The Brackets Are Coming. Are You Ready?
Here we go again… Sundays are typically reserved for some of the most memorable sports spectacles. Weekly sports often find a rhythm with Sunday features — racing, tennis, and golf usually crown champions on Sundays more than any other day of the week. The Super Bowl is a case study in itself. And then there’s this one — the second Sunday of March when the college basketball regular season reaches its conclusion. Ironically, it’s only just beginning.
From tip-off in early November to conference championships in early March, the NCAA season for both men and women is a four-month build-up of weekly polls, rankings, and conference races culminating in one glorious month like no other in sports. But before the Madness of March can commence, the top 68 teams need to be selected.
It’s easy, right? We’ve been ranking 300-plus teams all season long. Let’s just take the top 68 and fill them in. Not so easy…
For the March Madness groupies such as myself, you know the drill by now. There’s a tremendous amount of careful consideration that goes into making the bracket for March. It’s not a simple plug-and-play like your playoffs for professional sports determined by record alone. With 32 different conferences comes 32 automatic bids. The other 36 teams are selected, and the process is anything but simple.
Here are some of the terms you need to know when it comes to Selection Sunday, and then I’ll put on my bracketologist hat and take a stab at predicting all 68 teams.
Selection Show Terminology
The Bubble: The bubble refers to the teams neither definitely “in” nor “out” of the field of 68. These are anywhere from 9-10 teams right on the cut line who could go either way depending on how the committee views them.
Bid Stealers: The bid-stealers are on high alert this year. This term refers to the mid-major teams who surprise everybody and win their conference tournament, effectively stealing one of the automatic bids and bumping the bubble teams one more spot down the hierarchy.
Editor’s Note: Two more conference championships today feature potential bid stealers in Princeton (Ivy League) and Dayton (Atlantic 10).
Seed Lines: Teams are ranked 1-16 across four different regions. When we refer to a “seed line”, we’re referring to all four teams of that seed (ie. All four 1-seeds are on the “1-line”).
NET Ranking: We rank every team week after week for four months, but what goes into those rankings? With 32 different conferences and no one playing an even schedule, NET refers to a combination of results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, efficiency, and the overall quality of every win and loss. It’s a much more comprehensive ranking system than just looking at a team’s overall record.
First Four: A bracket with 68 teams doesn’t come out to an even 1-16 in each region, so eight teams will play in the “First Four” games with the four winners filling out spots 61-64 at the bottom of the bracket. These are typically reserved for the last eight teams on the bubble. Gotta make ‘em earn it, right?
The committee is hard at work before a few conference championships conclude this afternoon. The bracket gets revealed at 6:00 pm ET. Let’s take a stab at predicting all 68 teams, shall we? Here’s a look at our NCAA Tournament bracket based on NET rankings and all the basketball games we’ve watched this season. We’ll put it side-by-side with the actual bracket later tonight and see how accurate we are at being our own NCAA committee.
The Sportsletter’s NCAA Bracket Prediction
San Diego State
*Mississippi State / NC State
*Utah State / Arizona State
Texas A&M Corpus Christi
*Howard / SE Missouri State
*Texas Southern / Fairleigh Dickinson
*First Four (Play-In Games)
11: Mississippi State / NC State
11: Utah State / Arizona State
16: Howard / SE Missouri State
16: Texas Southern / Fairleigh Dickinson
Bracket Reveal: Today (6:00 pm ET, CBS)
Thoughts? Reply to today’s newsletter and let us know what teams you think should be seeded higher or lower. Be sure to check in with tomorrow’s Sportsletter to join our NCAA Tournament bracket pool and compete against other readers.
Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images