Bracketology - 3.10.14

I've said for a few weeks now that it would be a shock if Florida, Arizona and Wichita State, in some order, didn't occupy the first three No. 1 seeds.

Now, about that final No. 1 seed...

Right now it belongs to Villanova and a Big East Tournament title would cement that. The Wildcats aren't flashy but a three-loss team (with the only defeats coming to then-undefeated Syracuse and to Creighton, twice) 'Nova just keeps winning. Even with the gaudy record I don't believe Villanova is the fourth-best team. However, all other contenders for that spot seem to be faltering as of late.

  • Virginia plowed through the ACC season only to lose at NIT-bound Maryland in the season finale.
  • Duke has six losses, including a couple bad ones to Clemson and Notre Dame.
  • Michigan has seven losses and, even though only one is puzzling - Charlotte in November - the number might outweight the fact Michigan won the Big Ten title by three (!) games. (NOTE: Only three teams in NCAA history have been a No. 1 seed with seven losses: Michigan State in 2000, Illinois in 2001 and Michigan State again in 2012).
  • Syracuse might be 26-4 but the soft nonconference schedule plus the late-season swoon have the Orange looking at a 2/3 seed at best.
  • Kansas has eight losses. No team has ever been a No. 1 seed with eight losses.

The one exception and darkhorse for the final No. 1 seed: Louisville. The defending champs are 26-5 and don't have a bad loss this season (at Kentucky, at Memphis, vs. Memphis, vs. Cincinnati, neutral-cout vs. UNC) and the Cardinals appear to be peaking. Throw in an AAC Tournament Championship and some losses by a pair of above-listed contenders, especially Villanova, and Louisville might surprise many with a No. 1 seed.

Here's the updated bracket through Sunday, March 9 games:

NOTES: There is a lot uninformed chatter from folks begging to be the No. 2 seed in Wichita State's region. There's a reason I call those folks uninformed. The Shockers are for real, people. They might not win it all (probably won't given the odds) but that doesn't mean this team isn't very good. The best-case scenario for teams jockeying for that final No. 1 seed if that wish falls through: Grab the No. 2 in Villanova's region.

It's not that the Wildcats are bad but they're the weakest No. 1 seed and, using LVH Superbook's NCAA Tournament odds, Villanova would be a tied for eighth-best odds (tied for final No. 2 seed) at 18/1. Michigan State, which looks like a No. 3 seed at best but more likely in the 4/5 range. Kansas, at 6/1, has the second-best odds behind Florida (9/2).

The point is, Villanova would be the desirable opponent. For teams in the 3/4/5 range (a la Michigan State, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, etc.), Vegas' odds would say a region with Villanova-Syracuse as the 1-2 seeds would be the "easy" region.

BUBBLE THOUGHTS: Conference tournaments will decide much of bubble talk in the next week. Remember, teams play their respective ways IN the tournament more than teams play their respective ways OUT.

My play-in game teams - Minnesota, Xavier, Tennessee and UW-Green Bay* - have opportunities this week to impress the committee and keep their "spots" in the field. (*UW-GB fell in the Horizon league semis to Milwaukee but a hunch says the team many will forget about finds a spot in Dayton). Teams like Missouri, California, Dayton, Providence and Arkansas have opportunities this week to impress the committee. Remember, one win won't put these teams in the dance because the season is an entire body of work composition. Nevertheless, all have opportunities to make a statement.

  • Minnesota really has a must-win first-round Big Ten Tournament game vs. Penn State. A win there is good but a win in the quarterfinals over Wisconsin likely would seal the deal. A loss and the Gophers could be passed up by other teams.
  • Xavier has to beat Marquette in the Big East semis to feel safe and then a win over Creighton would seemingly clinch a bid.
  • Tennessee is an interesting case, as noted by Ken Pomeroy. In an ultimate bubble game against Arkansas in the quarterfinals a loss likely hurts more than a win helps. Anyone knocking off Florida in the semifinals would surely get a bid, right?

When it's all said and done there likely will be four teams vying for the final two slots and that is what'll separate "bracketologists" into the 66/68, 67/68 and perfection 68/68 categories. Until then...