I’ve meant to do this exercise for a few weeks. This will be a full walk-through of the seeding process, using my rankings as an S-Curve. I’m going to attempt to build the bracket using the selection committee rules, while trying to stay as true to the ratings as possible. I will do this on Selection Sunday so that I can send a bracket to Bracket Matrix to track the results. I want as little human interaction as possible, but I know I can’t just seed everyone straight through with the rankings, otherwise we can end up with 6 teams from the same conference in the same region. The only thing I won’t pay attention to is potential re-matches from non-conference opponents. I’m only one set of eyes and I don’t have the time to double-check everything while still writing this post. Enough explanation, let’s do this.
This whole process starts off simple, but gets harder as it goes as more teams need to be shuffled. The four #1 seeds are, in order, Arizona, Florida, Villanova and Syracuse. Arizona goes to the West Region (Anaheim) and is placed in the San Diego Pod. Florida goes to the South Region (Memphis) and gets the Orlando pod. Villanova will be in the East Region (New York) and gets a Buffalo pod, with Syracuse rounding it out in the Midwest Region (Indianapolis) and grabbing the other Buffalo pod. The bracket lines up like this:
Next, we have the #2 seed: Wichita St., Wisconsin, Kansas, San Diego St. Wichita St. goes first, being placed in the Saint Louis pod and the South Region. Wisconsin goes to the Milwaukee pod and the Midwest Region. Kansas joins Wichita St. at the Saint Louis site, while heading to the East region. San Diego St. is unable to be placed in the San Diego pod, since it is their home floor, so they’ll be heading to Spokane and grabbing the spot in the West. So far, so good.
The #3 seeds are as follows: Michigan, Creighton, Virginia and Iowa St. Michigan has a few favorable pod locations, so to make things easier for some other #3 seeds, but since both Buffalo pods have been taken, they’ll grab the 2nd spot in Milwaukee. The Midwest would be their best region geographically, but since Wisconsin is already in that region, they move to the East. Creighton’s two best pods (St. Louis and Milwaukee) have already been filled, so they’ll head to San Antonio for their first game and be placed in the Midwest. Virginia is next, and they’ll head to Raleigh and take a spot in the South, with Iowa St. going to San Antonio and the West.
Moving on to the #4 seeds, we have Duke, Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Michigan St. Duke gets a first round game in Raleigh and is heading to the East region. Cincinnati has to head to Orlando, via process of elimination, but gets a spot in the Midwest. Saint Louis and Michigan St. both draw short straws for pods, heading to Spokane and San Diego, respectively. Saint Louis is placed in the South region, with Michigan St. heading to the West. Not a lot of perks for Michigan St. as the last #4 seed, but what can you do? The bracket now looks like this:
The #5 seeds are Louisville, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina. Louisville can’t go to the Midwest, due to the presence of Cincinnati, so they’ll be put in the South. Massachusetts is next, heading to the East. Connecticut is locked out of the Midwest and the South, the East has already been filled, so process of elimination puts the in the West. Which should mean that North Carolina goes to the Midwest, however that is where Syracuse is seeded. The only region that does not have an ACC representative at this point is the West, meaning the Tar Heels need to be bumped down a spot on the seed line. The next team in like is Gonzaga. Since they have no conflicts, they can be placed on the #5 line in the Midwest.
Now the #6 seeds should be North Carolina, Ohio St., New Mexico and Pittsburgh. Now UNC can slot into the West. Ohio St.’s only possible location at this point is the South. New Mexico can’t go to the West because of San Diego St., so they’ll be in the Midwest. That leaves Pittsburgh to be placed. Pittsburgh will be the 5th ACC team to be seeded, meaning there will now be multiple conference teams in one region. With Duke being the #4 seed in the East, Pittsburgh can slot in as the East’s #6 seed, which avoids any potential conference re-match until the Elite 8. Perfect.
Next up is the #7 seeds, Texas, VCU, George Washington and Oklahoma. Texas goes to the South, VCU to the Midwest, and George Washington is forced to the West as the 4th A-10 rep. These leaves Oklahoma unable to be seeded as a 7, as their only potential landing spot at the point is in the Midwest. UCLA is next in line, so they snag a cross-country trip to the East, if they make a Sweet 16 appearance.
The #8 seeds are now Oklahoma, Harvard, Baylor and Memphis. Oklahoma heads to the Midwest and Harvard takes a spot in the East. Baylor makes team number 5 for the Big 12, so their spot requires some analysis. The Big 12 has no teams in top half of the two remaining regions, so placing them in either one will work. That’s a different story for Memphis, though. The AAC has teams in the top half of both of those regions, so the Tigers will be forced to drop to the #9 line. The next team up is Oregon, who can be placed in the South without problem, which makes Baylor to the West official. This type of musical chairs becomes quite regular from here on out.
