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Bracket Thoughts for the Week of January 13th

by David Mihm | January 13th, 2008

A few random musings as I was putting together the bracket this week before we begin our “Bubble Watch” next week in earnest:

  • The four #1 seeds are pretty much set.  I don’t see these changing much in the next eight weeks.  Memphis and UCLA fans can book their tickets to Little Rock and Anaheim, even if their teams somehow slide down to the #2 or #3 lines.  The other sites (Raleigh and Omaha), though, are too “competitive” to be certain.  Here’s my prediction: the four #1′s on Selection Sunday will be Memphis, the ACC Champion, the Pac-10 Champion, and the Big XII Champion, in that order, unless something funky happens with the Big XII Final like it did last year.
  • A Pac-10 team will get into the Tournament this year with a sub-.500 record.   I’m not guaranteeing eight teams (as are currently projected in the field), but the quality of play in the middle of the league is such that a Stanford, Cal, Arizona State, USC, or even Arizona could end up at 8-10 / 9-11, having beaten several Tournament-caliber teams.
  • The SEC will get at least four teams into the Tournament. I wouldn’t have necessarily said this a month ago, but Arkansas and Mississippi both look pretty strong at this point, and Florida is surging nicely.  It’s still going to be tough for the Gators to get in with a .500 conference record (as I said in the comments last week), however, given that the SEC is #5 in the RPI and their own non-conference SOS is an unconscionable 308.
  • The Atlantic-14 10 will get at least three and as many as five teams into the Tournament.  Dayton and Xavier are looking more and more like locks at this point (both already have quality scalps away from home, R-Louisville and N-Indiana, respectively).  Rhode Island showed well @ the Flyers this week, and UMass and St Joseph’s both have worthy profiles at this point.  Even Duquesne could still sneak into the mix before it’s over.
  • The Big East has a legit shot at putting nine teams in the field.  Count: (1) Marquette (2) Georgetown (3) Pittsburgh (4) West Virginia (5) Villanova (6) Louisville (7) Notre Dame (8) Syracuse (9) Providence.  (10) UConn is on the cusp, and even (11) Cincinnati and (12) DePaul are not completely dead yet.
  • The Committee will take the injuries of Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) and David Padgett (Louisville) strongly into account on Selection Sunday.  Louisville will primarily be seeded based on how they play from here on out, and Arizona’s recent hiccups against Arizona State and Oregon (not that those are bad losses anyway) will be forgiven.

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  1. Bryce Says:

    What has Miami (FL) done that they are seeded three lines above Baylor? Baylor has one forgivable loss, one understandable loss, and one good win. Miami has one semi-decent win and one shocking loss. It seems that Baylor should be higher than Miami.

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  2. David Mihm Says:

    Who is Miami’s “shocking” loss? By 6 points to #97 Winthrop? I wouldn’t exactly call that shocking. They also have several good, if not great, wins (Providence, VCU, and Mississippi State) away from home. Baylor’s beaten Winthrop and Notre Dame…there really isn’t a third quality win. Maybe there shouldn’t be three lines of separation, but it’s still early to base EVERYTHING on performance. There’s still a little perception involved with only one conference game in the books.

    Read my full thoughts on Baylor here.

    Thanks for the comment; I enjoy the banter!

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  3. Bryce Says:

    While Winthrop is decent for a Big South team, they should not be confused with the Winthrop of last year. I would not count them as a quality win for Baylor. The point I was trying to make was that Baylor has a win over a tournament team, and both of its losses came to probable tourney teams. Miami has not beaten a tourney team, and has lost to a team not currently in the tournament.

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  4. Bryce Says:

    I meant “that will probably not end up in the tournament” not “not currently in the tournament”.

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  5. Mackinder Says:

    Dave,

    I have to hand it to you on your seeding this week. Before this week, my alma mater (Michigan State) had looked extremely solid with the lone loss coming in a game against UCLA (in which UCLA won by 5 and scored the game’s final 10 points). But with Saturday’s loss to Iowa, things have changed. I assume it was real tough seeding MSU, along with a team like Indiana. Amazingly, I don’t have any complaints with MSU on the No. 4 line and IU on the No. 5. I think both will end up there or maybe a seed higher at best.

