Bracketology 2012: The Wait Is Almost Over, It's Time For The Final Guess

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Sparty, the mascot for the Michigan State Spartans performs against the Wisconsin Badgers during their Semifinal game of the 2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Conference Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Thanks to a victory over Ohio State, Michigan State grabbed the fourth top seed in our final bracket projection for 2012. At the other end of the field, N.C. State's bubble may have burst after St. Bonaventure claimed the Atlantic 10 title.

Since the moment of truth is nearly upon us, here is my final projected bracket of 2012. My analysis, focused on the final pair of spots on the top line and a few changes at the bottom of the at-large pool from this morning's projection, follows.

Teams that have clinched automatic bids appear in all caps.

(1) SOUTH
Atlanta (Fri/Sun)
(2) EAST
Boston (Thu/Sat)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
1 Kentucky 1 Syracuse
16 MVSU/WKU 16 UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
8 ST. MARY'S (WCC) 8 Iowa State
9 HARVARD (Ivy) 9 Purdue
Portland (Thu/Sat) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
5 MEMPHIS (C-USA) 5 NEW MEXICO (MWC)
12 LONG BEACH STATE (Big West) 12 Drexel/Texas
4 Indiana 4 FLORIDA STATE (ACC)
13 COLORADO (Pac-12) 13 ST. BONAVENTURE (A-10)
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
6 Notre Dame 6 Florida
11 VCU (CAA) 11 California
3 Baylor 3 Michigan
14 LOYOLA (MD) (MAAC) 14 OHIO (MAC)
Greensboro (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
7 San Diego State 7 Cincinnati
10 Xavier 10 Southern Miss.
2 Duke 2 MISSOURI (Big 12)
15 LONG ISLAND U. (NEC) 15 MONTANA (Big Sky)
(4) WEST
Phoenix (Thu/Sat)
(3) MIDWEST
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Greensboro (Fri/Sun)
1 MICHIGAN STATE (Big Ten) 1 North Carolina
16 LAMAR (Southland) 16 NORFOLK STATE/VERMONT
8 Kansas State 8 Gonzaga
9 Connecticut 9 West Virginia
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 VANDERBILT (SEC) 5 Wichita State
12 BYU 12 Marshall/USF
4 Georgetown 4 Wisconsin
13 DAVIDSON (Southern) 13 SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
6 CREIGHTON (MVC) 6 MURRAY STATE (OVC)
11 Virginia 11 Colorado State
3 Marquette 3 LOUISVILLE (Big East)
14 BELMONT (A-Sun) 14 NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
7 UNLV 7 Temple
10 Saint Louis 10 Alabama
2 Kansas 2 Ohio State
15 DETROIT (Horizon) 15 LEHIGH (Patriot)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville
Tuesday: To Portland
16 MISS. VALLEY ST. (SWAC) 12 Marshall
16 WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt) 12 USF
Wednesday: To Greensboro Wednesday: To Nashville
16 NORFOLK STATE (MEAC) 12 Drexel
16 VERMONT (AmEast) 12 Texas

  • The final top seed goes to Michigan State, winners over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. I would have placed the Buckeyes in the same spot had they won, though Kansas has a very strong argument.
  • North Carolina remains on the top line despite its loss at the hands of Florida State in the ACC title contest in Atlanta. The Seminoles remain on the No. 4 seed line in this projection, thanks to some bad losses, though I would not be surprised if the Selection Committee moved them up to a No. 3.
  • Of course, the top overall seed remains with Kentucky, even though they also lost on Sunday afternoon, falling to Vanderbilt in the SEC final. Syracuse remains in the second No. 1 spot.
  • That means Kansas, Missouri and Duke join Ohio State as No. 2 seeds.
  • At the other end of the picture, bubble teams now have a nervous wait thanks to St. Bonaventure, who handled Xavier in the Atlantic 10 finale in Atlantic City.

