Bracketology to Call Your Own

It's March and for the last month we've been forced to listen to opinion after opinion on who's in the NCAA Tournament and who's out. If you go by what most of the experts say we'll have to increase the size of the field this year to 80 teams or more! The heck with someone else's bracketology, you can seek out and seed your own NCAA Tournament field if you follow these simple instructions.

Filling out a bracket once the selection committee has decided who goes where is fun. But you can take it one step further. Find out just how much you really know and see if you can actually come up with all 65 teams and their correct seed.

The most important thing to remember when brainstorming your own field is you must know how many spots are available to determine if a bubble team is actually in. I’ll get to a more detailed explanation on that in a bit. The following are the steps you take to determine how many available spots there are. 

Step 1:

The first thing you need to do is get a list of the conference tournament winners. There are 31 automatic bids handed out via conference tournament winners. Some of those conferences are one-bid conferences. So with conferences like the Southland, Atlantic Sun, America East, etc…your work is minimized. At the least, you know that 31 of the 65 come via the tourney title. For conferences like the Big East, Big 12, etc…things get a little trickier since you will be dealing with multiple teams from each. The Missouri Valley is going to be the toughest conference to figure out this year. Times also get tough when one of your available spots goes by the wayside because a team like George Washington fails to get the bid out of the A-10 which would’ve been a one-bid conference.

Step 2:

Determine the NCAA locks. In other words these are teams that are iron-pipe locks, no ifs, ands, or buts about it—they’re in! These are teams who failed to win their conference tournament but the only thing on their mind is seeding. They won’t be sweating it out on selection Sunday. Those are teams like Connecticut, Villanova, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc…you get the picture. If you need help determining the locks I implore you to visit www.collegerpi.com The site is wonderful. They have a report called the Gory Details that breaks down everything you need to be a college hoops expert for a day. THIS IS A HUGE NECESSITY FOR SEEDING PURPOSES AND DETERMINING IF A BUBBLE TEAM GETS IN.

Step 3:

So let’s just take the two numbers you’ve come up with, and I’m totally making these numbers up but, let’s say you have 31 automatics, and 22 locks. That means 53 of the 65 have already been decided, see that wasn’t too hard. Now you know there are only 12 spots available. That’s important – circle that number, and the second a team gets upset in a conference tournament, that number is reduced by one. In other words, if Oregon wins the Pac-10 Tournament, you’d have 11 spots available. The Ducks would knock out a team on the bubble. But you need to determine which teams will or won’t be eligible for those 11 spots.

Step 4:

This is where things get tricky. Now you have to figure out how many teams are vying for those 12 spots. Again, I’ll use a mythical number here and some mythical teams. So you refer to collegerpi.com and you figure out there are 20 teams who COULD compete for those 12 spots. Let’s just say they are:

(41)Cincinnati, (42) St. Joseph’s, (43) Texas A&M, (45)Arkansas, (46) Michigan, (49) NC State, (50) Air Force, (51) Houston, (55) Alabama, (56) Cal, (57)Colorado, (59)Seton Hall, (61) Florida State, let’s throw (20) Missouri St.,(22) Northern Iowa, (23) Wichita State, (25)George Mason, and (29) Hofstra, (35) Bradley, (40) Creighton in there for conversation sake.

Now, using the Gory Details, you’re going to compare these teams. RPI, wins vs. the top 25, top 50, top 100, road record, how they’ve fared in their last 10 games. It gets down to the nitty gritty, trust me. Normally a team from a major conference in the 30’s and below gets in, but this year it will be interesting to see if the committee takes a team like Northern Iowa over one of the major conference bubble teams with an RPI in the 40’s.

Let’s compare Texas A&M and Northern Iowa for example.

Texas A&M has an RPI of 43, finished 10-6 in a major conference, has a Strength of Schedule of 76, and they’re 1-4 against the Top 50…The committee will also consider that the Aggies made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament, but again, by beating a team not in the top 50 (Colorado).

Northern Iowa has an RPI of 22, they were 12-8 in conference, their SOS is 38th, they finished 8-7 against the Top 50, but they are 4-6 in their last 10…oh and they were bounced early from their conference tourney.

If it came down to those two teams, who would you take? The Aggies out of conference schedule is much-maligned, but they did finish 10-6 in a major conference. Northern Iowa has eight wins against the top 50, so they played people.

Those are some of the questions and decisions you’ll be faced with.

Phew…glad that’s over, but wait….

Step 5:

Once you’ve chosen your field, now it’s time to seed. If you thought the other four steps were hard, this is downright brutal. Usually the one seeds are easy, but after that if you get a team within 1 of its actual seed, in either direction, you’ve done good. In other words if you say Boston College is a 5-seed and the tourney committee gives them a six, you’ve done well. Remember, the committee will bump teams a seed or two to accommodate the pods and keep conference opponents away from each other. Keep that in mind this year when seeding teams from the Big East who may get up to eight teams in. So Syracuse would not be an eight seed in #1 UConn’s bracket? Get it?

I’ve done it for the last three years and it’s tough but it’s a fun way to test your knowledge of the numbers. Last year was the first year we got all 65 teams in the field.

Yes, I know, it might be more work than you’re willing to go through so this drill is designed for the true hoops junkie. Enjoy and good luck.


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