Bracketology: Predicting the Field of 68?

The road to the Final Four begins tonight when the 68-team bracket is revealed. Michael Stern tries to predict the field.

The road to the Final Four begins tonight when the 68-team bracket is revealed. Michael Stern tries to predict the field.

Bracketology: Can I predict the field of 68?

I always wonder this time of year if I could do Joe Lunardi’s job. You know, Lunardi only boasts about how many teams he gets correct in the field…he hardly ever correctly predicts matchups and often jumbles the seeds of bubble teams. Each year, I try to play Lunardi on selection Sunday and see if I can correctly predict the field of 68 using minimal calculation. Last year, I nailed 67 out of 68 (I put in Missouri, the committee selected NC State). Can I get them all this year?

I start with an initial list of the top 68 teams in the country, based on RPI. Then, for each mid-major that qualifies for the tournament, I take out a team from the top 68, starting at the bottom. For example, UC Irvine (with their RPI of 88) makes the field as an automatic qualifier, which means number 68 Saint Mary’s is left out. Here’s that chart:

1. Kentucky
2. Villanova
3. Kansas
4. Wisconsin
5. Arizona
6. Duke
7. Virginia
8. Gonzaga
9. Iowa State
10. Baylor
11. UNC
12. Maryland
13. SMU
14. Northern Iowa
15. Notre Dame
16. Wichita State
17. VCU
18. Oklahoma
19. Utah
20. Arkansas
21. Louisville
22. Providence
23. Michigan State
24. West Virginia
25. Georgetown
26. San Diego State
27. Oregon
28. Buffalo
29. Dayton
30. Colorado state
31. Xavier
32. Butler
33. Stephen F. Austin
34. Temple
35. Davidson
35. BYU
36. Cincinnati
37. Georgia
38. Ohio State
39. NC State
40. Boise State (bubble, first four out based on RPI)
41. Texas
42. Iowa
43. Saint John’s
44. Tulsa (bubble, first four out based on RPI)
45. Old Dominion (bubble, first four out based on RPI)
46. Wofford
47. UCLA (bubble, last four in)
48. Oklahoma State
49. Valpo
50. Iona (bubble, first four out based on RPI)
51. Harvard
53. Purdue (bubble, last four in)
54. Green Bay
55. Ole Miss (bubble, last four in)
56. LSU (bubble, last four in)
59. Indiana (bubble, first four out)
72. Wyoming
75. Eastern Washington
86. Northeastern
88. UC Irvine
92. North Dakota State
99. Albany
103. New Mexico State
105. Belmont
118. Texas Southern
122. Lafayette
125. Coastal Carolina
139. UAB
162. North Florida
168. Manhattan
171. Robert Morris
251. Hampton

If this was the end of the process, I would still do pretty well and get upwards of 60 teams correct. However, I make a quick adjustment because the committee HATES mid-majors. Here’s what I’ve come up with to combat this problem. Any mid-major (teams excluding BYU that are not in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, American (former Big East members only), Atlantic 10, Pac-12, or SEC) outside the RPI top 30 without an automatic bid misses the tournament, and a high-major initially eliminated gets added back in. At first glance, this year’s exiting mid-majors are Iona, Old Dominion, Tulsa, and Boise State. In their place, Purdue, LSU, Ole Miss, and Stanford make the field.

Done? Not quite. I have to take out one more team since either Georgia State or Georgia Southern will win the Sun Belt and both have RPI below 68. So long, Stanford. Also, UConn lurks as a bid-stealer. If the Huskies beat SMU this afternoon in the American Conference title game, they’ll get a bid and knock somebody out. Who is that somebody? Either LSU or Ole Miss, and LSU beat the Rebels twice this season. Ole Miss will have to sweat Sunday out and cheer for SMU.

Last four in: Oklahoma State, Purdue, LSU, Ole Miss/UConn

Last four out: Boise State, Tulsa, Old Dominion, Iona

UPDATE: As of this morning, Lunardi and I differ on only one team. He has Boise State in the field, I have UCLA instead.

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