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  6. David Mihm Says:

    @Bryce: I’m not confusing Winthrop of 2008 with Winthrop of 2007; their RPI’s were at least 50 points different. Nevertheless, this year’s team had beaten Georgia Tech and Akron prior to Miami, so it’s not like they were completely off the radar screen.

    @Chris: Thanks for the kind words. With the Big Ten in a down year, it’s going to be tough for the champion to get a #2 seed without almost running the table. #3 is definitely more likely. Wisconsin, MSU, and Indiana are clearly the class of the league but I’m not sure how much there is beyond that. Ohio State, Purdue, and Minnesota are decent, and I suspect Illinois will turn things around here shortly (yesterday’s outing was a nice effort) but it’s hard to say.

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  7. Tim Says:

    Where is your Southern Conference representative?

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  8. David Mihm Says:

    @Tim: Thanks for that! Somehow my assistant editor, a Davidson alum no less, must have missed it :D

    Cal is now out of the bracket & replaced by the Wildcats.

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  9. John Says:

    @ David Mihm: I see you put the Gators into the field as they are surging nicely. But to say they will only finish .500 in the league is a little off base. Yes Tennessee and Vanderbilt are better(although i question Vanderbilt after they lost to Kentucky. The Wildcats will not recover.), but we will most likely sweep Georgia and South Carolina, defeat LSU and once again take care of Kentucky twice. That is 7 wins right there combined with the 2 we already have gives us 9(already over .500) I say we end up somewhere as a #7 seed or slightly higher by Selection Sunday and perhaps(if things go right) win our 4th straight SEC Tournament title.

    A few other things to chew on:

    Syracuse is in the field despite losing AT HOME to Massachusetts and Rhode Island and looking awful at West Virginia(yeah WVU Coliseum is a tough place to play, but come on be a little more competitive. I watched that whole game.) They have 1 quality win at Virginia and that is a team you currently project OUT of the field. Maybe they make it based on default cause none of the other teams you have projected just missing the field have done enough, but the Orange did not look like a tournament team to me yesterday.

    Compliments on your 8-9 matchups. If the commitee can get those matchups, we should be in store for some of the best 8-9 games in recent memory.

    I see you have Kent State close to making the field. What can the Golden Flashes do the rest of the way to get closer and perhaps secure the MAC’s first at-large bid in almost a decade?

    South Florida has a win over a projected NCAA Tournament team(Florida State) and with road games at Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall and Villanova could one win in that group plus a first-round win in the Big East Tournament put the Bulls in contention for the Big Dance?

    If you had to pick out of your projected bracket a 13 seed or lower that could defeat its projected first round opponent, who would it be?

    Yeah it’s nitpicking, but are you sure the Ohio Valley should be in the play-in game?(Kinda reminds me of Niagara last year.) And who are the OVC and SWAC representatives since you don’t have them listed?

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  10. David Mihm Says:

    Thanks for the lengthy comments, John!

    - Florida’s road win at Alabama was key. I’m not actually sure that the Gators will win all of the games you listed, but they looked better this week than they did in the only game in which I have seen them this year (at Ohio State).

    - How’s this for irony: Syracuse’s RPI is basically the only thing keeping them IN the field at this point. They’re 3-4 against the Top 100, which isn’t great, but they do have two nice wins away from home, which not too many other teams have at this point in the proceedings.

    - The 8-9 games are always entertaining, but in this particular projection, I’m salivating over ASU vs Providence. (ps not sure why “other” bracket analysts are so down on the Friars. Two wins away from home against NCAA-level competition (Arkansas, BC) at this point in the year is pretty rare.

    - Kent needs to avoid getting beaten up in the MAC (read: fewer than three losses) and win its BracketBuster game. ESPN could help the Flashes out with a marquee road game…it would also help if Illinois State ended up winning The Valley.

