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Saturday, March 20, 2010

How a 96 team NCAA Tournament would have looked this year

To illustrate what a field of 96 would look like, I went through bracketing an entire 96 team field of this season's teams. Of course, the seeds go from #1 to #24 for each region. The top eight seeds in each region receive a first round bye. The lowest seed from there plays the next highest available seed, the 2nd lowest vs the 2nd highest and so on, i.e. #9 plays #24, #10 plays #23, #11 plays #22... until you get to #16 vs #17.

Unlike the 65 team format, being #15 or #16 doesn't mean you suck. Those teams are now in the #23-24 range. The teams at #16 in a 96 team field are more NIT-like: UAB, Texas Tech, NC State and Arizona State are examples of teams in that range. The #16-#17 matchup ensures the #1 seed gets a competitive opponent in the round of 64, now know as the 2nd round.

I itemized all the conference champs, and gave at-large bids to the remaining teams according to their Sagarin ratings. Save for the #1 seeds, and deferring to the Committee's decision to seed Purdue #4 due to the perceived impact of Robbie Hammel's injury... I pretty much followed the Sagarin ratings verboten in assigning the seeds. I did my best to separate conference teams from each other in the brackets, and made sure none of them could meet any earlier than the Sweet 16... and in those cases, such teams were often lower seeds that would each have to pull upsets to meet in the Sweet 16. The most I shifted a team to make a bracket work was one seed higher or lower than they ought to have been, and did my best to put such teams in as competitive a situation as possible relative to what their seed should have been whenever I did shift them.

The last at-large bid was handed to Northeastern, rated #85 by Sagarin. As mentioned, I bypassed six higher rated teams with losing records (I gather the NCAA would have the decency not to invite teams with losing records to the NCAA Tournament). I did not encounter any teams right at .500 but had I done so I would have left them out as well. Winning records only!

96-team bubble teams that just missed: Arizona (16-15), Louisiana Tech (24-10), Charlotte (19-12). Once you pass the #21 seed, the at-larges disappear and you get into the small conference champs and upset mid-major tourney winners. I did my best to keep those teams in a region somewhat close to their home base. The #1 seeds got placed relate to their location: The western-most #1 seed, Kansas, fronts the West Region. Duke gets the South, Kentucky the Midwest and Syracuse the East. As for everyone else, I ignored geography and used an S pattern to seed them in as competitive a manner as possible while keeping conference mates separated.

Now an interesting part. Here are conferences with multiple bids, with their seeds. (C) notes the conference tournament champ:

ACC: 10 bids. #1 Duke (C), #4 Maryland, #7 Georgia Tech, #7 Clemson, #8 Florida State, #9 Wake Forest, #10 Virginia Tech, #15 Miami-Fla, #16 North Carolina and #16 NC State. They could have sent literally all 12 of their teams, but Boston College (#76) and Virginia (#77) had losing records at 15-16.

Atlantic 10: 6 teams. #4 Xavier, #6 Temple (C), #11 Richmond, #13 Dayton, #14 Rhode Island, #20 St Louis.

Big East: 13 teams. #1 Syracuse, #2 West Virginia (C), #3 Villanova, #5 Georgetown, #6 Pittsburgh, #9 Marquette, #12 Notre Dame, #14 Louisville, #15 Connecticut, #15 Cincinnati, #17 Seton Hall, #17 St John's, South Florida.

Big Ten: 7 teams. #2 Ohio State (C), #3 Wisconsin, #4 Purdue, #6 Michigan State, #12 Minnesota, #13 Illinois, #19 Northwestern. (Fun fact: This would have been Northwestern's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.)

Big 12: 8 teams. #1 Kansas (C), #2 Kansas State, #3 Baylor, #3 Texas A&M, #5 Texas, #5 Missouri, #10 Oklahoma State, #15 Texas Tech.

Colonial: 3 teams. #9 Old Dominion (C), #17 VCU, #21 Northeastern.

Conference USA: 6 teams. #10 UTEP, #14 Memphis, #16 UAB, #18 Marshall, #19 Tulsa, #22 Houston (C). At #106 in the Sagarin ratings, Houston still wouldn't have been good enough to qualify at-large.

Horizon: 2 teams. #4 Butler (C), #20 Wright State.

Mid American (MAC): 2 teams. #18 Kent State, #21 Ohio U (C). Only a 2 bid conference because of Ohio U's upset run to win the tourney.

Missouri Valley: 2 teams. #8 Northern Iowa (C), #17 Wichita State.

Mountain West: 4 teams. #2 BYU, #6 New Mexico, #11 San Diego State (C), #12 UNLV. No other MWC team had a winning record.

Pac 10: 4 teams. #7 California, #9 Washington, #16 Arizona State, #20 USC. Arizona would have just missed, while USC would be one of the last teams in get in at-large.

SEC: 7 teams. #1 Kentucky (C), #5 Tennessee, #8 Vanderbilt, #11 Ole Miss, #12 Mississippi State, #14 Florida, #18 Alabama.

West Coast (WCC): 3 teams. #7 St Mary's (C), #8 Gonzaga, #20 Portland.

WAC: 3 teams. #11 Utah State, #19 Nevada, #21 New Mexico State (C). NMS of course was not in line for an at-large bid before winning the WAC, rated #96 by Sagarin. Louisiana Tech just missed.

