Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bracketography: Kansas rises to No. 1 line; Pac-12 is embarrassing

The more things in college basketball change, the more they stay the same.

Name the last year we weren't debating the merits of Duke and Kansas on the No. 1 line? It seems like you have to go back to the 1990s for an answer (the truth is, neither team was a No. 1 seed in 2009 - Duke was a No. 2 and Kansas was a No. 3).

As Selection Sunday nears, both teams will again be in contention for a spot on the top line.

This week, Kansas takes the final No. 1 seed ahead of Michigan State, due to the Spartans' road loss at Indiana. It wasn't a bad loss for MSU, but it was a loss that bumped the Spartans behind the Jayhawks on the S-Curve.

I'll make this guarantee: If the Spartans win the outright Big Ten Championship and the Big Ten Tournament title, they'll be a No. 1 seed, at the expense of either Kansas or Duke. But, as things stand today, MSU is the best No. 2 seed.

I'll update the bracket a few times this week, so things are really in flux at this point. What makes bracketing difficult at this stage are all the rules. Ideally, no teams in the same conference should be slated to meet before the Elite Eight, but when the Big East has 10 teams in the field, that is impossible. The top three seeds in a conference are also supposed to be in different regions. When factoring in these rules, trying to avoid both season and past tournament rematches makes it a mess.

The one thing that'll make bracketing a little easier are mid-majors stealing bids. If neither Wichita State or Creighton win the Missouri Valley conference, that conference tournament winner would get a bid over one of the in-the-field-but-not-really-deserving teams currently in a "Last Four In" position.

NOTES: Keep an eye on a team like Cincinnati. While the Bearcats will finish either 11-7 or 12-6 in the Big East (the conference finale at Villanova will finalize the record), Cincinnati's nonconference schedule strength is pathetic. It mirrors Colorado last year, who was one of the first teams out, in part, because the Buffaloes didn't schedule anyone in the preseason. Cincinnati might be higher on the todum pole this year compared to the Buffs last year, but that is one of the teams who would really shake up the bracket if it wasn't included.

Also, the Pac-12 situation is messy. California has the best at-large profile and will probably get in regardless. But even with three teams in, a "major" conference team having its top three seeds 11th, 12th and 13th is embarrassing. Pac-12 Tournament results notwithstanding at point, my Pac-12 pecking order is: California, Arizona, Washington. And trust me when I saw Arizona will do some damage in the tournament -- a la VCU last year -- if it gets a berth.

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