FanPost

Discussing the 2021 NCAA Bracket Preview

Hello, college basketball fans!

Earlier today (Saturday, February 13), the NCAA announced its "top 16" seeds right now. In this FanPost, I compare the NCAA's list to both my last Schmolik 64 update (from yesterday) and the latest Bracket Matrix (also dated yesterday).

Team NCAA Schmolik Bracket Matrix
Baylor 1 2 T1 (1.00)
Gonzaga 2 1 T1 (1.00)
Michigan 3 3 3 (1.04)
Ohio State 4 4 4 (1.24)
Illinois 5 6 5 (1.92)
Villanova 6 5 6 (2.00)
Alabama 7 7 7 (2.14)
Houston 8 9 8 (2.38)
Virginia 9 8 9 (2.80)
West Virginia 10 10 T10 (3.45)
Tennessee 11 13 T10 (3.45)
Oklahoma 12 16 17 (4.46)
Iowa 13 12 12 (3.50)
Texas Tech 14 14 15 (4.07)
Texas 15 11 13 (3.71)
Missouri 16 #5 seed 14 (3.95)
Wisconsin 15 16 (4.32)

It's clear that Oklahoma is the most overrated team by the NCAA Selection Committee. The Bracket Matrix didn't have them as a top 16 seed and they just barely made my list as the last team in. The NCAA had them on the #3 line. I don't see how Oklahoma could have been seeded ahead of Texas Tech when Texas Tech swept them this season. Wisconsin, according to the Bracket Matrix, is the team that "got screwed" although they were the "last team in" by the Bracket Matrix and were my second to last team in.

If you count ties, the Bracket Matrix and Selection Committee perfectly matched the top 11 teams. If you consider the Bracket Matrix correct, I should've had Houston over Virginia, Iowa ahead of Texas, and Missouri ahead of Oklahoma.

The bracket preview also showed that the NCAA doesn't intend to go strictly S-Curve in its bracket. The 2 seeds weren't placed in bracket order although it looked pretty clear #5 Illinois was placed away from #3 Michigan and #4 Ohio State (in past years, a rule is #1 and #5 cannot be in the same "region" which meant Illinois had to be placed in #2's region by default). If you add up the seeds in each of the four brackets, the four seeds in Michigan's bracket (Bracket 3) add up to 37 while all of the others add up to 33. In my bracket, my high was 36 while my low was 33. But by the rule of "top 4 teams must be in four different brackets", Iowa and Texas Tech had to be placed in the only brackets that didn't have a team in their conferences and Missouri couldn't be placed in the same bracket as Alabama meaning Texas had to be placed in the remaining bracket.

I think Bracket 4 (Ohio State, Villanova, Virginia, and Texas Tech) is the toughest one. You have the last two teams to win national champions as well as the 2019 runner up and the top seed is a pretty good Big Ten team. Illinois's bracket is led by Baylor who is having a great season and beat Illinois badly earlier this year but hasn't made the Final Four since 1950! Illinois hasn't made the Final Four since 2005 but that's more recent than any of the other three teams in Bracket 2. Illinois hasn't won a national championship but neither have Baylor, Tennessee, or Texas.

The Selection Committee chair, University of Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, wasn't really pushed by anyone at CBS nor elaborated as to why Gonzaga over Baylor. In the NCAA.com article, they quote "thanks in part to impressive non-conference wins over the likes of Virginia, Iowa, West Virginia and Kansas."

This year they were not able to show a full bracket like they have in the past. Jerry Palm posted one at CBSSports.com.

Comparing my bracket to the Bracket Matrix, I had a feeling Mississippi wouldn't be a popular pick and I was right. Only 6 of 101 brackets had them in brackets although many of them were done before they beat Missouri last Wednesday. Mississippi was the only team I picked that didn't make the Bracket Matrix. The only team in the Bracket Matrix that I didn't have was Oregon. Oregon was chosen by 81 of 102 brackets but 21 brackets did agree with me that the Ducks weren't NCAA Tournament worthy. Utah State was chosen by 64 of 102 brackets, the fewest of any "at large" team (although I considered them the automatic bid from the Mountain West Conference). Virginia Commonwealth was chosen by 76 brackets and Stanford was chosen by 77. Connecticut was chosen by 54 brackets, the most of any team not in the Bracket Matrix (they didn't make my bracket either). Next was St. Louis (32), Richmond (25), and Maryland (22).

Brackets and seedings tend to be obsolete after meaningful games are played. Illinois had a close game with Nebraska and a loss almost certainly causes them to fall from a #2 to a #3 if not a #4. Today Oklahoma beat West Virginia at West Virginia, giving them a season sweep of the Mountaineers. That certainly will cause Oklahoma and West Virginia to be evaluated differently than when I, the NCAA, and many of the brackets were made. In reality, the only brackets that really matter are the ones at the end of the season after all the games are played. Hopefully this season there will be a bracket and an NCAA Tournament as opposed to last year.

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