Bracket Watch: Final look at field before Selection Sunday unveiling
Last year on this day, I felt pretty good about my Selection Sunday-morning bracket, rightly so it turned out. I successfully picked all but two at-large teams while slotting 65 of the 68 teams within one line of their actual seed.
I feel much less confident this year. Even the real committee members say this is the toughest selection process they’ve encountered in "more than a decade." There are many reasons why.
Start with the No. 1 seeds. Kansas (the presumptive No. 1 overall seed) and Michigan State are locks for two of the four spots, with the Spartans likely set regardless of whether they beat Purdue on Sunday. The game may end mere minutes before the selection show. Virginia, even with its ACC championship game loss Saturday, still clearly owns one of the three best resumes.
But Villanova’s Big East title game loss likely cost the Wildcats their shot. Who takes their place? Many feel it’s ACC champ North Carolina, but I’m skeptical. The Tar Heels benefitted from an imbalanced conference schedule and even now possess just five RPI Top 50 wins. UNC’s case is basically the eye test.
Oklahoma also has a gaudy resume, but it did not finish second in the Big 12 or reach the conference title game. West Virginia did.
I went with Oregon, which, like UNC, won both its regular season and tourney titles but racked up a 10-3 RPI Top 50 record while doing so. Only Kansas (15-3) can claim better. If the committee looks elsewhere, they may point to advanced metrics like KenPom.com, which don’t consider the Ducks a Top 5 team.
Meanwhile, this year’s bubble is incredibly overcrowded due to the rash of mid-major champions that lost in their conference tournament. I have Wichita State and Saint Mary’s in, but not Monmouth, Valparaiso or San Diego State. The committee may feel differently and instead leave out a Michigan, South Carolina or Vanderbilt. I’m also taking a risk on Syracuse, which has an inordinately low RPI rating (70th) but boasts wins over Duke, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.
One more note: I have Kentucky as the last No. 3 seed and Texas A&M as a No. 4, but if the Aggies win Sunday’s SEC championship game I will swap the two. And if Memphis steals a bid in the AAC title game, Michigan gets left out.
NOTE: Teams in ALL CAPS have secured an automatic berth. For all other conferences, the highest remaining seed in this week’s conference tournaments is designated as the automatic berth (*).