This is the first version of Bracket Breakdown for 2015 at the Big Lead. My philosophy in doing this is to project where teams will end up in March, not if a mythical tournament were held today. It is a subtle difference, but projecting forward involves not just looking at the current resumés of teams. It also includes looking at what is still available, as well as the team strength and likelihood of future success.
A site like RPI forecast provides future projections of where a team’s RPI based on the entirety of their schedule (excluding conference tournaments). Others, like Ken Pomeroy, provide efficiency figures and give an indicator of predictive performance. We know the committee over-relies on RPI, but they also weight heavily big wins for teams near the bubble. This year, those are rare for lower tier teams, and could be the difference maker.
TWO FINAL FOUR TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
I don’t know that Florida is even considered on the bubble by those looking at just performance to date, but I wouldn’t bet against the Gators getting in that discussion by March. Of course, they may come up just short, and probably need a big win. They play Kentucky twice. It’s foolhardy to project any individual team to win against Kentucky, but if Billy Donovan’s team can get that upset, they will shoot past a lot of teams. Right now, I have Florida just out.
The defending champion Connecticut Huskies, meanwhile, are likely to be squarely on the bubble through February. I’m not sure their conference has the big wins out there to jump them into safe territory much earlier than the conference tourney.
BIG 12 LOGJAM IN THE MIDDLE
The Big 12 has several teams in contention for top seeds. The picture right now is still awaiting clarity. Kansas has the strong schedule that will carry them to a decent seed. After that, it likely comes down to who beats Kansas and/or wins the majority of games against the other contenders.
Oklahoma has some inconsistency but I really like the pieces they have. I’m currently projecting Oklahoma and West Virginia just ahead of Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas. All of those teams are between a 4 seed and 6 seed. In reality, one of those teams likely makes a move to a 3 seed, but it’s a guessing game as to who that is.
Here’s the rest of the projected field. (* = automatic bid projection; + = play-in game participant).