So for those wondering how expansion would expand the at-large field, there's how. Here would be the teams who are the sole reps for their conference:

#23 Vermont (America East)
#23 East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun)
#21 Montana (Big Sky)
#24 Winthrop (Big South)
#22 UC Santa Barbara (Big West)
#10 Cornell (Ivy League)
#13 Siena (Metro Atlantic)
#23 Morgan State (MEAC)
#24 Robert Morris (Northeast)
#13 Murray State (Ohio Valley)
#24 Lehigh (Patriot League)
#19 Wofford (Southern)
#22 Sam Houston State (Southland)
#24 Arkansas Pine Bluff (SWAC)
#22 Oakland (Summit League)
#23 North Texas (Sun Belt)

Another illustration of the field's dilution: Anyone seeded higher than #22 would have gotten in at-large.

Here are my first round matchups. In effect, BTW, the pecking order for the first 12 seeds is how I would have seeded those teams in the actual 65 team NCAA's. The #24s are who would have been my actual #16s, the #23s my actual #15s and the #22s my actual #14s. At #21 and above it's hypothetical at-large teams in a 96 team field.

I'm doing just the first round matchups in text since drawing up a 65 team bracket is enough of a pain, and 96 would be too convoluted to get into a single set of images for this exercise. To help you visualize what the drawn up bracket would look like, first note that the bye recipient would play the winner of the matchup below them. Then note where the #9-16 seeds are in these matchups, and think about where those seeds would go in a conventional 64 team bracket. The winner of the matchups between the #9-16 seeds and their lower seeded opponents would slide into the same place as the #9-16s would typically go within a round of 64, i.e. the #16-17 winner playing the #1, the #13-20 winner playing #4, and then the brackets proceeding accordingly from there. Perhaps if I get time I'll draw these into a JPEG with an actual visual bracket to make it an easier visual, but until then hopefully that helps.

Also, see if you can spot a little childhood in-joke in two of the first round matchups. Clue: I grew up in Vegas watching UNLV basketball.

******

WEST REGIONAL


#1 Kansas
BYE

#16 NC State
#17 Seton Hall

#8 Northern Iowa
BYE

#9 Wake Forest
#24 Ark Pine Bluff

#4 Butler
BYE

#13 Murray State
#20 St Louis

#5 Georgetown
BYE

#12 Mississippi State
#21 Montana

#3 Wisconsin
BYE

#14 Louisville
#19 Tulsa

#6 Temple
BYE

#11 Utah State
#22 UC Santa Barbara

#2 BYU
BYE

#15 Miami-Florida
#18 South Florida

#7 California
BYE

#10 Oklahoma State
#23 North Texas

******

SOUTH REGIONAL

#1 Duke
BYE

#16 Arizona State
#17 VCU

#8 Vanderbilt
BYE

#9 Marquette
#24 Winthrop

#4 Xavier
BYE

#13 Illinois
#20 Portland

#5 Texas
BYE

#12 UNLV
#21 New Mexico State

#3 Villanova
BYE

#14 Memphis
#19 Nevada

#6 New Mexico
BYE

#11 Ole Miss
#22 Sam Houston State

#2 Kansas State
BYE

#15 Connecticut
#18 Kent State

#7 St Mary's
BYE

#10 Virginia Tech
#23 East Tennessee State

******

MIDWEST REGIONAL

#1 Kentucky
BYE

#16 UAB
#17 St John's

#8 Florida State
BYE

#9 Washington
#24 Robert Morris

#4 Purdue
BYE

#13 Dayton
#20 USC

#5 Missouri
BYE

#12 Notre Dame
#21 Northeastern

#3 Baylor
BYE

#14 Rhode Island
#19 Wofford

#6 Michigan State
BYE

#11 San Diego State
#22 Oakland

#2 West Virginia
BYE

#15 Texas Tech
#18 Alabama

#7 Georgia Tech
BYE

#10 UTEP
#23 Morgan State

******

EAST REGIONAL

#1 Syracuse
BYE

#16 North Carolina
#17 Wichita State

#8 Gonzaga
BYE

#9 Old Dominion
#24 Lehigh

#4 Maryland
BYE

#13 Siena
#20 Wright State

#5 Tennessee
BYE

#12 Minnesota
#21 Ohio University

#3 Texas A&M
BYE

#14 Florida
#19 Northwestern

#6 Pittsburgh
BYE

#11 Richmond
#22 Houston

#2 Ohio State
BYE

#15 Cincinnati
#18 Marshall

#7 Clemson
BYE

#10 Cornell
#23 Vermont

******

And there you have it. What kind of possibilities would you foresee from such a set of matchups and brackets?

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3 comments:

  1. Currently:
    31 Auto, 34 At-Large

    Why not just increase the Auto-Bids.
    If a move to 96 is going to water down what it takes to get a Tourney Bid, why not use them to reward teams with the best seasons.
    As of now, only the Conference Tourney winner is assured of getting in. I would say give each conference 2 auto bids. One to the Conference Tourney Champion, and one to the Regular Season Champ. If the Regular Season Champ wins the Conference Tourney, then give league autobid #2 to the Confernce Tourney Runner-Up.
    Now you've got 62 Auto-Bids to the 62 teams who had the best seasons on their respective leagues, and you keep the At-Large field roughly the same size @ 34.

    One more interesting wrinkle would be how the seeding works as far as Tourney Champs vs Non-Champs:
    Make each of the 31 Confernce Champs no lower than a 8-Seed (remember, now each bracket now has 24 teams, and seeds 1-8 each get 1st round BYEs. So Win your Confernce Tourney and you get a BYE into the fround of 64)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Giving Conference champs no lower than an 8 seed would be a HUGE reward for the 9 seeds. They'd have an easy 2nd game against the 1 of the 4 worst conference champs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If the NCAA goes through with its plan to expand the field to 96 teams, as expected, this tournament will lose much of its charm and appeal. The top 32 teams would receive a bye under the proposed new format. The other 64 will play 32 first-round games that will be the equivalent of college football's International Bowl.

    ReplyDelete