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Let Us Resume The Madness

March 13, 2022

Here’s to dusting off Ye Ol’ Blog to restart what had been a yearly tradition, until El Pandemico hit. True confession, I’m feeling a bit rusty, and my Crystal Ball is cloudier than ever; Not only was the 2020 NCAA Tournament cancelled, last year’s single-city, off-schedule, fan-less 2021 NCAA Tournament (although a badly needed distraction from the gloom and melancholy of the last two years) was something for which I had no analytical feel. So, I put down my “hoop nerd” hat, sat out prognostication last year, and just watched as the best two teams going in, Baylor and Gonzaga, mowed their way through the bracket while insanity ruled the day everywhere else in the field, and met in the Final. Go figure.

Yet, tradition is back, and it’s time to hop back in the saddle, as Selection Sunday is upon us; College Basketball’s Christmas Eve, a prelude to “12 Days of Basketball Christmas” a.k.a. March (and April) Madness where at 6:00pm EST on CBS today, the field, seeding, and opening matchups for the 2022 NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship will be revealed. What follows is my educated guess at the 68 teams in the field, and specifically the 36 at-large invites (I leave predictions of seedings, locations, and matchups to those with the inclination and/or compensation to do so).

Here’s what we know, what I know, what I think I know, what I think I think I know, what I think that I know of what I know, and my informed conjecture about whose hearts will be glowing when tournament games are near (check once again in the mail to Andy Williams’ estate) and who receives NIT coal in their stocking from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee. We know that all 32 automatic bids have been decided, as determined by conference tournaments, and 15 of the 32 Conference Tournament No. 1 seeds (indicative of the regular season champion or leader) won their conference tournament (marked with a ^), but unlike previous years I won’t indicate which repeated from last season (maybe next year):

American Athletic – Houston^
America East – Vermont^
ACC – Virginia Tech
Atlantic Sun – Jacksonville State*
Atlantic-10 – Richmond
Big East – Villanova
Big Sky – Montana State^
Big South – Longwood^
Big Ten – Iowa
Big 12 – Kansas^
Big West – Cal-State Fullerton
Colonial – Delaware
Conference USA – Alabama-Birmingham
Horizon – Wright State
Ivy – Yale
Metro Atlantic – Saint Peter’s
Mid-American – Akron
Mid-Eastern – Norfolk State^
Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago
Mountain West – Boise State^
Northeast – Bryant^
Ohio Valley – Murray State^
Pac-12 – Arizona^

Patriot – Colgate^
SEC – Tennessee
Southern – Chattanooga^
Southland – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Southwestern Athletic – Texas Southern
Summit League – South Dakota State^
Sun Belt – Georgia State
WAC – New Mexico State^
West Coast – Gonzaga^

* – In the Atlantic Sun, Bellarmine won the conference tournament, but as they are in the second year of a four-year transition period from Division II to Division I, they were not eligible for the NCAA Tournament (which, begs for another question about why they were allowed to play in the conference tournament, but whatever), so the conference’s Regular Season Champion Jacksonville State (who lost in the conference tournament semifinals) will receive the automatic bid, and not Jacksonville, who Bellarmine defeated in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Final. Confused still? So am I.

Simple math leaves 36 at-large bids to be decided. This year, getting back on the horse, I also viewed several other metrics besides the NCAA’s, including Ken Pomeroy’s data, The Bracket Matrix, Bracket Research, and a myriad of amateur and professional bracketology sites, as well as ESPN’s and CBS’s handy “Bubble Watch” running features, in addition to watching hours of college basketball this season. Here are the teams that should be “Locks”, listed by conference (number of teams in parentheses):

American Athletic (1) – Memphis

ACC (3) – Duke, UNC, Miami

Atlantic-10 (1) – Davidson

Big 12 (4) – Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas, TCU

Big East (4) – Creighton, Providence, Connecticut, Seton Hall

Big Ten (4) – Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State

Mountain West (3) – San Diego State, Wyoming, Colorado State

Pac-12 (2) – UCLA, USC

SEC (5) – Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU, Alabama

West Coast (2) – St. Mary’s, San Francisco

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

American Athletic (1) – SMU

ACC (2) – Notre Dame, Wake Forest

Atlantic-10 (3) – Dayton, Saint Louis, VCU

Big 12 (2) – Iowa State, Oklahoma

Big East (2) – Marquette, Xavier

Big Ten (4) – Indiana, Rutgers, Michigan, Ohio State

Conference USA (1) – North Texas

Pac-12 (1) – Colorado

SEC (2) – Texas A&M, Florida

Southern (1) – Furman

West Coast (1) – BYU

That’s 20 teams (and probably more I haven’t accounted for) competing for the last seven (7) spots. Drawing straws and playing Rock-Paper-Scissors with my dog Mona Lisa (I always win), below is my best guess as to the The Less-Than-Magnificent Seven, in order from safest to least safe:

Notre Dame

Iowa State

Marquette

Indiana

Michigan

Wake Forest

Rutgers

No Cinderellas above, and a bit Midwestern-heavy. My “First Four Out”, or the top teams not selected, would be Texas A&M, Furman, BYU, and SMU. Xavier, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Dayton have arguments as the proverbial “Next Four Out” and potential complaints as well, but I don’t want to hear it from any Big 10 Bubble team that does not make it. I’m a Champion for the “little guy”, although over the years the NCAA Selection Committee is not, hence what I forecast above.

Mere minutes away, the NCAA Selection Show beckons with what’s sure to be some head-scratchers, poor decisions, enigmas and further questions. As always, Happy March Madness Eve!

EDIT: So, 67/68 teams correct, as Wake Forest was left out, and my other six (6) bubble teams got invites. I had Ohio State on the outside looking in, and they ended up well inside the field as a #7 seed. Okaaaaaaaaaayyyy … Dayton, Oklahoma, SMU and Texas A&M were the Last Four Out, in order, and will serve as potential COVID replacement teams for the First Four Games and the Round of 64. I had Wyoming as a lock, and they were the last team in, just behind Indiana, Notre Dame and Rutgers. Surprised overall that the Big 10 got nine (9) teams in, and that Xavier and BYU weren’t even in the Last Four Out. Overall though, one of the better jobs of seeding and placement in several years by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. New Orleans, here we come!

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