Selection Sunday is finally here. Most tickets are already punched, and as you are reading this, it is likely that the selection committee is building their bracket. For this bracketology, I followed the real algorithm that the selection committee uses, the only differences being that I do not represent any NCAA team (even as a fan) and that my bracketologies are made by a one person committee (me), so that saved me time that the committee spends voting.
For this bracketology, I have provided analysis for each of the four regions I have put together. I will also give you a final look at this year’s Bubble Watch.
Note: On this bracket, the final five automatic bids that are available have been awarded to the teams I have predicted to win today. This bracket was finalized this morning around 9:00 AM EST. (This did not account for Davidson’s A10 title)
Villanova secured their 1 seed with an OT victory over Providence in the Big East championship. Cincinnati should secure their #2 with a win over Houston today. I couldn’t see an overload of upsets here, as Villanova, Cincinnati and other powerhouses make this a strong conference. But do not sleep on Michigan, who quietly made their way into the Big Ten finals and beat Purdue, putting an end to Purdue’s contention for a #1 seed and giving a huge boost to Michigan in the selection process. Rhode Island could be another surprise team here, as long as they hold off a rising Providence team. Alongside Providence, Loyola-Chicago, Buffalo, and UNC Greensboro could also pull upsets.
I think Buffalo could easily upset a Clemson team that struggled a bit late into the season. UNC Greensboro could also pose a significant threat to a Texas Tech team that was contending for a Big 12 title until the final weeks of the season. Loyola-Chicago could also be dangerous after going 28-5, a great record for a mid-major team. In the end, I think this conference will come down to Villanova, Cincy, and possibly Michigan.
Much like Villanova, Kansas secured their #1 seed with the Big 12 win. But Villanova was already a practical lock for one, while Kansas competed with several other teams for the fourth 1 seed. That leaves Duke, also a #1 contender who I have in the west region, in a #2 seed. They will likely compete for the final four in another strong conference. Wichita State, Gonzaga, and Kentucky among others could also contend. But even though it looks unlikely for Cinderella teams to make a crazy run without pulling a shocker over Kansas or Duke, I do see upsets happening.
New Mexico State has pulled upsets in the past, and they could become a Cinderella if they can get to the Sweet 16 over Nevada and Duke. Boise State and San Diego State, who came close to Nevada in the battle for the Mountain West’s regular-season title, could also pull upsets. SDSU had to beat Nevada to get to the title game and win the conference tourney. Boise State is now on the bubble after failing to win the Mountain West in both the regular season and playoffs, but despite a lack of strong victories, I think they are on the committee’s radar. Montana is the mid-major team I could see pulling a shocking upset. But they’ll have to get past Gonzaga, a west coast powerhouse.
UCLA and Western Kentucky make up half of my Last Four In, and they could also pull an upset. I think UCLA should be in after making the Pac-12 semifinals, and I value Western Kentucky’s win over Purdue very highly, so even in a mid-major conference, I think they can make it after falling to Marshall last night. In the end, as I had said before, I think it will be Kansas or Duke that comes out of the west.
This region is a little more upset friendly. Michigan State was upset in the first round the last time they were a #2 seed, and although I doubt UMBC can beat MSU, it’s a possibility that Florida can beat them. Although Virginia was the best team in the league during the regular season, I don’t know if they will have the same success under the pressure of March Madness. They should make the Sweet 16, but after that, the pressure could get to them. Auburn is pushed into the #3 slot after losing to Florida in the SEC tournament. There will be plenty of upsets here. Stephen F. Austin upset West Virginia in 2016, but can they do the same to the #4 seed Arizona? SFA got here by winning the Southland championship last night.
Bubble teams like Alabama and Louisville, who round out my Last Four In, could pull an upset as well, especially against West Virginia. SFA will also have a chance to beat West Virginia again if they both win in the Round of 64, so even as a #5, West Virginia will not have it easy. However, teams like SFA and Louisville are not serious contenders. Look for Houston and Florida to pull upsets later on to contend for the conference alongside Virginia, MSU, and others.
This is the conference that I see having the most upsets. Xavier proved that they can struggle under pressure after losing to Providence in the Big East semifinals. Will lower seeds get a piece of them, especially in later rounds? I think Ohio State could be the team that upsets them, in the Sweet 16. Although OSU lost to Penn State multiple times, including in the B1G quarterfinals, I see them bouncing back for a deep run, especially if they can beat an ambitious South Dakota State team, who nearly pulled an upset last time they were here, as a #12 seed.
Iona is another team to watch. Purdue has struggled a bit of late, and the Gaels surprised many by winning the MAAC and returning to the Big Dance. Murray State and Charleston are also among the mid-majors with plenty of upside in this region. Even bubble teams, like Middle Tennessee could pull upsets. I still see the dominant Blue Raiders as a tournament team. They made a mistake. It just happened to occur in the conference semifinals. Marshall, who beat them, went on to win Conference USA. With Xavier, Purdue, and other high seeds being matched up against high upside teams, UNC and Ohio State among others could emerge as contenders for the Final Four.
Last Four In
UCLA should still make it. They finished with a decent record and made the Pac-12 semifinals, and although USC is in a better position, UCLA has a pretty secure slot. On the other hand, I didn’t have Alabama in the field of 68 until they made the SEC semifinals. Their impressive run should put them on the committee’s radar.
You could argue that Louisville’s late collapse and lack of quality wins will cause them to drop out of the field, but I still see them as a contender for a spot after beating FSU to make the ACC quarterfinals. They didn’t have a chance against Virginia, so the FSU win might be enough to put Louisville in and kick FSU out. Western Kentucky’s success in the C-USA will help them, but it’s their wins over Purdue and other high major conference teams that proves them worthy of grabbing a spot. You could argue for Louisiana or Vermont instead, but WKU has more quality victories.
First Four Out
FSU could be put in the field of 68 over Louisville or WKU, but they lacked quality wins. Oregon’s struggles in the weakening Pac-12 will keep them out. They couldn’t stay on top in a downfall for most Pac-12 teams. Penn State is on the committee’s radar after their upset of OSU, but it’s not enough to put them in the tourney. Syracuse will also miss the tournament. They had some impressive wins, but also embarrassing losses. All these teams will be in serious consideration though.
Next Four Out
NC State’s loss to Boston College likely burst their bubble. They are not even in my first four out anymore. Texas’ lack of quality wins plus their 14 loss season likely put an end to their hopes. Vermont and Louisiana may be mid-majors who lost their conference, but they dominated in regular season play. However, it does not compare to what high major teams on the bubble have done, as both Vermont and Louisiana lack Quadrant 1 wins.
That’s all for my bracketology. Stay tuned for my bracket breakdown series, which will be released throughout the week after the selection show.