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68 Dreamers On The Ides of March

March 15, 2015

While not the most noteworthy event in human history to have occurred on March 15, Selection Sunday is upon us. At 6:00pm EST, the 68 invitees for the field of the NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and their destinations and matchups will be announced on CBS, to be followed by 12 Days of Basketball Christmas – Seriously, the NCAA Tournament is played on 12 separate days over the next three weeks, starting with the “NCAA First Round” games in Dayton this Tuesday and Wednesday that almost everyone else wed to the 64 team orthodoxy (like I am) calls “Play-in Games”.

I won’t fully pretend to be a “bracketologist” and place all 68 teams in seeds, matchups and tournament sites, there are plenty of those who put vastly more labor into their prognostications than I. Predicting the 68 teams of the field is enough for little ol’ me; Last year I called 67/68 correctly, missing on North Carolina State instead of SMU (both of whom made this year’s field). Here’s what we know, what I know, what I think I know, and my educated guesses at who will perchance to dream during this most wonderful time of the year (check once again in the mail to Andy Williams’ estate) and who receives the NIT parting gift backstage.

We know that all 32 automatic bids have been decided, as determined by conference tournaments (except for the Ivy League); 11 of which repeated from last season (as marked below with a *) while 14 of the 31 Conference Tournament No. 1 seeds (indicative of the regular season champion or leader) went on to win their conference tournament.

American Athletic – Southern Methodist

America East – Albany*

ACC – Notre Dame

Atlantic Sun – North Florida

Atlantic-10 – Virginia Commonwealth

Big 12 – Iowa State*

Big East – Villanova

Big Sky – Eastern Washington

Big South – Coastal Carolina*

Big Ten – Wisconsin

Big West – UC Irvine

Colonial – Northeastern

Conference USA – Alabama-Birmingham

Horizon – Valparaiso

Ivy – Harvard*

Metro Atlantic – Manhattan*

Mid-American – Buffalo

Mid-Eastern – Hampton

Missouri Valley – Northern Iowa

Mountain West – Wyoming

Northeast – Robert Morris

Ohio Valley – Belmont

Pac-12 – Arizona

Patriot – Lafayette

SEC – Kentucky

Southern – Wofford*

Southland – Stephen F. Austin*

Southwestern Athletic – Texas Southern*

Summit League – North Dakota State*

Sun Belt – Georgia State

West Coast – Gonzaga*

WAC – New Mexico State*

This leaves 36 at-large bids to be decided.  Looking at all the metrics I could, the official NCAA RPI as well as CBS Sports’ “Nitty Gritty Report” (their approximation of the RPI), Ken Pomeroy’s data, The Bracket Matrix and volumes of bracketology sites, as well as ESPN’s and CBS’s handy “Bubble Watch” running features, and what I have personally observed this season having watched every team play at least once, here are the teams that I am extremely confident are locks, listed by conference (number of teams in parentheses):

American Athletic (1): Cincinnati

ACC (5) – Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, NC State

Atlantic-10 (2) – Dayton, Davidson

Big 12 (4) –Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia

Big East (5) – Georgetown, Providence, Butler, St. John’s, Xavier

Big Ten (4) – Michigan State, Maryland, Ohio State, Iowa

Missouri Valley (1) – Wichita State

Mountain West (1) – San Diego State

Pac-12 (2) – Oregon, Utah

SEC (2) – Arkansas, Georgia

That’s a total of 27 teams that should be safe, which would leave nine (9) at-large spots, the biggest bubble I can remember in years.  Here’s who I think are the teams competing for these spots, again listed by conference:

American Athletic (2) – Temple, Tulsa

ACC (1) – Miami

Atlantic-10 (2) – Richmond, Rhode Island

Big 12 (2) – Oklahoma St, Texas

Big Ten (2) – Purdue, Indiana

Conference USA (2) – Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion

Mountain West (2) – Boise State, Colorado State

Ohio Valley (1) – Murray State

Pac-12 (2) – UCLA, Stanford

SEC (3) – LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

West Coast (1) – Brigham Young

That’s 20 teams competing for the last nine (9) spots.  I’m just about throwing darts at this point, so here’s my best guess as to those Fine Nine, in order from safest to least safe:

Purdue

LSU

Texas

Brigham Young

Oklahoma State

Colorado State

Indiana

Boise State

UCLA

Ole Miss, Temple, Tulsa and Louisiana Tech would be what bracketologists would refer to as my “First Four Out”, or the top teams not selected. Thanks to the Big Ten Final going to overtime (not sure whether to praise Wisconsin for their comeback or to chide Michigan State for their collapse, maybe a little bit of both), we’ll now know in 10 minutes who will go to the biggest Ball of them all.

As always, Happy March Madness Eve, and an early Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

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