Bracketology 1: Tis’ the Season for Madness

It’s no secret that February is the worst month on the American calendar, hands down. The days are short, the weather is brutal, and frankly, there just isn’t a damn thing happening that’s worth following… except for college basketball. College basketball keeps our heads held high when it’s time to scrape off our cars in ten-degree weather. College basketball keeps our heads held high in when we’re leaving work and it’s already dark outside. But most of all, college basketball keeps our heads held high in February because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel… March.

I guess it makes sense that the worst month on the calendar would be followed by the best… and we all thank the powers that be that it does. In a few short hours, the February blues will be banished and March will finally grace our doorsteps. It will be time for brackets, time for buzzer beaters, and time for Cinderellas. It will be time for dark horses, time for contenders, time for experts and time for watercooler prognosticators. But most of all, it will be time for madness. Madness… the one word in the English dictionary that incapsulates the unparalleled greatness that this month and this sport continuously delivers. With that, I’m wishing all of you that celebrate a Merry March 2023… and tis’ the season for madness.

Does Bracketology actually matter?

If you were to sit down and rank the nerdiest, geekiest pastimes in the world, I would bet a decent chunk of change that bracketology would rank quite highly on the list. A niche group of college basketball nerds like myself enjoy pontificating about the difference between Arizona State and North Carolina’s resume, but outside of that group no one gives a rat’s ass… to put it politely. With that being said, I do think that bracketology has begun to serve an important purpose within the sport… one that diehards have a hard time admitting.

Bracketology generates buzz and caters to the casual fan. For those football fans and casual sports fans that start watching CBB in mid-February, bracketology gives them a baseline. Bracketology lets them quickly and easily see a snapshot of March Madness… and shows them the seasonal landscape in a captivating way. And for that reason, its growing popularity should be recognized and commended within the college basketball media community. Of course, as diehards that cover the sport for a living and breathe the sport 365 days a year, it’s hard to admit that CBB has a one-month window where it can rule the roost. But at the end of the day, that’s the reality, and it’s vital for the entire college basketball community to realize that and more importantly, capitalize on the March spotlight.

So, does bracketology matter? Of course it does, but not for the reasons that bracketologists like to think. We have basically no clue what this makeshift committee full of NCAA bureaucrats is going to decide when they sit down in a room for a few hours in mid-March. Most of the people who sit on the committee don’t know who Mike Miles or D.J. Burns are… they look at the team sheets, they make a decision, then they move on to whatever nonsense they need to discuss next. So as bracketologists we can guess what they will do… they will be inconsistent and we will be wrong… we can get mad… and we can do it over again next season. But at the end of the day, we must keep pumping out the bracketology content. Bracketology appeals to the masses flowing in to watch college basketball in March… and March is better when the buzz is in the air. March Madness is at its best when it unifies millions of fans together to watch this great spectacle, so let’s all come together to make that happen.

The Bracket

Clark Raymond, USA Today Sports

South Region

1 Alabama vs. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson/Alcorn State

8 Providence vs. 9 Rutgers

5 St. Mary’s vs. 12 Drake

4 Uconn vs. 13 Southern Miss

6 Northwestern vs. 11 Mississippi State/North Carolina

3 Kansas State vs. 14 UCSB

7 Kentucky vs. 10 Florida Atlantic

2 Arizona vs. 15 Colgate

Alabama is hanging onto the number 1 overall seed by a hair for me over Houston, mainly because of their 9 quad-1 wins versus Houston’s 4. Northwestern stays comfortably on the 6-line because of their 7 quad-1 wins and their impressive February home wins over Purdue, Indiana and Iowa. As you’ll notice throughout this bracket, I’ve taken the liberty of making several conservative predictions about automatic qualifiers instead of going strictly off of current conference standings/champions. For example, I’m rolling with Drake to win Arch Madness this season instead of regular season MVC champion Bradley.

Tim Thompson, Sports Illustrated

East Region

1 Purdue vs. 16 UNC-Asheville

8 Texas A&M vs. 9 Pittsburgh

5 San Diego State vs. 12 VCU

4 Virginia vs. 13 Liberty

6 Creighton vs. 11 West Virginia

3 Gonzaga vs. 14 Iona

7 Michigan State vs. 10 Nevada

2 Texas vs. 15 Vermont

The Boilers roll into this as the 4th overall seed on the S-Curve…fresh off a sweep at the hands of their arch-rival for the first time in a little over a decade. Maybe they have sacrificed their dominance of the Hoosiers in the regular season in exchange for tournament success? Only time will tell on that. West Virginia played their way out of the First Four in Dayton on Monday night by taking down a reeling Iowa State team in Ames. The Mountaineers can move themselves onto the 10-line with a win over K-State on Saturday in Morgantown. This region paints a picture of a 5-seed rocketing in one direction and a 4-seed plummeting in another. While I’m skeptical about San Diego State being able to dramatically improve their seeding, they’re playing their best basketball at the right time and are a legitimate threat to do damage in the dance. Meanwhile, Virginia is starting to show their true colors and will fall onto the 5-line with a loss at home to Clemson Tuesday night.

Will Richards, USA Today Sports

Midwest Region

1 Houston vs. 16 Texas A&M CC/Norfolk State

8 Arkansas vs. 9 NC State

5 TCU vs. 12 Oral Roberts

4 Xavier vs. 13 Utah Valley

6 Maryland vs. 11 Memphis/Arizona State

3 Marquette vs. 14 Furman

7 Illinois vs. 10 Boise State

2 Baylor vs. 15 Youngstown State

The reality at this point is that Houston is going to need to lose multiple games to drop off the 1-line before the tournament, and I just do not see that happening. The Cougars will likely carry 30+ wins into Selection Sunday and that will be more than enough to secure a 1 seed. This region contains two big time potential risers in TCU and Arkansas. TCU with a healthy Mike Miles can make a run at the Big 12 tournament crown, which would give them at least two more cracks at Q1 opportunities. Arkansas has frankly been a different team with the insertion of potential lottery pick Nick Smith into the lineup. With a win at Tennessee on Tuesday night, the Hogs would climb onto the 7-line heading toward the SEC tournament.

Keith Mannion, USA Today Sports

West Region

1 Kansas vs. 16 Morehead State

8 Iowa vs. 9 Missouri

5 Miami (FL) vs. 12 College of Charleston

4 Indiana vs. 13 Kent State

6 Iowa State vs. 11 USC

3 Tennessee vs. 14 Yale

7 Duke vs. 10 Auburn

2 UCLA vs. 15 Montana State

Anecdotally, the committee has loved their regions/potential matchups that are particularly blue-blood laden in recent seasons. This region would be as blue-bloody as it gets, from a potential UCLA/Duke round of 32 meeting to a lookahead between Kansas and Indiana in the Sweet 16. Iowa State is falling rapidly and may be on the 7-line by the end of this week if they can’t secure a win on Saturday at Baylor. Auburn is a team to monitor as well… they could wind up squarely on the bubble if they finish the regular season 0-2 against Alabama and Tennessee.

The Bubble

Last Four Byes: Boise State, Nevada, USC, West Virginia

Last Four In: Mississippi State, Memphis, Arizona State, North Carolina

First Four Out: Oklahoma State, Clemson, Wisconsin, Texas Tech

Next Four Out: Michigan, Utah State, Penn State, New Mexico

Alex Wilcox