Weekend bracket watch: Some clarity for Arizona, ASU
The NCAA tournament starts in less than two weeks. The countdown to Selection Sunday is into the single digits (nine days, as of this posting).
Let the bracketology begin.
In case you hadn’t noticed, tournament projections aren’t hard to find on the vast internet. There are a more than a few out there. BracketMatrix.com provides a useful matrix (hence the name) featuring the most credible/worthwhile of those, and a look at the most recent update tells us a few things.
First: Barring something really bizarre happening in the next week, Arizona will be a No. 1 seed, quite possibly the No. 1 seed overall. The matrix includes 72 brackets, and Arizona and Florida are the only teams seeded No. 1 in all of them. Wichita State, at 31-0, also is highly likely to be a No. 1 seed, while the last top seed is up for grabs thanks to Syracuse’s struggles of late, with Kansas a slight favorite over Villanova and Wisconsin, according to the matrix.
As for whether it’s Arizona or Florida that earns the top overall seed, it seems to be a crapshoot. For what it’s worth, Arizona is currently No. 1 in RPI, which is weighed heavily by the selection committee, with Florida third (behind Kansas). Both teams should be heavily favored to win their conference tourneys, with no other teams from either the Pac-12 or SEC projected higher than a No. 5 seed in the NCAA bracket … but that also means that a conference tournament loss by either team wouldn’t be a particularly good loss and would probably guarantee the other team the top spot overall.
The picture is a little less clear for Arizona State, but at 21-9 and in third place in the Pac-12 going into the final weekend, an NCAA berth is all but assured. In the matrix, all 72 brackets include ASU.
As for seeding, it seems to be a near-certainty that that the Devils will end up in the 8-versus-9 game. Their average seed in those 72 brackets: 8.49. A run to the Pac-12 title game (or, even better, a conference tournament title), might be enough to get them up to a 6 or 7 depending on results elsewhere, and two straight losses might be enough to knock them down to a 10 or 11 and make things dicey on Selection Sunday, but a lot would have to go wrong for ASU to miss the tournament entirely. That’s especially true since the Devils are likely to have a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament (they can clinch a bye this weekend with a win over Oregon State or a loss by either Colorado or Oregon); a loss in the second round of the conference tourney, likely to a tournament team or bubble team, probably wouldn’t significantly affect their RPI or seeding.
It’s worth noting that there are nine teams below ASU in the matrix (listed by average seeding) that are listed on 72 or 71 brackets, so the Devils seem to have some cushion between themselves and the proverbial bubble. In case you’re wondering, their RPI heading into the regular-season finale is 33, while the Bracket Matrix S-curve has them at 29th (the second No. 8 seed). So, again, they’re in relatively good shape; the question at this point seems to be whether that shape gets better or worse this weekend.
Of course, this is all subject to change. It’s called March Madness for a reason.