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Bracket overview: The Midwest is the toughest of the tough

The Field of 68 has been finalized.

Here are some random thoughts and wild predictions upon first look ...

When the RPI doesn't matter: I lead with this category every Selection Sunday. It never disappoints. What you need to know is that no BCS-affiliated school with a top-56 RPI was omitted this season, but three non-BCS-affiliated schools with top 56 RPIs were left out -- specifically Southern Miss (31), Louisiana Tech (54) and UMass (56). That means the three best RPIs omitted from the field belonged to non-BCS affiliated schools for the ninth consecutive season, which once again shows that a good RPI can save you if you're from a power league, but it won't help much if you're not.

TOP THREE RPI RANKINGS LEFT OUT OF THE FIELD OF 68

2013: Southern Miss (31), Louisiana Tech (54), UMass (56)

2012: Marshall (47), Oral Roberts (51), UCF (54)

2011: Harvard (35), Cleveland State (42), Missouri State (43)

2010: Rhode Island (40), Wichita State (43), UAB (45)

2009: San Diego State (34), Creighton (40), UAB (46)

2008: Dayton (32), Illinois State (33), UMass (42)

2007: Air Force (30), Missouri State (36), Bradley (38)

2006: Missouri State (21), Hofstra (30), Creighton (39)

2005: Miami, Ohio (39), Wichita State (45), Buffalo (46)

THREE THINGS I IMMEDIATELY NOTICED ABOUT THE BRACKET

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1. The Midwest Regional is ridiculous: I wrote about the Midwest earlier -- here's the link -- but what I put there is worth repeating here, specifically that the committee did Louisville no favors. The Cards are the No. 1 overall seed and yet stuck with Duke, Michigan State, Saint Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis and Creighton in their regional. That represents the schools ranked No. 2 (Duke), No. 4 (Louisville), No. 8 (Michigan State), No. 14 (Oklahoma State), No. 16 (SLU), No. 20 (Memphis) and No. 23 (Creighton) in the latest AP Poll, and all of the top-10 seeds -- plus No. 12 seed Oregon -- have been ranked at one time. So Louisville is the favorite, sure. But there's nothing simple about Rick Pitino's path.

2. The committee doesn't think much of the Pac-12: The regular-season champ (UCLA) got a six seed. The tournament champ (Oregon) got a 12. Arizona got a six. Colorado got a 10. California got a 12. And how is commissioner Larry Scott supposed to get his Pac-12 network on DirecTV with this kind of slap in the face? Honestly, the seeds are mostly OK once you downgrade UCLA because of Jordan Adams' injury suffered in the Pac-12 semifinals. But Oregon's seed makes no sense at all. The Ducks are 21-4 with Dominic Artis in the lineup. They were leading the Pac-12 when he got hurt. They won the Pac-12 tournament after he returned. So Oregon should've been evaluated on what it is with its starting point guard available, and there's no way Oregon is a 12 with its starting point guard available.

3. Kentucky is missing: I think we all knew the Wildcats were NIT-bound when Vanderbilt throttled them in the SEC tournament, but it's still wild to think this team with all that talent failed to make the Field of 68. UK was ranked third in the preseason AP Poll. They had multiple future lottery picks even after Nerlens Noel went down with a torn ACL. Still, things never clicked for a variety of reasons. So John Calipari's string of Sweet 16 appearances (dating to his days at Memphis) will stop at seven. But he will have a chance to win his second NIT. The Wildcats will play at Robert Morris on Wednesday night.

RANKING THE REGIONALS FROM STRONGEST TO WEAKEST

1. Midwest: The Big East co-champ (Louisville), the top-ranked team from the ACC (Duke), the Big Ten runner-up (Michigan State), the Atlantic 10 champ (Saint Louis), the Big 12 runner-up (Oklahoma State), the Conference USA champ (Memphis), the Missouri Valley champ (Creighton) and the Mountain West runner-up (Colorado State) are all in the Midwest. Three of those schools (Louisville, Duke and Michigan State) are ranked in the top 10 at KenPom.com and coached by sure-bet future Hall of Famers (Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo). So this regional is stacked with great teams, players and coaches.

2. South: The Big 12 co-champ (Kansas), the Big East co-champ (Georgetown), the SEC champ (Florida), a former top-ranked team (Michigan), the Atlantic 10 runner-up (VCU), the Pac-12 champ (UCLA) and dangerous outfits from the Mountain West (San Diego State), ACC (North Carolina), Big East (Villanova), Big 12 (Oklahoma) and Big Ten (Minnesota) are all in the South. Kansas is Kansas. Georgetown and Michigan have first-team All-Americans (Otto Porter and Trey Burke) capable of carrying them, Florida is ranked No. 1 at KenPom.com, and VCU is a matchup nightmare for almost anybody. This regional, I think more than any other, is completely up for grabs.

3. West: The nation's top-ranked team (Gonzaga), the Big Ten tournament champ (Ohio State), the Mountain West champ (New Mexico), the Big 12 co-champ (Kansas State), a Big Ten team with two wins over Indiana and Michigan and another over Ohio State (Wisconsin), the preseason Pac-12 favorite (Arizona), two tough outs from the Big East (Notre Dame and Pittsburgh), a scary team from the Big 12 (Iowa State), a 26-win team from the Ohio Valley (Belmont), a tough team from the Missouri Valley (Wichita State) and the SEC tournament champ (Ole Miss) are all in the West. Gonzaga will have its hands full in the Round of 32 regardless of whether it plays Pittsburgh or Wichita State.

4. East: The Big Ten champ (Indiana), ACC champ (Miami), Big East co-champ (Marquette), a team that spent part of the season ranked in the top 10 (Syracuse), a team with as much frontcourt talent as anybody (UNLV), two teams that own wins over two No. 1 seeds (Butler and Illinois) and the preseason pick in the ACC (North Carolina State) are all in the East. But this is either Indiana or Miami, right? Nobody else is getting out.

Seeded too low: Pittsburgh is a No. 8 seed in the West despite being ranked No. 7 at KenPom.com.

Seeded too high: Temple is a No. 9 seed in the East despite being ranked No. 68 at KenPom.com.

TEN TEAMS I COULD SEE WINNING IT ALL

  1. Louisville
  2. Indiana
  3. Wisconsin
  4. VCU
  5. Gonzaga
  6. Duke
  7. Kansas
  8. Miami
  9. Ohio State
  10. Michigan State

MY FINAL FOUR

  • Louisville vs. Wisconsin
  • Indiana vs. VCU

MY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

  • Louisville vs. Indiana

MY NATIONAL CHAMPION

  • Louisville
 
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