By Kyle Beery
On Saturday, we saw a fairly in-depth glimpse of the process behind making the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68. Selection Committee Chairman and Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis revealed the committee’s top 16 seeds as they stood on that date on a special show on CBS.
While a fair share of upsets provided a shakeup to that version of the bracket, the show gave viewers an idea of where their favorite teams stand and what exactly goes into the making of the bracket.
Hollis made it clear that geography is an important factor in placing the teams, and there was a lot of emphasis on separating conference teams. The top four teams from each conference must be placed in different regionals, and the committee tries to avoid intraconference matchups until the second weekend of the tournament if at all possible.
There were a few surprises in the committee’s top 16 teams, including Butler being pegged as the highest No. 4-seed; Gonzaga was the lowest No. 1-seed despite being the only remaining undefeated team in the country; no Big Ten teams cracked the top 16.
One thing Hollis emphasized was that teams can certainly play in or out of a seed. And of course, Butler promptly lost Saturday, dropping off the four-line; Gonzaga made its case with a good road win at Saint Mary’s; and Florida State, placed as a No. 2-seed at the time, lost to Notre Dame.
While that version of the bracket was decidedly fluid — bracketology as a whole, really — it gave us some insight as to where teams stand, and what needs to happen for X-team to get X-seed.
So after a busy weekend in the world of college basketball, here is my latest projected field of 68, complete with the committee’s emphasis on geography and separation of conference teams.
FIRST FOUR (DAYTON; TUE/WED (March 14, 15)
East Regional — 16. Furman vs. 16. UC Davis
Midwest Regional — 16. Mount St. Mary’s vs. 16. New Orleans
Midwest Regional — 11. Seton Hall vs. 11. Illinois St.
West Regional — 11. Utah vs. 11. Rhode Island
*Conference champs have conference in parenthesis
EAST REGIONAL (New York City; March 24, 26)
MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City; March 23, 25)
WEST REGIONAL (San Jose; March 23, 25)
South REGIONAL (Memphis; March 24, 26)
Last five at-large byes: Miami (FL), TCU, Kansas St., Michigan St., Syracuse
Last four in (First Four in Dayton): Utah, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, Illinois St.
First five out: Marquette, Arkansas, Providence, Indiana, Tennessee
This iteration of bracketology has a lot of differences from last week, especially near the bubble. Some teams had some rough losses but remain on the bubble — some of them even moved up in the pecking order — thanks to a plethora of losses by bubble teams, most notably Indiana, Marquette, Seton Hall and Alabama.
Michigan State had a brutal loss at Michigan last Tuesday, but rebounded with a win against Iowa over the weekend. In last week’s bracket, the Spartans were on the outside looking in, but moved up the ladder this week because of the parity on the bubble.
Virginia Tech moved off the bubble with a big win over Virginia on Sunday in double overtime. Iowa State also gained some cushion around the bubble after handily beating Oklahoma on Saturday.
Top of the class:
Villanova solidified its case for the overall No. 1 seed with a convincing win at Xavier on Saturday. Gonzaga moved up a spot to the No. 3 overall seed with their win over St. Mary’s, despite Baylor’s solid win against TCU. Kansas escaped Lubbock with a one-point win over Texas Tech, but stays at No. 2.
Kansas and Baylor are set to meet in Waco on Saturday in a game that could cement one team’s position as a No. 1 seed, and knock the other down a line.
UCLA got a big win over Oregon in Los Angeles on Thursday, avenging the Ducks’ buzzer beater in Eugene earlier this season. But that wasn’t enough to surpass the Ducks for a 2-seed. Oregon still has the better overall resume.
Wisconsin’s loss to Northwestern on Sunday — one that solidified the Wildcats’ quest for their first ever NCAA Tournament berth — dropped them down two seed lines, but they’ve got plenty of time to play into a higher seed.
Big 12: 7
Big 10: 7
Big East: 5
Missouri Valley: 2