Projecting The Field for March Madness 2012
With a new year comes the half-way mark of the college basketball season. It marks the start of the conference season, which is always where the men are separated from the boys. With that in mind, it’s time to nut-up and make some predictions for the greatest tournament on the planet: March Madness.
Let’s start us off with the conference winners. In alphabetical order (based on conference), here is what I am calling:
|Big Sky||Weber St.|
|Big Ten||Ohio St|
|Big West||Long Beach St|
|Conference USA||Southern Miss|
|Ohio Valley||Murray State|
|Summit League||Oral Roberts|
|Sun Belt||Middle Tennessee|
A few notes to go with these calls:
ACC: Talent (UNC) should beat coaching (Duke).
Atlantic 10: I think they rebound from early-season losses; they’re still a good team.
Big East: I don’t think the Orangemen can be touched. A tough conference, yes, but they are the class.
Big Ten: With potential Player of the Year on the floor with the Buckeyes (Sullinger), they should almost run the table in the Big Ten.
Big West: At the time of writing, Long Beach State’s RPI is 16. This is a dark-horse team, capable of beating the tranitional powerhouses; just ask Xavier or Pitt.
Big 12: I like Baylor, but if Missouri wins the Big 12, I wouldn’t be surprised.
C-USA: At the time of writing, Southern Miss’ RPI is 17. I believe they are a better team than Memphis.
Colonial: Don’t expect a repeat of their Cinderella run from 2011, but VCU will be back at the dance.
Missouri Valley: The Jays are just too good to write them off.
Mountain West: UNLV is another dark horse; just ask UNC or Illinois.
PAC 12: As much as I want to put Arizona on that line, the Wildcats have shown they will fail under pressure, unlike Baylor.
Southeastern: Sorry Florida, Missippi State and Alabama; Kentucky is just too good.
West Coast: Gonzaga, for the tenth time in thirteen years.
After the 31 automatic bids are handed out to the conference champions, the rest of the field is completed using the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), as well as some other tools employed by the NCAA Division I Basketball Selection Committee. With the strength of the “power conferences” consolidated to only a couple this year, I think we see a resurgence of the mid-majors and a lot of them given tickets to the dance. Here are my projections for at-large bids:
|Big Ten||Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota|
|Big East||Uconn, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Marquette, Cincinnati, Louisville|
|Big 12||Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M|
|Southeastern||Florida, Mississippi St, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Vanderbilt|
|Missouri Valley||Wichita St, Indiana St, Northern Iowa|
|Mountain West||New Mexico, San Diego St|
|PAC 12||Arizona, Stanford|
|West Coast||St Mary’s, BYU|
This projection gives the Big Ten a total of eight slots in March Madness; the Big East, Big 12 and SEC get seven each; Missouri Valley gets four; Mountain West, PAC 12 and the WCC earn three each; the ACC, Colonial and Mid-American only have two total, including their automatic bid; and everyone else gets only their automatic.
The conference season has begun and we are a mere two months away from Selection Sunday. Two months of “should they be in”, “has ____ done enough?”, or “should we favour the Power Conferences?”. Two months of buzzer-beating, heart-pounding, rim-rattling, fan-screaming conference play. (I present Exhibit A.)
And then the Madness begins. Sweet, sweet Madness.
… and that’s the last word.