So, Championship week is coming up and the smaller conferences have already started their tournaments (that really snuck up on us). So I figured it was time to do a little bracket analysis. There are 68 spots in the tournament with 31 of those bids going to Conference Champions. Doing some quick math that means that there are 37 spots for At-Large teams in the tournament. For this analysis we are just going to assume that the number one team in each conference standing is going to win the conference tournament and make it in. Things get more complicated (and also more fun) when the upsets start happening. Now, going conference by conference you can determine locks. Teams like North Carolina, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Saint Johns, Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova, Purdue, Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas A&M, UCLA, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, San Diego State, UNLV, Temple, and Old Dominion are all going to make the tournament even though they are not the favorites to win their conference tournaments. That means you can take 22 spots off of that list of 37 openings to leave only 15 spots up for grabs.
Then you have the teams that are oh so close to having nothing to worry about, teams such as Florida State, Cincinnati, Marquette, Illinois (although I am very close to considering them a bubble team), Washington (See Illinois), Tennessee, (see Illinois and Washington and multiply it by 100), and Utah State (I don’t care what you say, you can’t keep a team with three losses out of the tournament). This leaves 8 spots for bubble teams right now.
In this ever changing bracket it is extremely difficult to determine who deserves the spots. However, I want to give you my opinion as of today March 3rd BEFORE the games happen, so that I can start doing this a little more often.
The first of the eight goes to Georgia, with wins At Tennessee and hosting Kentucky, as well as Colorado and UAB, it is tough to deny them a spot on this weak bubble.
Second and Third Spots go to Virginia Tech and Michigan State. Virginia Tech did a lot for their resume with that huge win over Duke. As for Michigan State, their SOS (6) is enough to get them in on their own, but that win over Wisconsin and the fact that they have won three of their last four helps too. Five more spots.
The next three go to Richmond, Gonzaga, and Memphis (although this third spot is really reserved for the loser of the Memphis Vs. UAB game). Richmond’s resume (not including their win against Purdue) is pretty dull including some bad losses. But its too tough to keep that record out of the tournament in a conference like the A10. As for Gonzaga, wins over Baylor, Marquette, Xavier, and Saint Mary’s give them the nod for now. That last spot, reserved for Memphis or UAB. For now I say Memphis because they have some quality wins including UAB (2), Southern Miss, Gonzaga, and UCF (2) and Miami if you count those as quality. And in all honesty, their losses aren’t that bad either.
The last two spots are the hardest to determine because this bubble is just so weak. I’m deciding to give the first to Boston College purely due to the strength of their conference, their recent win over Virginia Tech, and their early season win over Texas A&M.
Finally my last team in…drumroll please…No it is not Alabama, No it is not Michigan, No it is not Clemson…it is…Colorado! They have bad losses to San Francisco and Oklahoma, a sub 75 RPI, a sub 80 SOS, and they aren’t that impressive. But…they get the nod thanks to their healthy display of Top 50 wins including their recent one over Texas.
So thats my bracket breakdown for today, more in the coming days here are the teams that just missed the cut: Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Baylor, Cleveland State, Minnesota, Southern Miss, Colorado State, Nebraska, and Washington State. (Disclaimer, there are more then these that still have shots at the at-large, but these are the only ones I considered for the final few spots.)