Bracketology: Predicting the Field of 68?
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:
|9. Iowa State|
|14. Northern Iowa|
|15. Notre Dame|
|16. Wichita State|
|23. Michigan State|
|24. West Virginia|
|26. San Diego State|
|30. Colorado state|
|33. Stephen F. Austin|
|38. Ohio State|
|39. NC State|
|40. Boise State (bubble, first four out based on RPI)|
|43. Saint John’s|
|44. Tulsa (bubble, first four out based on RPI)|
|45. Old Dominion (bubble, first four out based on RPI)|
|47. UCLA (bubble, last four in)|
|48. Oklahoma State|
|50. Iona (bubble, first four out based on RPI)|
|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)|
|75. Eastern Washington|
|88. UC Irvine|
|92. North Dakota State|
|103. New Mexico State|
|118. Texas Southern|
|125. Coastal Carolina|
|162. North Florida|
|171. Robert Morris|
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.