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Putting Out Cookies & Milk for The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee

March 13, 2016

One of the greatest days of the year is once again before us. Selection Sunday, a prelude to the 12 Days of Basketball Christmas that is March and early April) Madness, where at 5:30pm EST, we’ll finally get to peak under the tree as 68 invitees for the field of the NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and their destinations and matchups will be announced.

I won’t pretend to be a “bracketologist”, as there are plenty of other professionals and amateurs out there who put vastly more labor into their prognostications, placing all 68 teams in seeds, matchups and tournament sites. I will however call my shot at the 68 teams in the field. Last year I called 67/68 correctly, missing on Colorado State instead of Ole Miss.

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 consolation prize (never mind all the other also-ran, alphabet postseason tournaments, held for reasons I am still unclear about).

We know that all 32 automatic bids have been decided, as determined by conference tournaments (except for the Ivy League); only 5 of which repeated from last season (marked below with a *) while only 10 of the 31 Conference Tournament No. 1 seeds (indicative of the regular season champion or leader, only the Ivy League doesn’t hold a conference tournament, which changes next year) went on to win their conference tournament – both of which have to be some sort of record.

American Athletic – Connecticut

America East – Stony Brook

ACC – North Carolina

Atlantic Sun – Florida Gulf Coast

Atlantic-10 – St. Joseph’s

Big 12 – Kansas

Big East – Seton Hall

Big Sky – Weber State

Big South – UNC Asheville

Big Ten – Michigan State

Big West – Hawaii

Colonial – UNC Wilmington

Conference USA – Middle Tennessee

Horizon – Wisconsin-Green Bay

Ivy – Yale

Metro Atlantic – Iona

Mid-American – Buffalo*

Mid-Eastern – Hampton*

Missouri Valley – Northern Iowa*

Mountain West – Fresno State

Northeast – Farleigh Dickinson

Ohio Valley – Austin Peay

Pac-12 – Oregon

Patriot – Holy Cross

SEC – Kentucky

Southern – Chattanooga

Southland – Stephen F. Austin*

Southwestern Athletic – Southern

Summit League – South Dakota State

Sun Belt – Arkansas Little-Rock

West Coast – Gonzaga*

WAC – Cal-State Bakersfield

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”, 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 (2): Cincinnati, Temple

ACC (4) – Virginia, Duke, Miami, Notre Dame

Atlantic-10 (2) – Dayton, Virginia Commonwealth

Big 12 (5) – Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Iowa State

Big East (4) – Villanova, Providence, Butler, Xavier

Big Ten (5) – Indiana, Maryland, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa

Pac-12 (5) – Arizona, Utah, Cal, USC, Colorado

SEC (2) – Texas A&M, South Carolina

That’s a grand total of 29 teams that should be safe, which would leave seven (7) at-large spots. Here’s who I think are the teams competing for these spots, again listed by conference:

American Athletic (1) – Tulsa

ACC (2) – Syracuse, Pittsburgh

Atlantic-10 (1) – St. Bonaventure

Big 12 (1) – Texas Tech

Big Ten (1) – Michigan

Horizon (1) – Valparaiso

Metro Atlantic (1) – Monmouth

Missouri Valley (1) – Wichita State

Mountain West (1) – San Diego State

Pac-12 (1) – Oregon State

SEC (2) – Georgia, Vanderbilt

West Coast (1) – St. Mary’s

With these 14 teams competing for the last seven (7) spots, despite all the parity this season it is a relatively small bubble. Drawing straws, here’s my best guess as to those Quasi-Magnificent Seven, in order from safest to least safe:

Wichita State

Oregon State

Texas Tech

Syracuse

St. Mary’s

Vanderbilt

San Diego State

Michigan, Monmouth, Valparaiso and Pittsburgh would be what bracketologists would refer to as my “First Four Out”, or the top teams not selected, in what would mostly be a victory for the power conferences. The NCAA Selection Show is already underway, with its usual bag of surprises and head-scratchers, so we’ll know shortly who got lumps of coal in their stocking.

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

EDIT 6:58 PST: I had counted Oregon State twice, in both the “Locks” and “Bubble Teams”, so I left them as a “Bubble Team”, which reduced the “Locks” by one (1) to 29, and raised the “Bubble Teams” by one (1) to 7. As such, I put San Diego State in as my least safe team on the right side of the bubble, and added Pittsburgh to my “Last Four Out.” As the field has now been announced (and apparently leaked online before CBS’ NCAA Selection Show had announced the entire field), I had 65/68 teams correct above, with one of my 29 “Locks”, South Carolina, not selected (First time that’s happened to me) as well as the bubble bursting for St. Mary’s and San Diego State (What’s a mid-major to do?), and Michigan, Pittsburgh and Tulsa (?!?) selected in their place. For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi also got 65/68 teams right, missing Vanderbilt, Syracuse and Tulsa (Me too Joe, me too) while he had placed St. Bonaventure in the field, as well as St. Mary’s and San Diego State like I had. Finally, Andy Katz interviewed NCAA Selection Committee Chair Joe Castiglione on ESPN’s “Bracketology” show and Castiglione said the last team in was Tulsa, while the first four out were St. Bonaventure, Valparaiso, South Carolina and Monmouth. So there’s that.

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