    - I’m not sold on USF yet–they didn’t look all that good against a banged-up Pitt squad last week. Let’s see how the next few games go. Stan Heath has done a terrific job to-date, however.

    - I like the MAAC champion (either Siena OR Niagara) to pull a potential upset, and also the MAC champion–that league looks to finally be returning to its early 00′s form.

    - Hard to know what the NCAA’s thinking is on the play-in game, but the OVC is the 2nd-worst rated league, even though Austin Peay’s RPI is quite high, and they explicitly stated that they don’t like to see the same two conferences relegated to the “opening-round” game every year in 2007.

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  11. John Says:

    I can basically see your points on everything except the play-in game concept. I always thought the commitee looked at the two teams with the lowest RPI instead of the two conferences with the lowest RPI. I can understand the commitee’s concern over placing the same two conferences(MEAC and SWAC to be more specific.) in that game, but if they send the two lowest rated teams to the Tournament, they should be in that game. I think there are other reasons as to why the commitee does not do this, and I also strongly believe the commitee needs to look at the team’s RPI rather then the conference RPI. The last time they got it right was Monmouth and Hampton in 2006.

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  12. David Mihm Says:

    John, you’re absolutely right that the Committee is SUPPOSED to look at individual teams…but as you rightly point out, that was patently not the case with Niagara last year. They’ve made it clear that they’re going to avoid putting the two historically black conferences in the play-in game all the time, and this might just be the OVC’s year.

    It’s probably a little far from Selection Sunday to get into this kind of detail anyway! :D

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  13. John Says:

    I saw that Illinois State and Drake get together this weekend. Who wins the game, who needs the game more, and what is the formula for both getting in?

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  14. Mark Says:

    Things are going to be interesting in the SEC. Mississippi State struggled early but has won seven straight heading to Alabama this weekend. Florida’s young guys seem to get better every week. Arkansas had a horrific home loss to South Carolina, so how will they bounce back? Vandy is being exposed a little in league play and could find themselves on the bubble soon. Ole Miss is the surprise of the league and may be one of the four teams in the conference. The only team who can truly breath easy is Tennessee.

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  15. GJGood Says:

    How realistic are the chances of the MAC to get multiple bids this year? As an Akron alum I’d like to know if you think they could work their way into “at large” consideration should they not win the conference.

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  16. David Mihm Says:

    @GJGood – If you want an honest answer, I’d say not very good. There aren’t really any marquee non-conference scalps on Akron’s resume (wow, the Dayton game would have been huge), and there are going to be a lot of bids from the Atlantic 10 this year. If Temple can somehow work its way into at-large consideration, it would do wonders for the Zips’ profile.

    I’d say for ANY chance at an at-large, a regular-season sweep of Kent State is essential, meaning the game on Wednesday is probably the biggest one of the year. Then, avoid bad losses the rest of the way in the conference (L-@ Miami or L-@ Ohio would probably be o.k.) and make it to the MAC final. A 27-5 team (including BracketBuster win) would probably have a 50-50 chance at an at-large on Selection Sunday.

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  17. John Says:

    @GJGood. I’m not the expert here, but I follow the MAC because I like the conference and my team(Florida) already has done enough to make it, so my season starts in Atlanta(SEC Tournament.) Anyway, Akron needs to make the MAC Championship Game(lucky for you Doug Penno won’t be there this year, even if Miami-Ohio is. I was rooting for Akron in that game last year.) and I think they’ll make it. However, you have nothing to worry about as the Zips are clearly the best team in the MAC and will not allow themselves to lose. Compare Akron to Oral Roberts from the last couple of years. Like the Zips, the Golden Eagles had not made the tournament in 21 years(1984 to 2005, 1986 to 2007 for Akron.) Both teams were the best in the conference. Both lost on last second shots(the aforementioned Penno against Akron last year and Pierre Dukes against Oral Roberts in 2005.) Look how ORU has rebounded the last 2 years from that shot. Two NCAA bids. Not to worry my friend. They get back to the MAC final, they will follow a similar path as ORU has.

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