That Bonnies' win, and some further research and contemplation, means there was a change among the final teams in. I'll explain my reasoning for that after the rundown.

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 9
Colorado State Marshall N.C. State
Big Ten: 7 Virginia St. Bonaventure Seton Hall
Big 12: 6 California

ACC: 4 BYU

A-10: 4
LAST FOUR IN PROCEDURAL SHIFTS
C-USA: 4
Texas Florida Up to a 6 from a 7
MWC: 4 USF Temple Down to a 7 from a 6
SEC: 4 Marshall Alabama Down to a 10 from a 9
WCC: 3 Drexel West Virginia Up to a 9 from a 10
CAA: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

MVC: 2 N.C. State

Pac-12: 2 Seton Hall

1-Bid Conferences: 19 Iona


Dayton


NEXT FOUR OUT


Mississippi


Mississippi State


Arizona


Washington

The Bubble Picture

This morning, having given up on finding any clarity between this season's crop of bubble teams, I embarked on a research exercise. I figured that even though the Selection Committee may go through some turnover on a yearly basis, there should be at least some consistency in its decisions, particularly since a standard list of principles and procedures are applied on an annual basis.

So, I decided to look back at the teams on both the good and bad side of the cut line in both 2010, the final year of the 65-team field, looking at four teams on either side, and 2011, the first 68-team season, examining the last four teams in and four squads out. I focused on all of the typical metrics: record, RPI, SOS (both overall and non-conference), road/neutral record, quality wins and average RPI win/loss. I did not look at how a team finished, however, as this metric is no longer as formalized as it was a few seasons ago.

The results of my analysis were rather predictable. Of late, the Selection Committee has by and large picked teams that have played .500 basketball against teams from the RPI Top 100, even if Top 50 wins are lacking (Clemson 2011), though last season quite a few teams (Georgia, Marquette, Missouri, Penn State) made it into the field after finishing well below the break even point. In terms of metrics, if a team's ranking in the RPI is pushing 65, things became more questionable, with an RPI rank of 70-plus a non-starter. The story is very much the same when it comes to the Strength of Schedule metric, as 2011 USC was selected with an SOS ranking at 101, with 2010 Minnesota the next worst -- at 66. Utah State (79) in 2010 and Georgia (123) and USC (94) in 2011 were the only teams near the cut line selected with a non-conference SOS rank higher than 75.

With this history in mind, along with a couple of more subjective tweaks based on the uniqueness of this particular season, I've revised the list of teams in and out of this projection, which is good news for Marshall and bad news for Seton Hall. The Thundering Herd enter because of strong computer numbers, complemented by a decent record against the Top 100, which features four Top 50 wins. In other words, it's a similar profile to ones that got UAB and UTEP in recently, selections that led to a lot of media howling. Seton Hall, meanwhile, falls out because of weaker computer numbers and a poor finish, particularly when compared to Big East bubble rival USF.

N.C. State Wolfpack is the unfortunate team that fell out when St. Bonaventure won the Atlantic 10.

Each team is presented with a list of pros and cons for selection, so you can make your own decision, if you dare.

All records and RPI and SOS are accurate through games played on Saturday, March 10, 2012 and are courtesy BBState.com. Records only reflect games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee standards.

Last Four In

Texas (20-13, 10-10 Big 12, RPI: 48, SOS: 19, non-conf. SOS: 23)
Pros: Four Top 50 wins, all at home, with the best coming against Temple. Strong computer numbers, particularly regarding scheduling.
Cons: Overall 4-11 record against the Top 100 isn't great, although every game was against a Top 50 team. Lost to N.C. State in New Jersey in November. Two bad losses (at Oklahoma State and to Oregon State, also at the Meadowlands).

