It's that time of year again. From here until Selection Sunday, I will be offering weekly Rock-M-Tology updates each Monday(ish). Some notes as we get started:
- When drawing up a bracket this far out, there are so many different approaches you can take. Are you in some way predicting results the rest of the way? Are you taking purely an "if the tournament started today" approach? What I basically did with this one is take the later approach, only with heavy weight on teams' Pomeroy rankings, which a) the committee doesn't take into account at all and b) have a little bit of a predictive element to them. They are much more predictive than RPI, anyway. So in a way, I guess I split the difference. A team like Murray State only gets a 7-seed in the bracket below, even though they might be a bit higher if the tournament started today (last week's Jerry Palm bracket had them at a 3-seed, today's Chris Dobbertean bracket has them a 4.
- The other thing I tend to do this early is make this more of a "what would I do if I were the committee?" activity. As we approach Selection Sunday, I will shift more toward my prediction of what the committee will do.
- Generally speaking, the bracket below takes into account the following factors: non-conference performance, conference performance, road/neutral court wins, wins over the RPI Top 50, losses to teams ranked 101st or worse in the RPI, and Ken Pomeroy rank. I basically approach this from a numbers perspective first, then make manual adjustments from there. I like using numbers as a starting point because, if nothing else, I haven't seen full games from all of these teams yet. The numbers set the overall perspective for you. But this is by no means ALL numbers. Not even close.
- Yes, I have Missouri getting the final 1-seed right now. Mizzou, Baylor (No. 2 RPI) and Kansas (No. 3 Pomeroy) are locked tightly together, but since Mizzou is 2-0 versus those teams at the moment, they get the nod.
Alright, let's start with some overrated and underrated teams ... i.e. the teams about which I disagree most severely with some other bracketologists, namely Jerry Palm, Joe Lunardi and SBN's awesome Chris Dobbertean.
Colorado State (14-7) - Jerry Palm listed the Rams as a 13-seed last week, and Dobbertean had them an 11-seed this morning. Can't co-sign. Pomeroy has them ranked 102nd right now, and their five best wins are against San Diego State (a legitimately solid, 17-point win at home), Colorado, Denver, Manhattan and Montana. They have played seven games against likely NCAA tournament teams and lost six. They lost to Southern Miss by 21, Duke by 23, Wyoming by 19, New Mexico by 33 and UNLV by 19. Plus, they needed overtime to beat Manhattan, beat UTEP by just three, and needed two overtimes to beat lowly TCU at home. That's not a tournament team to me.
Mississippi State (18-5) - They're 18-5 and 5-3 in the SEC, so they're almost certainly a tourney team at the moment. But I don't think they've earned the six-seed given to them by Dobbertean and Lunardi. Against Pomeroy Top 100 teams, they are 5-4, and they have lost to to Ole Miss, Arkansas and Akron. They have beaten Alabama, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Arizona, and they are obviously a tourney team, but I have them more in the 8-10 range.
Murray State (23-0) - I love mid-majors, and I habitually think they get screwed, both in terms of seeding and selection. So you would think that Murray State is the team for me, what with their Top 10 rankings and undefeated record. But I think it says quite a bit that they rank just 61st in Pomeroy's rankings. They have beaten both Southern Miss and Memphis, and they would probably have to fall apart quite a bit to miss out on an at-large bid (if they needed one), but they are not trending in the right direction. Last week they beat SEMO by eight (at home) and UT-Martin by 7 (on the road). After winning their first two OVC games by a combined 57 points, their average margin has been just 10.3 points in the last nine. They finish with three of four games on the road (including trips to SEMO and Tennessee Tech, whom they each beat by only single digits) and a visit from mighty St. Mary's in between. That's rough. I'm doubting they finish undefeated, and all it will take is a couple of losses for their seed to plummet.
Illinois (16-7) - This is a somewhat minor complaint, but while Palm had them a 6-seed last week and both Dobbertean and Lunardi have them as an 8, I had to talk myself into putting them even at 9. They have lost four of five overall, and their resume is an interesting mix of huge wins (Ohio State, Michigan State) and iffy losses (at Penn State, Northwestern at home).
New Mexico (18-4) - That they rank 10th in Pomeroy's rankings tells me their foundation is very, very solid. They were semi-putrid in the opening weeks of the season -- they lost at home to New Mexico State, then lost to Santa Clara, but they have turned it on. They have mostly racked up a nice record by whipping bad teams (which, as we've learned over time, is as good a predictor as your performances against good teams), but while Palm had them a 13 last week and Lunardi has them an 11, I had to talk myself out of giving them a 6.
