NCAA Bracket and Locations 3/5
A big weekend slate of games concluded the regular season (except the Ivy league, which now has a virtual playoff), and awarded four bids. Congrats to Murray St, Creighton, Belmont, and UNC Asheville for securing their spots in the Big Dance.
It also shook up the top of the bracket, as UNC’s win over Duke and Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State moved North Carolina to the top line, joining Kentucky, Syracuse, and Kansas for now. Duke falls to the second line, joining Michigan State, Ohio State, and Missouri.
Four more bids will be decided tonight:
CAA – Bubble teams Drexel and VCU, the 1 and 2 seeds in the CAA final. Drexel has won 19 straight games and 25 of 26, but lose tonight and Bruiser Flint’s squad may not get the chance to show what they can do on the bigger stage. Shaka Smart’s VCU squad faces the same dilemma as they try to get back to the tournament after last year’s incredible Final Four run.
MAAC – Early season favorite Fairfield upset top seed Iona in the conference semifinals yesterday afternoon, and will take on Loyola Maryland in the final. The Stags have been playing much better of late, meeting some of their early seaon expectations in recent weeks and look to be the favorite to grab the conference’s bid tonight. Iona still has big dreams, but those which are likely to be unfulfilled. My guess is they just miss the bracket and end up in the NIT.
Southern – Top seed Davidson takes on Western Carolina in what appears to be a lopsided conference final. It wouldn’t be any more an upset than Davidson’s win over Kansas earlier this season though, so never say never.
West Coast – The headliner of the evening is Gonzaga and St Mary’s in the WCC final. St Mary’s finally ended Gonzaga’s 8 year run on the WCC regular season title, but the Zags now set their sights on revenge in the conference tournament final. Both teams are safely in the tournament; the same cannot be said for 3-seed BYU, who was annihilated by Gonzaga over the weekend and will sweat it out right on the bubble for the next week.
My updated bracket, heading into Monday evening’s games, is posted below. Those teams that have earned automatic bids are listed in bold and italics.
|2||Ohio St.||Duke||Michigan St.||Missouri|
|4||Florida St.||Wichita St.||Georgetown||Wisconsin|
|5||Temple||Murray St.||Florida||New Mexico|
|7||Nevada Las Vegas||Louisville||St. Mary’s||Notre Dame|
|8||Kansas St.||St. Louis||San Diego St.||Vanderbilt|
|10||West Virginia||Southern Mississippi||Cincinnati||Harvard|
|11||Texas||Washington||Long Beach St.||Miami FL|
|12||VCU/Colorado St.||South Florida||Northwestern||Connecticut|
|16||Stony Brook||Long Island||NC Asheville||Loyola MD|
|Mississippi Valley St.||Savannah St.|
|Next Four||Second Four Out||Bubble Fringe|
|North Carolina St.||Seton Hall||Arizona|
|Oregon||Iona||South Dakota St.|
|Mississippi St.||Saint Joseph’s||Mississippi|
The final team in is BYU, while the first out is currently NC State. I have a tough time seeing anybody not listed above making a run at an at-large at this point, as they’ve left too much on the table in their previous games.
First let’s look at the 8 first and second round sites: Albuquerque NM, Columbus OH, Greensboro NC, Louisville, KY, Nashville TN, Omaha NE, Pittsburgh PA, and Portland OR. All distances to sites are provided by Crashing the Dance. It’s easiest to start at the top of the S-curve, as the higher a team is ranked, the more priority the team receives when the Committee selects sites:
The first 6 teams are likely to get their top choice due to their relative standing and close proximity to some of the sites. That closes out Greensboro with Duke and Carolina, and puts one team each in Omaha, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. Baylor will likely have a protected seed in Albuquerque due to being the closest as well barring a collapse down the stretch. Finally, Missouri appears likely to get the second spot in Omaha, so even if we don’t get one final incident of the Border War in the Big 12 tournament, their fans can sing Kumbaya together at the first and second round tournament site. While those eight sites are likely set, the others are much more difficult to determine.