Half of the bracket has now been seeded. Potential conference re-matches have been minimized and pushed out as late as possible. An all-chalk 2nd round is now visible for the entire bracket, which looks like this:
Now, the first round matchups start being created. The #9 seeds are Memphis, Kentucky, Southern Miss and Colorado. Memphis goes to the East, since the AAC has teams in the other 3 regions, where they’ll meet Harvard. I don’t think Kentucky would get a spot in the Midwest, as that could potentially put Syracuse in a semi-road game in the 2nd round, so they head to the West to play Baylor. Southern Miss goes to the South to take on Oregon, since Colorado’s only potential region is the Midwest and a game against former conference mate, Oklahoma.
For #10 seeds, we have THE LUMBERJACKS OF STEPHEN FULLER AUSTIN, Xavier, Toledo and Providence. Stephen F. Austin heads to the Midwest for a date with VCU. Xavier is the South region and draws Texas. Toledo ends up in the East and matches up with UCLA. Lastly, Providence goes to the West and plays George Washington.
In the 8 total games that have been set-up so far (ignoring any potential home court adjustments), only Kentucky is projected to be a favorite in their game.
Moving on to the #11 seeds, we have Stanford, Arizona St., Florida St. and SMU. Since the Pac12 already have 4 teams in the bracket, the region choices have some limits. The East is the only region to have a Pac12 in the bottom half of a region, so Stanford gets a spot in the West against North Carolina, while Arizona St. takes on Ohio St. in the South. Florida St. takes Midwest’s #11 seed, taking on New Mexico, with SMU joining the East region and taking on Pittsburgh.
The #12 seeds traditionally are the most popular upset teams in the tournament, and in this instance, one of these teams is particularly strong. This group of teams also includes the first play-in game. The teams are Oklahoma St., Dayton, the winner of Nebraska/Saint Joseph’s, and North Dakota St. Seeding these teams was a little tricky due to the play-in game, but ultimately everyone can be kept on this seed line. Oklahoma St. heads to the South to take on Louisville in what I would assume is one of the strongest 1st round games in the history of the NCAA tournament. It’s absolutely a doomsday scenario for the defending champs. Louisville will still be favorites in the game, but the relative strength of the rest of the 12-seeds pales in comparison to OKST’s. Dayton goes to the West for a game against Connecticut. The Nebraska/St. Joe’s winner is placed in the Midwest, which has an top-half of the bracket without any teams from the BigTen or A10. Both teams are underdogs in that match-up with Gonzaga, though. The last 12-seed in North Dakota St., who heads to the East to face Massachusetts.
#13 seeds include the winner of Green Bay and BYU, Louisiana Tech, Manhattan and North Carolina Central. With BYU as the projected winner, they’ll be in the East region as Duke’s opponent. Louisiana Tech would be in the Midwest and would take on Cincinnati. Manhattan goes to the South for a date with Saint Louis and NC Central heads to the West to take on Michigan St.
The #14 seeds are Delaware, Georgia St., New Mexico St. and Mercer. Delaware gets placed in the Midwest to take on Creighton, Georgia St. is in the South region and draws Virginia, New Mexico St. is in the West region and plays Iowa St., and Mercer finishes off this group in the East against Michigan.
Per KenPom ratings, half of the Sweet 16 teams have now been decided.
This leaves just the #15 and #16 seeds. The #15 seeds are UC-Irvine, Eastern Kentucky, Stony Brook and Milwaukee, with the #16 seeds being American, Wofford, and the winners of Weber St./Coastal Carolina and Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern. UC-Irvine takes a crack at Wisconsin in the Midwest. Eastern Kentucky takes on Kansas in the East. Stony Brook locks up with undefeated Wichita St. in the South, and UW-Milwaukee heads to the West and “battles” San Diego St.
Finally, the #16 seed match-ups are American taking on Syracuse in the Midwest, Wofford against Villanova in the East, the Weber St./Coastal Carolina winner against Florida in the South and the Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern winner against Arizona in the West.
All of this creates a bracket that looks like this:
All of the games are done using a straight comparison of the higher KenPom rating. No need to run any sims on this hypothetical. So much can change just by simply putting teams in different regions. For example, even though Louisville makes it to the finals, the game against Oklahoma St. would severely lower their overall chances of doing that. Replace Saint Louis with Duke and you have an even more difficult road. All in all, I think this is a really fun exercise. The bracket was able to come together with a very small amount of restructuring due to conference alignments. I’ll be very interested to see how this measures up to the rest of the brackets that are tracked at Bracket Matrix. Anything in the top half will look like a very big success.