We are less than 36 hours from Selection Show time, and there’s been a bunch of small but significant movement throughout the bracket. As we do every year, Saturday morning was spent re-evaluating the entire seed list, trying to take into account the results of the week and reconsidering the resumes of the various teams involved. As such, there has been a decent amount of change from yesterday’s bracket to today’s bracket. Here’s what we’re looking at before the start of the Saturday games:
Since we’re close to the end, let’s look at the Last Four In more closely than normal:
(33) – Indiana: IU is in a weird position, where they are struggling to climb up the bracket due to their overall depth of wins, but probably can’t drop a lot further due to the fact that they’ve beaten some teams that are definitely in the tournament. The biggest knocks on IU’s resume are 1) once again, they’ve done almost all of their damage at home, 2) their non-conference SOS is a joke, and 3) They haven’t beaten a tournament-caliber team since January 22nd. If some of the other contending teams had done anything of note this week, I think IU would be in big trouble. But given the way the rest of the bubble looks, I’d say they are the safest of the in-danger teams right now.
(34) – BYU: They weren’t in my last field, and I feel weird about putting them in the field now. But so many contending teams have lost, and none of those teams have a recent win as good as winning at Gonzaga. They also played a very good non-conference SOS. The Cougars are in the field mostly because they are the prettiest pig in the pen.
(35) – Miami: Back from the dead! Miami shouldn’t be in the field, but much like Indiana and BYU, they’ve accomplished more than the other debris at the end of the bubble. That win at Duke is likely going to be their salvation, along with their winning record in the top-rated ACC.
(36) – Boise State: They’re really only in because they were the sole team to beat San Diego State on the road this year. The rest of their resume is pretty much interchangeable with the last four out.
Last Four Out: UCLA, Tulsa, Illinois, Colorado State
A Caveat About the Bubble: One of the biggest misconceptions about the NCAA selection process is that there’s a set list of immovable criteria that the committee robotically applies each season. That’s just not the case. Each committee is slightly different, and individual years have seen them value different things, both in terms of selection and seeding. Historically there have been a boatload of surprising decisions made by the various NCAA selection committees over the years, from Iona making it as an at-large in 2012 to Air Force in 2006, and a whole host of odd seeding decisions.
I say all that to simply remind you all that what we think we know about the selection committee’s criteria from year to year is generally a lot of guesswork, rather than certainty. If the committee is valuing wins away from home against good teams, then Boise State, Miami, and BYU should be in good shape. If they’re valuing total wins, then Tulsa and Colorado State may be far better off than we’re projecting. To some degree, you have to figure out which hill you want to die on among the criteria and then go with that. So if you’re seeing a lot of variance in the teams selected or the seeding of those teams, that’s probably why.
- North Carolina moved up to a 3 seed in this latest projection due to their appearance in the ACC Final. This is likely to happen in real life, because despite UNC having already lost 10 games, they have a very impressive overall roster of wins, and the Committee tends to significantly over-reward teams that make deep runs in major conference tournaments.
- The 1 seed situation is rather fluid at this stage. Right now, Virginia is likely the odd man out, due to a combination of injuries and untimely losses. They’re almost certainly behind Duke in the pecking order at this stage. The biggest question mark is what the committee decides to do with Villanova and Wisconsin. To my eye, it seems that Duke definitely ranks ahead of both teams, and I’m guessing the committee sees it the same way. But if they don’t, you could see Villanova in the East, Wisconsin in the South, and Duke in the West, with Virginia slotting into the East (and avoiding Kentucky’s Midwest Regional). It does appear that the four 1 seeds are going to be decided between five teams, and the ultimate decision may come down to whether Wisconsin can win the Big Ten tournament.
- As we look at Utah’s resume more closely, they keep dropping. They’ve gone from a 3 seed all the way to a 6 seed in this latest projection. That’s probably their floor.
- I see a lot of high seeding for Northern Iowa. I don’t get it. Look at their resume, and then look at the resumes of the current 4 seeds. Other than “the eye test”, I don’t see the justification for seeding UNI higher than a 5, and their manifest of wins should probably land them as a 6, which is what I have here today.
- If you’re an Indiana fan today, you need to root for the following teams to lose: Auburn, Temple, Rhode Island, UConn, Wyoming.