Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist. He’ll regularly be out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.
The biggest note: this is the most subjective bracket of the process. With RPI still evolving into a tool worth considering substantially, I had to construct this bracket primarily on 1) quality wins and bad losses in non-conference play, 2) non-conference SOS and 3) simple W-L record. Even conference RPI can’t be factored in yet because teams have played, at most, three conference games. With RPI rounding into form as January progresses, the bracket will switch from a more subjective process (had to use the eye test a few times, which I despise) to a more objective compilation.
The #1 and #2 seeds were fairly straightforward. Due to Syracuse tripping up at home to Pittsburgh Saturday, the process became much easier and the four undefeated teams remaining earned the #1 nod. Three Big East teams earned nods as a #2 seed, all with one loss: West Virginia, Villanova and Syracuse. Duke was the other obvious choice for the second line.
One of the more interesting cases was Ohio State. How much do I penalize them for the loss of Evan Turner? I was fairly harsh in the opening bracket following a discouraging defeat to Michigan and a blowout loss at Wisconsin. I’m fairly sure the Buckeyes will be moving further up the bracket when Turner is back in the fold a few weeks from now, but a #11 seed at 0-2 in the Big 10 and wins over California and Florida State seemed appropriate.
USC will not be included in any of my brackets this year. It’s a shame because they have strong computer numbers and are building a handful of quality wins including Tennessee and UNLV. Like the Pac-10 needed to be hurt any further.
Some notable snubs were Miami, Oregon and Saint Mary’s. The point is pretty straightforward: I’m not going to reward you for playing a soft schedule. Miami is 14-1 but has the #85 RPI and #328 SOS in the nation with only notable wins against Minnesota and South Carolina. Oregon may be 2-0 in the Pac-10 but they have some BAD losses and need to do more to find their way into the bracket. The win at Oregon is looking stronger for St. Mary’s, but they still need to do more.
Since we’re so early, I did factor in “quality” losses for some teams. For example, Dayton lost by under 10 to both Villanova and Kansas State (both top-10 teams) and by 2 at New Mexico (top-20 team). They deserve some credit for those close losses.
Since we’re early in conference play, I determined the automatic bids among undefeated squads by which team had the highest RPI. I figured I should stay consistent with this throughout the season.
Last Four In: Northwestern, Richmond, Missouri State, Vanderbilt.
Last Four Out: Oklahoma State, Miami (FL), Saint Mary’s, Oregon.
Automatic bids: Vermont, Temple, Duke, East Tennessee State, Kansas, West Virginia, Weber State, Radford, Purdue, Pacific, William & Mary, UAB, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Western Michigan, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, New Mexico, Quinnipiac, Murray State, California, Army, Kentucky, Western Carolina, UT-San Antonio, Texas Southern, Oakland, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Louisiana Tech.
Bids per conference: ACC (7), Big East (7), SEC (6), Big 12 (6), Big 10 (6), Mountain West (3), Atlantic-10 (3), Pac-10 (2), Missouri Valley (2).
Next bracket: January 18