Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday, March 9th Update

1 Kentucky, Virginia, Duke, Villanova
2 Wisconsin, Arizona, Gonzaga, Kansas
3 Iowa St., Maryland, Baylor, Oklahoma
4 Northern Iowa, Notre Dame, Louisville, Utah
5 West Virginia, North Carolina, SMU, Arkansas
6 Providence, Wichita St., Georgetown, Butler
7 VCU, San Diego St., St. John's, Iowa
8 Michigan St, Davidson, Dayton, LSU
9 NC State, Cincinnati, Xavier, Colorado St.
10 Ohio St., Oklahoma St., Ole Miss, Boise St. 
11 Temple, Purdue, Indiana, Oregon / Georgia
12 Texas / BYU, Wofford, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin
13 Iona, Valparaiso, Yale, UC Davis
14 Central Michigan, Belmont, William & Mary, Georgia St.
15 NC Central, South Dakota St., Albany, New Mexico St.
16 Texas Southern, North Florida, Montana / St. Francis(NY), Lafayette / Coastal Carolina

Last Four Byes (in order): Ohio St., Purdue, Indiana, Temple
Last Four In (in order): Oregon, Georgia, Texas, BYU

First Four Out (in order): Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Old Dominion, Illinois
Next Four Out (in order): UCLA, Tulsa, Richmond, Rhode Island

Notes: Thanks to some actual free time on Sunday, I was able to do a full scrub of the field. Still not perfect, but I feel better about certain things after this update. New additions since the Saturday morning edition include Lafayette (as the Patriot League auto-bid - highest remaining seed after and Colgate were knocked off), Georgia St. (as the Sun Belt auto-bid - beat Georgia Southern on Saturday for the regular season title), Montana (as the Big Sky auto-bid - claimed the tournament's #1 seed), and Texas (one of the last four in - strong computer numbers and top-level wins sneak them into the field). Yale remained as the Ivy auto-bid, but you could just as easily swap in Harvard in the same place in the bracket - gonna have to wait and see how that playoff plays out. 

An Ivy note - some people may not like them not having a tournament, but count me among those happy that a conference commits to trying to send its best team. The NCAA tournament is more fun with strong teams at the bottom of the bracket - imagine if Dartmouth beating Yale had been in the tournament final. Great, another play-in level team. Instead, we still get the drama of a winner-take-all playoff game, but this time, they didn't have to survive the luckbox conference tournament format to get there. Ask Murray State how great that setup is. 

The biggest riser from Saturday is definitely Davidson. I think outright regular season conference titles matter (and believe the committee agrees - this is also reflected in SMU earning a 5 seed); thus, the Wildcats should be safely in the field, especially because their only two bad losses this year came without their best player, Jack Gibbs. They bump all the way up to an 8, which could lead to a very fun potential round of 32 matchup with Duke in Charlotte. 

There's been a lot of discussion around Indiana lately, (and I understand the concern over their level of play), but I still think their resume is one of the better ones on the bubble. Four top-50 wins, including non-conference scalps against Butler and SMU on a neutral court, a strong strength of schedule, and only one truly bad loss (at the improving Northwestern) keep the Hoosiers afloat in my book. Another bad loss to start the Big Ten tournament would make things dicey, however. 

As I've tried to bracket the top teams, I've consistently run into the issue of the Midwest region being far and away the best, rankings-wise. Using strictly geographic placement, I end up with the #1 (Kentucky), #5 (Wisconsin), #9 (Iowa St.), and #13 (Notre Dame) all in the same region. This region would have a major imbalance; to fix it, the easiest fix has been swapping Wisconsin and Iowa St with #8 Kansas and #11 Maryland. This will also make many college basketball fans happy - Wisconsin and Kentucky don't belong in the same region. 

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