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Welcome to Blogging the Bracket!

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Welcome to Blogging the Bracket, where I plan to continue the bracket projections and college basketball analysis I’ve offered up on various BracketDobber titled sites over the past four seasons.   We're having a bit of a problem with pulling my previous posts for the year over.  So, until they're here, you can read them at BracketDobber.net.

Since I’m guessing most of you here at SBNation are wondering who I am exactly, let me share my story with you before we get into the business that is Championship Week.

I fell in love with college basketball at a very early age.  One of my most vivid memories of growing up was that my parents didn’t park either one of their cars in the garage at our house in a middle-of-nowhere part of Florida.  When I was five, they got me one of those Dunk-It basketball sets for Christmas.  At that point, the garage became my own arena.  I must have seen some highlights of the 1983 Final Four right around that time, as I drew the design of floor at The Pit on the concrete surface of the garage with chalk.  (Yes, I was one of those advanced kids you used to pick on in grade school.) 

I eventually learned about the importance of what I simply call “The Tournament.”  The bracket to me has always had a hypnotic quality.  During high school, college, and those first few years after graduation, I used to handwrite a bracket every year and track the teams as they went through, even carrying it with me to the sports bars where we’d go watch the out-of-market early round games on satellite.  Since I try to go to a first weekend site every year now, that’s a little impractical.  But it’s something I miss, since it makes me feel that much more connected to the event.

For the record, I went to Florida for undergrad and Wisconsin-Milwaukee for graduate school, but being from Upstate New York originally, I grew up a Syracuse fan.  So, I have a love of both major conference and mid-major hoops, though I tend to like the environment outside of the big leagues.

As to how I first got into what the kids call “bracketology,” one of my friends from college challenged me on Selection Sunday 2003.  He said, “You should do a bracket, you know.  You watch a lot of games and you know more about college hoops than anyone I know.  You should see how well you do compared to the Committee.”  So, for three years, I did exactly that.  I just produced a single bracket on Selection Sunday and went through it with my friend on the phone when the selections were announced.

I finally figured out that my results may be a bit better if I actually started projecting the field earlier.  This way, I found I was better able to account for all of the various factors that need to be considered in the selection and seeding process and how they change throughout the season.  In the past, I’ve only started projecting the field after the first conference games are played in January.  With this new endeavor, I plan on doing a few more projections in the early season and offseason, if only to see how comically wrong they were on Selection Sunday.

As for my approach to this exercise, my first rule is to not take things too seriously.  I’m trying to select and seed a field on my own, usually with a short turnaround.  I cannot possibly replicate the process the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee goes through during the span of a season.  The 10 people in that room have forgotten more about the teams under consideration that I know and they have access to every resource they could ever need to find the info they did forget.  They also have the benefit of being able to work as a group to address the difficult decisions, particularly in years like this where so many teams look the same.  Therefore, while there may be some questioning of the committee in the post-mortem on Selection Sunday and Monday (and I won’t even do too much of that because of all the procedural things I’ve learned over the past eight years), there will never be badmouthing.  They have an unenviable task and never fail in putting together a great tournament.

Putting together a bracket projection is one of the most interesting, frustrating, yet fun things that I’ve ever subjected myself to.  For me, the most difficult part is the seeding and placement of the teams that fall between lines 5 and 12 on the S-curve.  This is where I have to pay the most attention to the various bracketing principles that come into play.  In the past, I’ve referred to this as trying to solve the world’s most difficult sudoku puzzle, but in reality, this is a massive oversimplification.  (I need to keep three Mountain West teams in this week in separate regions.  Oh, those two can’t meet that early because they met in the regular season.  They can’t play in their backyard as a 12, since their opponent is protected in the first round. Minnesota needs to fit here, but they can't play in Minneapolis, so who has to move.)  The goal is to create a bracket that’s balanced, national, and follows the principles.  It requires a lot of patience, fact-checking, and critical thought.

You won’t see as much emphasis on numbers here as on many other bracket sites.  Not that they’re not important, but they’re only a piece of what actually is analyzed during the selection and seeding process.  I don’t pay much attention to the RPI at all.  (See Ken Pomeroy’s article for more information why.)  I feel that it’s too easily manipulated and a bit misleading.  Strength of schedule is much better, but can be a bit abstract if you don't look at the schedules themselves.  For numbers, I tend to look more at Ken Pomeroy’s and Basketball State’s ratings.  (I will still reference the RPI on occasion, since readers are familiar with it.)  But in reality, I watch a lot of games both in person and on TV.  I use what I see to analyze team’s schedules to determine who really has good wins and bad losses.  This is particularly important when looking at teams’ non-league schedules.  I also pay attention to how teams are currently playing, since current form is an extremely important part of the selection process. 

Basically, I'll throw some numbers at you on occasion, but not so many numbers that you'll be asking for a way out.

Now that you know probably a bit too much about me and what I do.  I’m looking forward to being a part of the SBNation community and look forward to hearing from all of you who will read this site and contribute to it.  I also look forward to getting the input of SBNation's great group of college sports bloggers.