Picking the NCAA field
I know no one is going to believe me, and my evidence bin is a little on the lean side, but I aced the 65-team field Sunday when the NCAA bracket was announced.
Let me explain. My colleague, Scott Wright, and I drove home — well, he drove, I rode — from Kansas City on Sunday morning, and we passed the time by picking the NCAA Tournament field. We didn’t fill out all the sites; we just picked the field, giving seeds. Four No. 1′s, four No. 2′s, and so on.
And we got all 65 teams. I wish I had had Internet access, I would have blogged it, then you could believe me. As is, you’ll have to take Scott’s word for it, and he’s an upstanding guy.
But a couple of things. First, I’m not bucking for one of those bracketology jobs on ESPN or somewhere. Because those guys’ insights and opinions are what helped shape mine. I didn’t analyze Oregon’s schedule and figure the Ducks would make it, and I didn’t analyze Virginia Tech’s and figure the Hokies wouldn’t. I listened to Joe Lunardi repeatedly over the past few days, and then the guys who tried to counter him, and I culled out what made sense to me.
Second, it wasn’t that difficult. You know how all we’ve heard for the last few weeks is that the teams on the bubble weren’t very qualified, that unlike most years, when the committee has a bunch of good teams and looks for a reason to knock someone off, this year the committee had a bunch of mediocre teams and looked for a reason to put someone in? It was true.
To my way of thinking, there were 19 teams that 100 percent cinches to get one of the 34 at-large berths. And there were 10 more who were very likely to make it: BYU, West Virginia, Kentucky, Baylor, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Miami, Mississippi State, Purdue and St. Mary’s. The reason I didn’t include Purdue as a cinch was its RPI (45th, a level at which you never know).
Anyway, Purdue got a six-seed, so the committee was indeed sold on the Boilermakers, but the others were down near the bottom of the committee’s selections: Kentucky, Baylor and KSU were 11 seeds; Miami and West Virginia were 7′s; BYU was an 8; A&M a 9; St. Mary’s was a 10.
That was the easy part, and that left five open slots, after Georgia beat Arkansas. Here’s who I went with:
Arizona, because it was 36 in the RPI and had a non-conference schedule that was out of sight; South Alabama, because its record was so good, 24-6, and its RPI was still high, 38; St. Joseph’s, because the Hawks beat Xavier twice in the last week and the Atlantic-10 provided a solid schedule; Villanova, despite a 51 RPI, because it had a bunch of good win; and finally Oregon, despite a 58 RPI because I figured the committee would pick a sixth Pac-10 team, and I didn’t think it would be Arizona State.
Truthfully, it wasn’t that difficult. Now, had Georgia lost on Sunday, I had UMass in, because I believe in the A-10, but that might have been the one to get me. The committee might have gone for Ohio State or Virginia Tech or somebody.
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