Hello, college basketball fans!
Time to compare my bracket to the NCAA's and to other brackets across the web. Thank you to the Bracket Project (http://bracketproject.blogspot.com/) for compiling all the results in the Bracket Matrix.
As upset as I am that my Illini aren't in (for two reasons, one because I graduated from there and two if they had gotten in I would've been perfect for the first time in 17 years), I knew they were a very questionable pick and I can't tell you for sure Illinois is a better team than Florida. We beat Michigan State, but so did they. We beat Vanderbilt, they beat Tennessee. Florida's RPI was by far better and their conference RPI was better (it was amazing Illinois was even in the discussion with their RPI in the 70's). Florida had fewer bad losses although they did lose at home to South Alabama, who wasn't even in the top 200 RPI. The Sportsline polls favored Illinois over Florida, even with the names removed (blind resumes). I think there were 64 clear cut picks (including Minnesota) and a lot of candidates for the last spot. I think if I were Mississippi State, I'd be a little ticked off that Florida did get in ahead of MSU. Florida and Mississippi State were both 9-7 in the SEC and split two games but Florida won at Florida and Mississippi State won in the SEC tournament (and followed that up with a victory over Vanderbilt and then were less than a second away from beating Kentucky). Then again, Florida of course played in the much tougher SEC East and MSU got a bye instead of Florida in the SEC tournament. Had MSU played and Florida had a bye, maybe Florida wins the game. I was rooting hard for Kentucky to win that game thinking maybe Illinois would get in. I give credit to Kentucky for actually playing hard in what was probably a meaningless game for them (especially trying to force overtime by intentionally missing the last free throw and getting the rebound). It seemed more like an NFL team locked in position (I doubt they would've passed Kansas for #1 overall). I almost wonder if UTEP, Cal, and Utah State weren't playing with the same effort trying to help their leagues get two bids instead of one (of course it turned out UTEP and Utah State might have cost themselves a bid). The question that will never be answered probably was had Mississippi State won, who would be out? From what I was saying all along, it should have been Florida that would be out. But Florida received a 10 seed so it in theory would've been one of the at large 12 seeds (UTEP or Utah State). I wouldn't have been happy to see that happen (or even if Illinois were in and one of UTEP and Utah State lost).
As for Virginia Tech, usually I agree not to take a team behind in standings (then again, Virginia Tech had by far the worst ACC schedule, playing all five of the bottom five teams twice and all six of the ACC NCAA teams just once) and do agree with the fact that Virginia Tech beat both Wake Forest and Georgia Tech (in Atlanta). But then look at their non conference schedule. It wasn't bad, it was awful. Their RPI was way behind the others. Maybe if Georgia Tech had lost to Maryland, Georgia Tech probably doesn't get in. But the Jackets made it to the final and it would be hard to leave them out after that. The Hokies were in my opinion hurt by Championship Week, losing to #12 seed Miami and not only by party crashers but other bubble teams like Minnesota and Mississippi State, who were longshots when the week started.
I spent Saturday at the Atlantic 10 tournament in Atlantic City. They had a "Fan Zone" which had TV's that I watched from time to time after the Temple game was over. While I liked that Temple won (I have a graduate degree from Temple), Saturday couldn't have been worse for Illinois. First, Houston won, stealing an at large bid from Illinois. Then Illinois went double OT vs Ohio State and wound up losing. Then Mississippi State and Minnesota both won. The more you think about it, Minnesota should've been in over Illinois had they both lost on Saturday but I knew Minnesota would get in first after they stomped over Purdue. And finally New Mexico State won. Houston and New Mexico State seemed like the only true "party crashers" but when Illinois is a bubble team it seemed like there was more. You can argue Washington and St. Mary's might have been bubble teams if they hadn't won but they clearly each had a case to make the field. Oh well, this will be Illinois's first NIT bid since 1996 (Lou Henson's last year and just after I graduated). And they are a #1 seed, which still sounds cool. Maybe we can win it. Then again, Penn State won last year's NIT and they were awful this year. Penn State, Iowa, and Indiana being so horrible probably in part contributed to our poor RPI (and all of the Big 10's, Ohio State's and Michigan State's weren't even in the top 25 as of Sunday morning).
According to the brackets in the Bracket Matrix, there were 83 brackets. Minnesota was on 69 of the brackets and were the second last in. Forget the talk about expansion, maybe it's time to go back to 64 teams. Last year, there were 64 mostly consensus picks and the last one was the one that there was a huge difference of opinion. This year was the same.
Mississippi State - 32 brackets
Virginia Tech - 30 brackets
Illinois - 27 brackets
Florida -19 brackets
Could you imagine the discussion about the last pick? Remember Mississippi State played in the SEC final and it went overtime. That would leave us less than three hours to choose the last team. Of course, leave it to the NCAA to choose clearly the 4th choice and to put them as a 10 seed. Then again, they did improve over last year when Arizona was chosen on just 8 brackets yet made the NCAA's.
