penn State- They scheduled atrociously out of conference and the committee has generally not been kind to bubble teams that scheduled poorly. They have several big wins in conference play including two big road wins over Michigan State and Illinois. The committee could put them in because of those road wins, I think they come up just short.

Creighton- Left the committee with a bad impression getting waxed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals. Their victory over Dayton does not look as good as it once did. Their other big victories are New Mexico, Northern Iowa and Illinois State…those wins are simply not good enough. I think Creighton is out.

St Mary’s- I keep hearing the case that this team is different with Patty Mills, which is probably true. They still do not have the necessary wins to tell me they are a tournament team. I know their record with Mills is very good, but they have not really beaten anyone of significance. They lost all three to Gonzaga (including getting smoked in the West Coast Conference finals). Their best victories are over Utah State and San Diego State. I think side by side with the rest of the bubble teams that is not enough.

Auburn- They played really well down the stretch in a very bad conference. I think they needed to beat Tennessee to have a case. They did not do that. They have nothing to distinguish themselves in their non-conference play. They are out.

For my bracket i followed a true S-curve not worrying about locations (for instance Louisville will likely be sent to Dayton for their first round games). In the true S curve the top 1 seed would play in the region with the lowest 2 seed. The only shifts i made were to avoid early matchups between conference teams and to make sure protected seeds from the same conference were not in the same region. This took more work this year because 9 of the top 12 seeds in my bracket are from the Big East and ACC. All conference champions are in bold for your convenience. With all that out there, here is my field of 65:

Indianapolis Region

1. Louisville
16. Radford/ Chattanooga

8. Boston College
9. Texas A&M

4. Washington
13. Northern Iowa

5. Gonzaga
12. Cleveland State

3. Wake Forest
14. Portland State

6. LSU
11. Utah State

7. Marquette
10. Southern Cal

2. Oklahoma
15. Cornell

Boston Region

1. Pittsburgh
16. Alabama State

8. California
9. Butler

4. Missouri
13. Western Kentucky

5. Arizona State
12. VCU

3. Villanova
14. American

6. Clemson
11. Minnesota

7. Tennessee
10. Wisconsin

2. Duke
15. Stephen F Austin

Memphis Region

1. North Carolina
16. Morehead State

8. Oklahoma State
9. BYU

4. Kansas
13. North Dakota State

5. West Virginia
12. Mississippi State

3. Syracuse
14. East Tennessee State

11. Maryland

7. Utah
10. Dayton

2. Michigan State
15. Cal State Northridge

Arizona Region

16. Morgan State

8. Texas
9. Michigan

4. Purdue
13. Binghampton

5. Xavier
12. Arizona

3. Florida State
14. Akron

6. Illinois
11. Temple

7. Ohio State
10. Siena

2. Memphis
15. Robert Morris

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