This Week's Bracket
Big Ten (8)
Big 12 (7)
Big East (6)
Mountain West (2)
Missouri Valley (2)
We’re officially less than a month away from Selection Sunday and the arguments about the one seeds and bubble teams are in full force. One element of the bracket that is often overlooked is the weight the selection committee places on regional assignments and geographic concerns. This week I took a closer look at some recent tournaments to see how much influence geography plays in the seeding process.
In recent years the tournament committee has placed more emphasis on keeping teams close to campus. The top 16 teams (1-4 seeds) are “protected” in the first weekend of the tournament, meaning that they will be placed close to home or, at the very least, will not be playing a team that is close to home. An example of this came last year when Villanova, as a two seed, faced Milwaukee. The city of Milwaukee hosted a sub-regional, but Villanova never would have been sent somewhere with a clear home-crowd disadvantage. In short, getting a top four seed guarantees protection from a “road” environment in the opening weekend.
So how much does this geography element affect the bracket? Quite a bit. If geography was completely ignored, the tournament would be seeded in a “snake” format, where the overall one seed would be in a region with the last two seed, the top three seed, the last four seed and so on. Last year only 18 teams (26.5 percent of the bracket) were placed in the same matchup slot they would have been in if the bracket was done with complete “snake” seeding. Basically three-quarters of the teams were placed in matchups due to geography, not their spot on the seed list.
One area of the bracket stands out in particular. Since the committee started releasing the 1-68 seed list, the top overall two seed has never been matched up in a region with the overall one seed. The committee will tend to stay true to the “snake” process at the top of the bracket.
This year there has been a lot of speculation about which two seed will have the misfortune of facing Kentucky in the Elite 8 (assuming both teams get there). Right now Kentucky is the overall one seed and will be sent to the Midwest Regional in Cleveland. Wisconsin is the top two seed and would also, geographically, make sense to send Wisconsin to Cleveland. But the committee has shown it tries its best to keep the true matchups among the top eight teams intact. If Wisconsin cannot crack the one line but stays at the top of the two line, they should avoid Kentucky’s region, even if it is the Midwest.
This past week, seemingly every team on the bubble took a loss they could not afford. On the aggregate, this did not change much as no team really stepped up to claim a spot that could have been vacated. However several teams fell off the bubble and a few of these falls seem permanent. Seton Hall, Clemson and Tennessee are pretty much out of at-large consideration. Old Dominion and George Washington have both fallen back, as well, and both have work to do to make up the lost ground. UCLA, thanks to a second-half resurgence, has entered the field for the first time since early December. Oregon has also reclaimed a spot on the bubble.
Stay up to date with the bubble and the bracket as a whole with @ScoutBrackets as we draw closer to Selection Sunday.
First Four Out: North Carolina State, Rhode Island, Oregon, LSU
New to the Field
- St. John's
Left the Field
- George Washington
- Old Dominion