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NOTE: This bracket accounts for games played through Sunday, Jan. 24.
Blame it on the small sample size. Blame it on whatever you want. It’s odd that we’re almost into February and there are still 10 teams that have an argument as a 1 seed. That’s 10 teams for four spots.
South Carolina, with seven Quad-1 wins, is really the only school that is inarguably on the 1 line. MAYBE Stanford is too, despite those two losses last week. The Cardinal still have wins over UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon, who are all Top 16 in the NET. After that, there are a lot of judgment calls.
We talked about UConn last week, which was on the 3 line despite being undefeated and ranking first in the NET. I had the Huskies as a 2 seed for most of the week after their win at Tennessee but simply could not justify putting them above Arizona, which has two Top 10 NET wins and six overall in Quad-1 and Quad-2. Reasonable minds can disagree, but with games upcoming against Arkansas and DePaul, this won’t be an issue much longer. If UConn wins both those games, it will be a 2 seed at worst next week.
A bracket question
So much about this year is unprecedented, so it’s impossible to know exactly what the committee will prioritize when it puts the bracket together. Similar to last week, I had to abandon the S-Curve fairly early in the bracketing process to preserve seed balance and prevent teams from the same conference from facing each other early on. Fine.
Here’s what I don’t know: Without geography as a factor this year, will the committee prioritize seed balance or conference bracket rules? I’ve asked the NCAA about this issue and will let you know as soon as I hear back.
Ideally, if you have eight or fewer teams from the same league in the field, you can avoid any same-conference matchups until the Elite Eight. That would not have been possible in this bracket without moving a team off of its true seed line. I was, however, able to prevent teams that play each other twice in the regular season from potentially facing each other until the Elite Eight (the committee’s rule is if you play three times in the regular season, you can’t meet until then, but we don’t know what will happen in conference tournaments, so I always assume a third matchup to be safe).
I could have better preserved the S-Curve, however, had I been a little more cavalier with the rules. The committee has never cited the S-Curve before because it always based placement on geography. We’ll see how important it is to them going forward.
For the second week in a row, there were no true mid-major conferences with multiple bids. This time, however, each of the four teams in the Next Four Out are mid-majors and three come from the MAC. Buffalo plays Central Michigan this week in what will be a crucial game. If you’re looking for some good news in the mid-major world, Milwaukee’s sweep of IUPUI moved the Panthers up to the 8 line. The NET loves the Jaguars (35), and if the committee is as married to the NET as it was to the RPI, those two wins will be huge.
If you’re wondering, IUPUI is in my Next, Next, Next Four out.
The Nitty Gritty:
Bids by conference:
Big Ten: 8
Big 12: 5
Big East: 3
Last Four In:
First Four Out:
Next Four Out:
Next Update: 2/1