USF (19-13, 13-7 Big East, RPI: 53, SOS: 27, non-conf. SOS: 29)
Pros: Has favorable computer numbers, quality wins against Big East finalists Cincinnati and Louisville late, and a potential tiebreaking win over Seton Hall. Performed well in the Big East, though the schedule was comparatively soft.
Cons: Has a 2-9 record against the Top 50 and went 6-10 against the Top 100. Profile features three bad losses from early in the season (Old Dominion and Penn State in Springfield, at Auburn). Performed poorly away from home (6-11).

Marshall (20-13, 12-8 C-USA, RPI: 42, SOS: 26, non-conf. SOS: 86)
Pros: Owns four Top 50 wins, including one at Cincinnati early in the season and two over Southern Mississippi, and six Top 100 wins (against 10 losses). Strong RPI and overall SOS numbers.
Cons: Lost at Tulsa and East Carolina, fell at home to UAB. Split with UCF and Belmont. Completely manhandled by Memphis in C-USA final. Road/neutral mark of 8-9 is merely OK. Non-conference SOS number ranking is a bit low.

Drexel (27-6, 18-3 CAA, RPI: 71, SOS: 226, non-conf. SOS: 215)
Pros: Finished season by winning 25 of 27 games, claimed Colonial regular season title. If the Committee values wins, the Dragons are in without a doubt. Holds a 4-3 record against the Top 100, though only the one against VCU came against a Top 50 team. Good road/neutral mark of 14-6.
Cons: Computer numbers are not attractive and would destroy any previous benchmarks, thanks to a down CAA and weak non-league schedule. Went 2-4 to start season, when Chris Fouch was out or limited, with losses to Norfolk State and Delaware in that span.

First Four Out

N.C. State (22-12, 11-8 ACC, RPI: 49, SOS: 32, non-conf. SOS: 60)
Pros: Has head-to-head victories over fellow bubble teams Virginia, Miami (twice) and Texas. Won four in a row, and three away from home, before closing the regular season with a loss to North Carolina in controversial circumstances. Won relatively frequently away from Raleigh (9-6).
Cons: Owns just one win against the RPI Top 50, compared with nine losses (including three in a row to Duke, Florida State and North Carolina), though that's more than last year's Clemson squad. The single win came against Texas, which compares poorly to teams with a similar record against top competition (Northwestern, Miami, USF). Owns two horrible losses (at Clemson, Georgia Tech at home).

Seton Hall (20-12, 9-11 Big East, RPI: 65, SOS: 49, non-conf. SOS: 32)
Pros: Has three wins against the Top 50 (Georgetown, Connecticut and VCU (in Charleston)), also defeated West Virginia at home and won at Dayton.
Cons: Finished poorly by losing seven of its last 12, including games against Rutgers and at DePaul. Lost at USF and to Northwestern in Charleston. Seven wins in 16 road/neutral games is also not helpful.

Iona (25-7, 16-4 MAAC, RPI: 41, SOS: 143, non-conf. SOS: 175)
Pros: Five wins against the Top 100, favorable RPI, excellent record away from home (15-6).
Cons: Two best wins came against Nevada and St. Joseph's, both of whom will likely be in the NIT. Has three losses to teams ranked 150+ in the RPI (Manhattan, at Siena, at Hofstra). Has poor schedule numbers, but better than Drexel's.

Dayton (20-12, 10-8 A-10, RPI: 79, SOS: 66, non-conf. SOS: 74)
Pros: A .500 record against the Top 50 and Top 100, with four Top 50 wins, including one at Temple. Defeated Alabama, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and Xavier at home.
Cons: The RPI ranking is a quite high. Owns a pair of truly bad losses (at Miami (OH) and Rhode Island at home) and questionable ones against Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers' road/neutral mark of 6-8 leaves a little to be desired.

For more on the other teams I considered, please check my Sunday morning projection.

Thank you for following another season of SB Nation Bracketology. All that's left to do now is wait to see what the Selection Committee has for us. Keep in mind that even though they may come to different conclusions than we fans do, they always deliver an event that ranks as the sports year's most exciting. Bring on the madness of March!

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