Arizona (16-8) - I can't speak too highly of a team that has lost at home to San Diego State, Oregon and Washington and finds themselves just 7-4 in a bad Pac-12, but while Palm and Dobbertean both have them far on the outside looking in, I have them ahead of certain other teams, including 18-6 California, whom they just defeated on the road.
BYU (18-6) - Palm is in no way a BYU fan at the moment, but they've lost just two games to teams ranked outside of Pomeroy's Top 30, they have mostly dominated the bad teams on their schedule, and they do have wins over Gonzaga, Virginia and Nevada, for whatever that's worth to you. The numbers are higher on them than I am, but I do think they're in the field right now.
Wichita State (19-4) - The Shockers currently find themselves 15th in Pomeroy's rankings, just ahead of Duke and Florida State. Their overtime loss to Drake is ugly, but they are 5-3 versus Pomeroy's Top 100, and their other three losses (Alabama , Temple and Creighton) are all solid. I always end up over-favoring MVC teams, it seems, but if they finish as projected by Pomeroy (losing at Creighton, but otherwise winning out), they could earn themselves a very nice tourney seed.
Last Few In
Notre Dame (15-8)
Long Beach (15-6)
Seton Hall (15-8)
Names in italics would be among the last in without their conference's automatic bid.
First Few Out
N.C. State (17-7)
Oral Roberts (21-5)
Cleveland State (19-4)
8 - Big East, Big Ten
6 - Big 12
5 - ACC, SEC
4 - Mountain West
3 - Atlantic 10, West Coast
2 - Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Pac-12
FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)
Miami (14-7) vs Arizona (16-8)
Seton Hall (15-8) vs Texas (14-9)
Stony Brook (14-7) vs Mississippi Valley State (11-11)
Norfolk State (15-7) vs Long Island (17-7)
EAST REGIONAL (in Boston)
1 Syracuse (23-1) vs 16 Weber State (16-4)
8 Gonzaga (18-4) vs 9 Kansas State (16-6)
5 Michigan (16-7) vs 12 Long Beach State (15-6)
4 Florida (19-4) vs 13 Oral Roberts (21-5)
6 Virginia (18-4) vs 11 Notre Dame (15-8)
3 UNLV (19-4) vs 14 Iona (19-5
7 Temple (17-5) vs 10 Mississippi State (18-5)
2 Michigan State (17-5) vs 15 Bucknell (17-6)
WEST REGIONAL (in Phoenix)
1 Missouri (21-2) vs 16 Stony Brook / Mississippi Valley State
8 West Virginia (16-8) vs 9 Harvard (19-2)
5 Wichita State (19-4) vs 12 Wyoming (16-5)
4 Wisconsin (18-6) vs 13 Miami / Arizona
6 Vanderbilt (16-7) vs 11 BYU (18-6)
3 Marquette (19-5) vs 14 Davidson (16-5)
7 New Mexico (18-4) vs 10 St. Louis (17-5)
2 North Carolina vs 15 VCU (20-5)
SOUTH REGIONAL (in Atlanta)
1 Kentucky (23-1) vs 16 UNC-Asheville (15-7)
8 Memphis (16-7) vs 9 Illinois (16-7)
5 St. Mary's (20-2) vs 12 Xavier (15-8)
4 Indiana (18-6) vs 13 Washington (16-7)
6 Louisville (18-5) vs 11 Middle Tennessee (20-4)
3 Duke (19-4) vs 14 Nevada (17-4)
7 Murray State (20-0) vs 10 Purdue (15-8)
2 Baylor (20-2) vs 15 UT-Arlington (16-5)
MIDWEST REGIONAL (in St. Louis)
1 Ohio State (20-3) vs 16 Norfolk State / Long Island
8 UConn (15-7) vs 9 Iowa State (17-6)
5 Florida State (16-6) vs 12 Seton Hall / Texas
4 Creighton (21-3) vs 13 Akron (15-7)
6 Southern Miss (18-3) vs 11 Minnesota (17-7)
3 Georgetown (17-4) vs 14 Cleveland State (19-4)
7 San Diego State (18-3) vs 10 Alabama (15-7)
2 Kansas (18-5) vs 15 Belmont (16-7)
My At-First-Glance Final Four
Syracuse, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas
Second glance: Florida, Missouri, No Idea (don't trust any of the teams besides Kentucky), Ohio State
Missouri's Inevitable Path To Destiny™ (ahem)
Stony Brook, West Virginia, Wichita State, North Carolina, Syracuse, Kentucky. No sweat.