Bracketology: Selection Sunday upsets could result in late shake-ups to field

The almost-final projected bracket is now posted after some seeding re-evaluation on Sunday morning and adding the results from the Big West and WAC from late Saturday night.

There still could be a little shifting around as a result of games on Selection Sunday.  In particular, there are two one-bid leagues (Ivy and Sun Belt) playing championship games and an upset winner in either will require changing a team in the bracket.  I also will swap Cincinnati and SMU if the Mustangs win the American conference championship over the Bearcats today.

Also, if Rhode Island beats VCU for the Atlantic 10 title,  it will no longer be among the last four in and adjustments will have to take place for the play-in games in Dayton.

Upset winners in the Big Ten and SEC could also cause some seed changes, but that is still to be determined.
The committee begins bracketing on Sunday morning and will have contingencies in place for any of those situations if they feel a result merits a change.  You may recall that last year, Kentucky coach John Calipari was very upset after the Wildcats beat Texas A&M to win the SEC title and saw that his team was still seeded below the Aggies.  He accused the committee of not taking that game into account, but in fact, the committee felt his team should be seeded behind Texas A&M even if the Wildcats won.  Reasonable people can disagree with that decision, but it wasn’t made out of bracketing expediency.  It would not have been difficult to have another bracket in place.  It was based on how the committee felt about those teams.

I think the Pac-12 will be disappointed in the low number of its teams in the field and the seeding.  While there are three very good teams at the top, the rest of the conference was not strong.  It was the weakest of the major conferences, not because of the big three at the top, but because of the dropoff.

Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) dunks against North Carolina Tar Heels guard Joel Berry II (2) during the second half of an ACC Conference Tournament game at Barclays Center. (Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)



Bracketology: Duke and North Carolina nab No. 1 seeds over Gonzaga, Arizona

Selection Sunday is upon us.

That means the NCAA tournament selection committee will soon hand out at-large bids to bubble teams and name its coveted No. 1 seeds.

Of the top seeds decision-making process, NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, Dan Gavitt, spoke with CBS Sports and noted the No. 1 line had become "destabilized," while mentioning the ACC tournament title (where Duke beat Notre Dame) and Pac-12 tournament title (where Arizona beat Oregon) would be a factor. While it would be easy to think Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga are locks at the No. 1 line, USA TODAY Sports' Selection Sunday bracket features no Pac-12 team or the one-loss 'Zags. Instead, ACC kingpins Duke and North Carolina will join 'Nova and the Jayhawks as the other top seeds.

Finally-hitting-its-title-groove Duke, an eight loss team that dealt with a slew of injuries and controversy throughout the season, is ahead of its archrival UNC, which won the regular season ACC crown and has seven losses but less résumé meat than the Blue Devils.

Oregon, a projected No. 1 in Saturday's bracket, falls all the way to the No. 3 line after losing to Arizona in Las Vegas, but this move also incorporates the season-ending injury and loss of one of the team's best players in Chris Boucher. As far as Gonzaga goes, this team had an unbelievable season, but ultimately 21 of the Bulldogs' wins have come against sub-100 RPI teams. This could be wrong. But it's a decision based off the committee's past habits.

► No. 1 seeds: Villanova, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina

► Last four in: Wake Forest, Providence, USC, Kansas State

► First four out: Illinois State, Syracuse, Illinois, Georgia

BRACKET CHALLENGE: Set up pool

► Others considered for at-large bids (in no particular order): Alabama

► On life support: Houston, Clemson, Iowa, California, TCU, Indiana, Ole Miss

► No longer considered for at-large: UConn, Texas, Charleston, New Mexico, Boise State, LaSalle, Davidson, Chattanooga, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph's, BYU, Oklahoma, Charleston, Nebraska, Temple, North Carolina State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Memphis, Utah, Auburn, Texas Tech, Georgetown, Penn State, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Monmouth, Valparaiso, Ohio State.

► Multi-bid conferences: ACC (9), Big Ten (7), Big East (7), Big 12 (6), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), A-10 (3), AAC (2), WCC (2).

Conference Leaders

► Or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences - (23 total): Vermont (America East), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), North Dakota (Big Sky), Winthrop (Big South), UC Davis (Big West), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Middle Tennessee State (Conference USA), Northern Kentucky (Horizon), Princeton (Ivy League), Iona (MAAC), Kent State (MAC), N.C. Central (MEAC), Wichita State (Missouri Valley), Nevada (Mountain West), Mount Saint Mary's (Northeast), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley), Bucknell (Patriot), East Tennessee State (Southern), New Orleans (Southland), Texas Southern (SWAC), South Dakota State (Summit), Troy (Sun Belt), New Mexico State (WAC).

Banned from participating: Alcorn State, Savannah State, Northern Colorado, Cal State Northridge.
Transition Schools, ineligible for the tourney: Abilene Christian (Southland), Grand Canyon (WAC), Incarnate Word (Southland), Massachusetts-Lowell (American East)   


Selection Sunday Bracketology 2017: UNC/Duke No. 1 seed debate could go either way

I spent a good chunk of my afternoon doing something I didn’t expect to be doing 24 hours earlier, parsing the profiles of the ACC top seed (don’t say “regular season champion,” since no such title exists) North Carolina Tar Heels and ACC Tournament champion Duke Blue Devils. Yes, I could have thrown the Gonzaga Bulldogs in for good measure, but I don’t think the Selection Committee is going to kick a one-loss team that went 6-0 in games against the Top 50, with just one of those wins coming at home, off the top line. And that’s the case even if the West Coast Conference isn’t anywhere near the level of this season’s ACC.

The two teams are remarkably even, sitting right next to each other in the RPI table (UNC ranks fifth, Duke sixth). Both did well in games played against that metric’s Top 100 — Carolina went 17-6; Duke 16-7. And while the Blue Devils would be the first eight-loss team to earn a top seed, the Tar Heels have dropped seven games themselves.

Digging deeper, the Blue Devils’ Top 25 (9-4) and Top 50 (12-6) records are superior to the Tar Heels’ (6-4 against the Top 50, with all the wins coming at home, and 11-5 against the Top 50). Plus, Duke won two head-to-head matchups, including one on a neutral floor in Brooklyn.

North Carolina went above .500, 6-5, in true road games, while Duke went just 3-6. But the Heels’ overall road/neutral record of 10-7 isn’t quite as good as the Blue Devils’ 12-7.

And while it’s true Duke finished three games behind UNC in the regular season, the Blue Devils’ league slate was a bit tougher — they played 13 games against league opponents in this projection, while Carolina played just 11. That discrepancy also helped close a gap in schedule strength. Duke ranked just 88th in non-conference strength of schedule, with North Carolina 49th. But after the ACC slate is factored in, the Blue Devils grabbed the advantage, ranking third while the Heels are 11th. Super-sized conferences and the imbalanced league slates that result just make regular-season conference championships, even unofficial ones, not mean as much as they did 15 or 20 years ago.

Therefore, I’ve given Duke the nod as the final top seed at the top of the South regional. North Carolina ranks fifth overall, which means they’re destined for the Midwest. As the top No. 2 seed, the Tar Heels cannot be sent to the closest available region, the East, since the Villanova Wildcats, the No. 1 overall seed, are already there. Bracketing rules also require that they’re separated from Duke. So it’s a possible Elite Eight matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks for Roy Williams’ squad.

With that determination made and my bubble choices made earlier this afternoon, here’s my final projected bracket of the 2016-17 season.

No. 1 East (Left) and No. 2 Midwest (Right)

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