As for the seedings, I had West Virginia over Duke although the majority of the brackets had Duke as the last #1. My unofficial count was 53 for Duke and 30 for West Virginia. Seeing Duke get the third #1 was interesting although I think it's a non issue if you think about it. Would playing Kansas or Kentucky in the semifinals make much of a difference? And while Salt Lake City is a long trip for Syracuse, Houston would be as well.
I had Georgetown over Villanova for the final 2 seed with their run to the conference final. The committee had Villanova. Georgetown was the last #2 according to the Matrix. I had clearly underrated Villanova (had them as a #4 seed). The Matrix had Villanova, New Mexico, Temple, and Baylor (although Baylor's average seed was closer to 4 than 3) as the four 3 seeds (I had Purdue and Pitt as 3's instead of Villanova and Baylor). The Matrix's #4's were Purdue, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Tennessee). The only change I had from the matrix's Sweet 16 was I had Michigan State instead of Tennessee (the NCAA's had Vanderbilt and Maryland instead of Temple (who the Matrix had as a 3) and Tennessee (the NCAA made them a 6). I was very surprised and disappointed Temple was a 5 seed although in theory 4's and 5's aren't usually much different.
Compared to the matrix, my overseeded and underseeded (more than one seed off):
Marquette (I had them as an 11, matrix had them an 8)
UNLV (I had them as a 12, matrix had them a 9)
San Diego State (I had them as a 7, matrix had them a 9)
Old Dominion (I had them as an 8, matrix had them a 10)
NCAA vs Matrix (unlike other people, instead of assuming the NCAA is right, I assume the Matrix is right - 83 outnumbers 10 you know)
Marquette (NCAA had them a 6, matrix had them an 8)
Notre Dame (NCAA had them a 6, matrix had them an 8)
Wake Forest (NCAA had them a 9, matrix had them an 11)
Temple (NCAA had them a 5, matrix had them a 3)
Northern Iowa (NCAA had them a 9, matrix had them a 7)
San Diego State (NCAA had them an 11, matrix had them a 9)
Ironically, Marquette and San Diego State were on both lists. I don't like that the overseeded and underseeded lists for the NCAA's seem to follow a pattern of BCS conferences being overseeded and other conferences being underseeded. I was actually shocked at Marquette's 6. After the East bracket was listed and they said Notre Dame was still waiting, I went down who was still left and found Notre Dame, Villanova, and Louisville hadn't been chosen. I was thinking that one of them had been left out since had they put 8 teams in they would likely spread them 2 in each conference. Well, the South had 3 Big East teams instead. The Big East was loaded with not only 8 bids but 7 teams seeded 6 or higher and 5 teams seeded 3 or higher. This is why the teams aren't more spread out. The seeds were 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6, 6, and 9. You had to put two of the top 5 together and it makes more sense to put a 3 with a 1 than a 2 (2 and 3 meet in the Sweet 16). With 6 teams in bottom half seeds, you had to force two pairs teams to meet in the Sweet 16). I read somewhere the committee tried to pair teams that met once (Villanova and Notre Dame and West Virginia and Marquette). By contrast, Villanova and Marquette met twice in the regular season and also in the tournament). They could've moved Marquette and Notre Dame up to 5's I guess. Or down to 8's (where they probably should've been).
You can either place the top four seeds in the region with regard to S-Curve or with regard to geography. I tended to to it by geography this year and the NCAA seemed to do so as well (except for moving New Mexico to the East). Did the committee do West Virginia a favor keeping them in the East with Kentucky rather than pair the Mountaineers with Duke (assuming West Virginia was the #5 on the S-Curve, they would never pair Syracuse and West Virginia 1-2 in the same region). Or they could have put Duke in the East and Kentucky in the South. I think having the worst #1 and worst #2 in the same bracket seemed unfair. Baylor also seems like a weak #3 but then again they may be playing in Houston. I have to think that the Midwest was the hardest with Kansas, Ohio State, Georgetown, Maryland, Michigan State, and Tennessee as the top 6, which is ironic considering Kansas is the overall #1. Another thing that surprised me a little was Kentucky assigned to New Orleans. The main ones I saw had the Cats in Milwaukee. It also cost Kentucky the right to host the play in winner (Kansas was disqualified since they were at a Thur/Sat site). Maybe they should've let Syracuse get the play in winner anyway since Buffalo is a lot closer to Dayton than Jacksonville is). Of course it could just be everything favoring Duke.
And my condolences to those of you sent to Spokane. Well except for Houston and New Mexico State. You should be happy you're even in the field, you can't be picky. Then again, Spokane is a step up from last year (Boise).
Tune in later this week for Schmolik Bracket Analysis! Don't pick your bracket without first looking at Schmolik Bracket Analysis!