A mock NCAA tournament selection
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS — For the second time in six years I traveled to NCAA headquarters here for the media’s mock bracket session, where this week I joined 19 other media members who pored over team reports and digested RPI numbers until our heads spun.
The biggest difference this year?
It wasn’t the process; it was the field. Though it is devoid of an undisputed great team like 2009 North Carolina or 2012 Kentucky, there is a surplus of very good teams, with a greater number than usual still in position to challenge for No. 1 seeds. And the separation among teams battling for seeds between the three and 10 lines appears as small as ever.
A quick snapshot of a contradictory, puzzling season: Illinois started 2-7 in league play but now is surging. Miami is challenging for the tournament’s top overall seed despite having a loss to Florida Gulf Coast on its résumé. Evaluations of Kansas differ based on how much stock one wants to put in the loss to TCU, one of the sport’s biggest upsets in years. Virginia has three losses to CAA teams on its profile but is proving its worth in ACC play. And there’s the question of how to assess Kentucky the rest of the way without Nerlens Noel, the projected No. 1 NBA draft pick now sidelined for the season.
Selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski says the landscape makes for a particularly challenging year for the 10-member committee, which will hand out 37 at-large berths and seed 68 teams before the bracket is unveiled in just over a month.
“This is as upside down as I’ve ever seen it,” Bobinski told me during one of the breaks.
Bobinski has a candid, no-nonsense approach. He calls it like he sees it, and is not afraid to say it publicly. That will help with transparency when berths or seeds are second-guessed the night of March 17.
In an effort to avoid issues, Bobinski would ideally like the actual bracketing of the field – a process that occurs after selecting and seeding teams – to occur earlier on Selection Sunday. One year, the bracket … [For more on Behind the bracket: a mock NCAA tournament selection, click here.]