23 February 2011

Bricketology™ 2011: Abu Scooter's first men's cut

Forget the opening of pro baseball's training camps.  The real sign of spring is the annual proliferation of Internet posts from the U.S., all claiming to predict who will make the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments.

Like this one and the next.  Last year, I correctly named the entire 65-team men's field, but now that field has 68 teams.   I'm further upping the ante this year by taking on the women's 64-team bracket. My predictions rely heavily on RPI rankings, as posted (for free) over on realtimeRPI.com.  The men's bracket (posted here) is based on the numbers that site posted Monday; the women's (next time), from its Tuesday numbers.

El soporte masculino

The big news this year has been the dominance of the Big East.  Most bracketologists think ten teams will reach the field of 68, but I'm in the sizable minority that sees 11 squads through.1 That masks a more interesting trend, namely, a generalized shift of power eastward.  Big East success is coming largely at the expense of the ACC and the SEC.  Among the "mid-majors," the mojo has moved from the Missouri Valley (in the lower Midwest) to the Atlantic 10 and Colonial (two Eastern Seaboard leagues).  Between the mid-majors and the BCS groups, San Diego State and Brigham Young have spearheaded the rise of the Mountain West2.  The Pacific 10 and West Coast conferences have suffered as a result.

Purdue is an Indiana state school, but it might host the most popular team in Virginia.  As the Boilermakers surge to maybe a #2 seed, they boost the prospects of several bubble teams based in the Old Dominion, including Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond, George Mason and, yes, Old Dominion.

This could be another year when the SEC manages to force a team into the field that doesn't belong.  Back in 2006, mid-major Missouri State missed the field despite earning an RPI of 20.  Why?  Because even though the entire SEC West sucked that year, the SEC tricked the Selection Committee into including Arkansas.  The Razorbacks confirmed The Worst Selection Ever by losing their first-round game by 30 points.  It could happen again this year, because a horrible Alabama team3 is the only SEC West side that's even close to the bubble.  Watch your back, Utah State (RPI 19)!  You, too, George Mason (RPI 20).

Okay, enough generalities.  Here are the highlights from my current projected men's bracket.
  • Top seeds: Ohio State (Southeast), Kansas (West), Duke (East), Texas (Southwest).
  • Play-ins (at Dayton): Montana-Texas Southern, Hampton-McNeese State, Florida State-Penn State, Colorado State-Marquette.
  • Last four in: Colorado State, Penn State, Marquette, Butler.
  • First four out: Valparaiso, WIchita State, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech.
  • Cute first-round matches: (2) San Diego State vs. Long Beach State at Tucson; (3) North Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina at Charlotte.
  • Neat second-round possibilities: (1) Ohio State vs (8) Cincinnati at Cleveland; (4) Kentucky vs. (5) Louisville at Denver; (3) Purdue vs. (6) Xavier at Chicago.
Next time: My first-ever bracketology attempt for the ladies' teams.

1 It's likely that the entire conference will see postseason action of some sort. That would be a first.
2 SDSU and BYU meet tonight Saturday, for what may be the top seed in the West Region.
3 Alabama is cheap-monster-movie awful, but that rumor that SyFy is carrying Crimson Tide home games live is completely false.

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