That's right, it's that time of year again--time to pointlessly predict the NCAA tourney bracket like hundreds of others, all of whom get paid much more than I do (but are almost undoubtedly even less accurate).
For the most part, I'll compare my bracket to two main sources: Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm. Lunardi because he's the most prominent, Palm because he's the best. So when I talk about overrated and underrated teams, I'm comparing how I have a team ranked to how they do. Now, this will never work perfectly, as Lunardi updates his bracket before the weekend games, but it'll have to do.
As a whole, my system rewards you for strengths in your resume, whether it's a handful of nice wins, a good RPI, a great overall record, whatever. I try not to focus on just one thing. So...that said, who's overrated?
Georgetown. I understand how great the Big East is...I do. But they Hoyas now hold a 4-7 conference record. I can handle a team getting in with a conference record of .500 or a couple games below. Oh, and they're only 13-9 overall, and their RPI is falling fast. Lunardi has them a #8, Palm a #10.
Kentucky. Really, Lunardi? A 10-seed for the 16-7 team with a #54 RPI, 5-3 record in a weak SEC, a loss to VMI, and a 3-game losing streak in conference? No way.
Tennessee.14-8 overall, 5-3 in a weak conference. They have a great-looking win over Marquette, but their seemingly impressive-at-the-time win over Georgetown is losing luster. This is a #9-11 seed to me, but Lunardi has them a #5, Palm a #6.
Baylor.They've got time to recover, but the fact that Palm has them an #11 and Lunardi has them as the first team out is being very generous to a team that, honestly, probably doesn't deserve the slack. For one thing, if I'm punishing Georgetown for being 4-7 in the Big East, then I'm really punishing Baylor for being 3-6 in the Big 12. For another, their only truly good win is against Arizona State. After that, it's slim pickins in the "achievements" category.
Texas. I'm sure Lunardi would not still have them at a #6 seed after their weekend loss to Nebraska (though #6 was too high before that loss), but...honestly, Palm's #9 seed might be too high as well right now. They're below KSU and Nebraska in the standings, and they're only 15-7 with a #43 RPI right now. I'm just assuming they'll turn it around, but at this exact moment they're starting to creep toward the bubble.
Purdue. No major qualms here--they're 17-6 overall, and their only iffy loss was to RPI #84 Penn State. But both Palm and Lunardi have them at #4 right now, and that's too high. This looks like a #5 or #6 to me.
Syracuse. As with Purdue, nothing major here--they have great-looking wins against Memphis, Kansas and West Virginia, and that's helped them overcome that horrendous, 70-foot-shot-at-the-buzzer loss to Cleveland State, but Palm has them a #4 seed, and that seems high to me. Lunardi has it about right at #6.
Butler. Lunardi has them, at 20-2, a 7 seed. That's balanced by Palm's 3 seed. I'm leaning closer to about a 4.
Villanova. At 19-4 overall, 7-3 in conference, and #12 in the RPI, they're set up pretty well for a 3 seed or so. Lunardi has them a #5, Palm #6.
Utah State. Granted, the only team they've beaten of any value whatsoever is Utah, but they are 22-1, rolling through the WAC at the moment, and holding a #35 RPI. I'm not going to advocate a 4-seed or anything, but they certainly should be in the #7-#9 range. Lunardi has them a #11, Palm a #10.
Florida State. 18-5, #9 RPI, 5-3 in the OMG!unbelievable! ACC. To me, that gives them a #5-6 seed...not the #9 and #8 seeds Lunardi and Palm have given them.
Dayton. They're 21-3, thumped Marquette on a neutral court, and have beaten a host of Top 100 teams. Their main problem is that all three losses have been by double digits to iffy teams (Creighton--who's decent--Charlotte and UMass). Still, though, I'd put them in the #6-8 range, while Palm and Lunardi have them #9.
BYU. BYU's a confounding team. They're 16-5, they have a #34 RPI, and they have good looking wins over fellow mid-majors Utah State and San Diego State. Plus, all five losses are decent--Wake Forest, Arizona State, UNLV, @ Utah, and @ New Mexico. They have a solid #8-10 seed resume...but they're currently only 5-3 in the Mountain West. Depending on the criteria you use, they could be underrated or overrated, really--Lunardi and Palm both have them in as a 12-seed.
