The bracket will be revealed in eight days, so it is time for us to get an idea of how the field will look.
Unlike in previous years, we already were presented with a partial mock bracket made by the selection committee a month ago. Although this gives great insight on how the committee is thinking, a lot has happened since then. Also, they only listed the top 16.
If anything, this could give us a good hint on where they are leaning as far as the top seeds. Last month, they had Gonzaga listed as the last #1 seed even when they were undefeated. Now with their loss to BYU, it is very difficult to determine whether they will remain a one or not. If it were up to me, they would be on the top line for sure based on the quality of the team. But these brackets I make are not a reflection of what I think should happen, but rather, what I think the committee will do. And I see them choosing Villanova and Kansas for sure. The other two teams I have listed on the top line, UNC and Kentucky, will both secure those spots with conference tournament wins. If lesser teams win those tournaments, Gonzaga could find themselves on the top line. If they embrace quality metrics systems, such as Ken Pomeroy rankings where Gonzaga is #1, and lose their obsession with RPI, than that is good news for Gonzaga. But I am not confident that this will happen.
I am also trying to apply past selection committee logic to the bubble. One of the biggest surprises for many people last year was Syracuse’s inclusion in the tournament. Well, it turned out to be the correct decision as they made a surprise Final Four run. Their biggest strength as a bubble team was sheer number of quality wins, even though they also had many “bad” losses. So, with regards to the bubble this year, look for several power conference teams in a similar mold to be included in the field. I included 14 loss Vanderbilt because road wins over Florida and Arkansas, as well as a non-confernece win against Iowa St, will catch the committee’s attention.
However, the committee could also throw a bone at a small conference bubble team, as they did a few years ago with Middle Tennessee. The problem for these teams is that their schedules present little opportunities for quality wins, so their best way of making the field is often avoiding these bad losses. As it stands, I see Middle Tennessee and Illinois St being right on the bubble if they do not seal automatic bids. However, as top seeds in their conference tournaments, they get included by default in this mock.
The third type of bubble team, power conference teams lacking quality wins, are mostly going to be in trouble this year. This includes teams that did not make the cut in my bracket, such as California and Georgia. Each only has one win over a team with an at-large chance, and a losing record against teams in the RPI Top 50 and the RPI top 100.
Without further ado, here is my projected seed list.
1 Villanova, Kansas, UNC, Kentucky
2 Gonzaga, Baylor, Louisville, Oregon
3 Florida, UCLA, Butler, Arizona
4 Duke, West Virginia, Florida St, Virginia
5 Purdue, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Notre Dame
6 SMU, St. Mary’s, Dayton, Creighton
7 South Carolina, Oklahoma St, Iowa St, Miami
8 Maryland, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Arkansas
9 Northwestern, Michigan, Wichita St, VCU
10 Michigan St, Wake Forest, Marquette, USC
11 Providence, Seton Hall/Vanderbilt, Syracuse/Xavier, Illinois St
12 Middle Tennessee, Nevada, UT Arlington, UNC Wilmington
13 Monmouth, Princeton, Vermont, Winthrop
14 Bucknell, FGCU, Akron, Cal St Bakersfield
15 Oakland, UNC Greensboro, Eastern Washington, South Dakota
16 UT Martin, Texas Southern, NC Central/UC Irvine, New Orleans/Mount Saint Mary’s