Four of the schools listed above were good in the wrong year and have no site within 400 miles, and two of the sites, Albuquerque and Portland, OR have no teams within 500 miles. Portland in particular has UNLV (likely to be a 5 or 6 seed and not get its own pod) 700 miles away and no one else within 1000 miles. Those are the sites for leftover 4 seeds, and when the bracket comes out the first places I’ll be looking for upsets.
The vast majority of the teams from the Big Ten (Ohio St, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan), Big East (Georgetown and Marquette), and Wichita State are all closer to Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Louisville than to any of the remaining sites. With just three sites for those 7 teams, 4 can go to those sites while the remainder will have to settle for Nashville, Albuquerque or Portland.
Where it gets interesting beyond this is in placing the remaining teams. The committee has shown a precedent of moving a team a little further from home than the closest open site if it accomodates another team remaining within driving distance. Thus, I shift OSU to Louisville (198 miles from home rather than 145 to Pittsburgh), Indiana to Nashville since they’re closer than most teams they’re competing with to there, and Michigan to Pittsburgh, allowing #9 overall Marquette to play in Columbus. .
Georgetown, Wisconsin, Wichita State, and Florida State currently round out the top 4 seeds and will fill out the final spots in Nashville, Albuquereque, and two in Portland. Wichita State will likely end up in Albuquerque due to their proximity to there versus the other teams, Florida State will stay in the Southeast in Nashville, and Wisconsin and Georgetown will be shipped to the Northwest, plaing in Portland. Here’s my best guess as of today, with spots I’m fairly certain about in bold. Let me know if you have a different/better placement for the remaining teams, as it will be interesting to see how the Committee settles these debates over the coming week.
|Wichita St.||Marquette||UNC||Ohio St.||Florida St||Missouri||Michigan||Wisconsin|
The four regional sites are St Louis, Atlanta, Boston, and Phoenix. Much like they do with the sub-regionals above, the Committee attempts to keep teams as close to home as possible for the sweet 16 and Elite 8. The obvious caviat here is that the top 1-seeds take precedence over other sides. When it gets to the fourth #1 seed, many teams debate whether they’d rather have, say, the #1 seed in Phoenix, far from home, or play much closer to home as a 2-seed in St Louis, Boston, or Atlanta, depending on the team in question. This is especially true when shifting along the same line, as most schools have a stated preference of facing a tougher 1-seed but playing closer to home rather than an easier opponent further away. Take UNC as an example. They appear to be the first or second two-seed at the time being, which would line them up against Kansas or Michigan State, theoretically easier opponenets than Kentucky. However, they would likely rather play in Kentucky in the Elite 8 if it meant playing in Atlanta. Keep that in mind when reading the following and when certain regions seem tougher than others in the final bracket produced by the Committee.
Atlanta – Kentucky will likely grab the Atlanta regional’s #1 seed. I’m projecting Ohio State will end up in Atlanta even though it’s about 100 miles further from there than Duke, as Duke will be sent to the Northeast where it has a sizable fan base. While a coin flip at best, that’s my gut feeling. A Kentucky/OSU Elite 8 matchup has the potential to be an instant classic.
1 – Kentucky 2 – Duke 3 – Baylor 4 – Florida St. 5 – Murray St.
Boston – Syracuse takes the 1 seed, while Duke gets sent up the East coast to face off against the Orange.
1 – Syracuse 2 – UNC 3 - Michigan 4 - Wisconsin 5 – Temple
St Louis – Kansas claims the 1 seed and plays close to home, with Michigan State, Marquette, and Wichita State forming Midwest Regional full of midwestern teams.
1- Kansas 2 - Michigan State 3 – Marquette 4 – Wichita State 5 – Florida
Phoenix - Finally, UNC is set to travel 1800 miles to be the 1 seed in Phoenix. They will be joined by a smattering of teams from around the country, as no one in the top 16 spots now is within 850 miles of Phoenix. A west coast team that could advance in this bracket could attract quite the home court following. Well, they could if the west coast teams were better this year anyways.
1- UNC 2 – Missouri 3 – Indiana 4- Georgetown 5 – New Mexico
I’ll update this analysis next weekend while filling out my bracket.