Who's just right?
For the most part, the top seeds are pretty easy to pick out right now. The #1's pretty much have to be UConn, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Pittsburgh. Duke's definitely a #2. Teams like Michigan State, Xavier and Clemson are directly on that #2/#3 border.
Last 8 In
Georgetown (13-9, RPI #37)
San Diego State (15-5, RPI #35)
Tennessee (14-8, RPI #21)
BYU (16-5, RPI #34)
USC (15-7, RPI #42)
Miami-FL (14-8, RPI #41)
St. Mary's (17-4, RPI #59)
Arizona (16-8, RPI #53)
First 8 Out
UAB (16-8, RPI #32)
Oklahoma State (14-8, RPI #31)
Kentucky (16-7, RPI #54)
Cincinnati (15-8, RPI #51)
Penn State (17-7, RPI #84)
Michigan (14-9, RPI #49)
Baylor (14-8, RPI #54)
Texas A&M (16-7, RPI #46)
And no, Seth Davis, Notre Dame didn't make my First 8 Out. Not even my First 16 Out.
I guarantee things won't stay this top-heavy, but in a year where two conferences have stood out quite a bit, and solid mid-majors are few and far between, right now only nine conferences get multiple bids, and two conferences have eight teams in the tourney...which is a bracketing nightmare.
Big East - 8
ACC - 8
Pac 10 - 6
Big Ten - 5
Big 12 - 4
SEC - 4
Mountain West - 4
Atlantic 10 - 2
West Coast - 2
And in a fun quirk, all four 10-seeds are from the Mountain West! So yeah, it's safe to say that, when everything has been shaken out a bit, a couple of those teams will in up in the #7-9 range, and a couple will probably be in the NIT.
Okay, for now I'll just use highest RPI for projecting the lower conference winners--as we approach Championship Week, I like to have fun and add some randomness to the conference tourneys. The #1 seeds never come close to winning all their conference tourneys, so why project that? But for now, we'll keep it simple. Plenty of time to have fun later.
East Regional (Boston)
1 UConn vs 16 Texas A&M-CC
8 Davidson vs 9 LSU
5 Missouri vs 12 Miami-FL
4 UCLA vs 13 Buffalo
6 Syracuse vs 11 Texas
3 Xavier vs 14 Robert Morris
7 Ohio State vs 10 UNLV
2 Clemson vs 15 VMI
West Regional (Glendale, AZ)
1 Pittsburgh vs 16 Alabama State/Princeton winner
8 Tennessee vs 9 Virginia Tech
5 Illinois vs 12 St. Mary's
4 Kansas vs 13 American
(in Kansas City)
6 Minnesota vs 11 Georgetown
3 Memphis vs 14 North Dakota State(!)
7 California vs 10 Utah
2 Duke vs 15 Boston U.
South Regional (Memphis)
1 Oklahoma vs 16 Morgan State
8 Dayton vs 9 Boston College
(in Kansas City)
5 Purdue vs 12 Arizona
4 Villanova vs 13 Northeastern
6 Florida vs 11 Siena
3 Wake Forest vs 14 Weber State
7 Arizona State vs 10 San Diego State
2 Louisville vs 15 East Tennessee State
Midwest Regional (Indianapolis)
1 North Carolina vs 16 Long Beach State
8 West Virginia vs 9 Utah State
5 Gonzaga vs 12 USC
4 Butler vs 13 Western Kentucky
6 Washington vs 11 South Carolina
3 Marquette vs 14 Northern Iowa
7 Florida State vs 10 BYU
2 Michigan State vs 15 UT-Martin
My At-First-Glance Final Four
My very first glance said UConn, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina. Two Big East and two ACC? Screw that. My second glance says UConn, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, Marquette.
Missouri's path to the national title (ahem)
Just for grins: Miami-FL, UCLA, UConn, Clemson/Xavier/'Cuse, Pittsburgh/Duke, UNC