NEW YORK -- Turns out, Syracuse wasn't completely honest about Arinze Onuaku.
But I can't be mad at the Orange.
Remember, I'm the guy who advised school officials to keep it vague and imply their starting senior would be OK until after the bracket was set even if it wasn't exactly true. On cue, Syracuse announced Friday that Onuaku only had a strained quadriceps, and that he would return to practice Monday. So they got their one seed and started celebrating, at which point Jim Boeheim said Onuaku is "unlikely to play this weekend."
But, again, I can't be mad.
I would've done the same thing.
Anyway, here's a strange look at the entire bracket (or at least some of it):
When the RPI doesn't matter: I lead with this category every Selection Sunday, and it never disappoints. What you need to know is that no BCS-affiliated school with a top 50 RPI was omitted this season, but four non-BCS-affiliated schools with top 50 RPIs were -- specifically Rhode Island (40), Wichita State (43), UAB (45) and Kent State (46). So the three best RPIs omitted from the field belonged to non-BCS affiliated schools for the sixth consecutive season, which means a good RPI can save you if you're from a power league, but it won't help much if you're not.
(Here's the rundown)
Top RPIs left out of the NCAA tournament
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)
|East | West | Midwest | South|
Three random things I noticed about the bracket
1. Being the No. 1 overall seed kind of sucks: Kansas spent four months assembling the nation's best body of work, and for that Bill Self was rewarded with a region featuring the CBSSports.com National Player of the Year (Ohio State's Evan Turner), three prospects expected to go in the top 10 of June's NBA Draft (Turner, Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors, and Georgetown's Greg Monroe), eight other conference tournament champions (Ohio State, San Diego State, Northern Iowa, New Mexico State, Houston, Ohio, UC Santa Barbara, Lehigh), seven other Final Four coaches (UNLV's Lon Kruger, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Maryland's Gary Williams, San Diego State's Steve Fischer, Georgetown's John Thompson III, Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt and Ohio State's Thad Matta), and five teams that own wins over top seeds (Tennessee beat Kentucky and Kansas, Georgetown beat Duke and Syracuse, Georgia Tech beat Duke, Maryland beat Duke, and Oklahoma State beat Kansas). Seriously, only two schools beat KU this season, and the committee stuck both of those schools with KU in the Midwest. So congrats on the overall No. 1, Jayhawks. And good luck trying to navigate through what is clearly the most difficult region (more on this later).
2. The plan is to make the good non-BCS teams eliminate the other good non-BCS teams: I suppose (or at least I hope) it's a coincidence, but it seems every year one of the non-BCS teams most likely to make a run in this event gets paired with another non-BCS team that's likely to make a run in this event. This year's best example is a first-round game in the West between Butler and UTEP. I said last week that the three non-BCS schools with the best chance to make the Sweet 16 were New Mexico, Butler and UTEP, and now either Butler or UTEP is guaranteed to have its season end Thursday because of an unfortunate pairing.
3. Duke should be tested in the second round: I had West Virginia as a one seed instead of Duke, but it's not like the Blue Devils didn't have a reasonable claim. They won the ACC regular-season title and tournament title, finished with an RPI rated third and a schedule rated eighth. In other words, I'm OK with it. But I won't be surprised if Duke gets challenged in the second round, because the Blue Devils will play either California (the Pac-10 regular-season champs that were a preseason top 15 team) or Louisville (a 20-win team that played a schedule rated seventh and beat top seed Syracuse twice).
Ranking the regions from toughest to easiest
1. Midwest: The nation's No. 1 overall seed is here, as are two of the three Big Ten co-champions (Ohio State and Michigan State), the team that just played for the Big East tournament title (Georgetown), the ACC co-champion (Maryland), a team with two wins over one seeds (Tennessee), a team with a true star capable of carrying his teammates (Oklahoma State), the Missouri Valley champs (Northern Iowa), the team that just played for the ACC tournament title (Georgia Tech), and the Mountain West tournament champs (San Diego State). As I mentioned earlier, this region is stacked.
|Bill Self and Kansas do all that work to get the overall No. 1 seed only to get stuck in the toughest bracket. (AP)|
3. West: The top seed (Syracuse) is down a starter, the two seed (Kansas State) is 0-3 against Kansas, the three seed (Pittsburgh) won't overwhelm anybody from a talent perspective, the four seed (Vanderbilt) has six losses to teams that didn't make the NCAA tournament, the five seed (Butler) owns little of substance beyond a win over Ohio State (when Turner was out) and a controversial victory over Xavier, the latter of which just so happens to be the six seed here. Some folks didn't even have Florida in the field, and the Gators are the 10 seed.
4. South: This is the weakest of the regionals because two of the top four seeds have been fading (Villanova and Purdue), and the top seed (Duke) doesn't seem to scare anybody. Louisville and Cal both technically underachieved this season, and two of the top five seeds are Big 12 teams (Baylor and Texas A&M) that finished four games back of Kansas.
Seeded too low: Tennessee is the six seed in the Midwest despite an RPI rating of 14 and wins over Kansas and Kentucky.
Seeded too high: Cal is the eight seed in the South despite zero wins over other at-large teams and three losses outside the top 100.
Five teams that can win it all
1. Kansas 2. Kentucky 3. Syracuse 4. Ohio State 5. West Virginia
Two double-digit seeds that make the Sweet 16
1. UTEP 2. Washington
My Final Four
• Kansas vs. Syracuse
• Kentucky vs. Baylor
My National Championship Game
• Kansas vs. Kentucky
My National Champion
Final thought: Did you really think you were getting out of this column without me telling you I projected all 65 teams correctly? If so, you don't know me too well, because I rarely pass on an opportunity to brag even though I realize it comes off the wrong way.
Can't help it.
I was 65 of 65!
I had Florida and Minnesota in, Virginia Tech and Illinois out.
And do you know what that proves?
It proves I have a lot of time to crunch numbers because this is my job, and that anybody who understands what the selection committee is looking for has a fairly decent shot at correctly picking the field if they eliminate biases and focus on the numbers.
An idiot could get 63 of 65.
Most get 64.
Some nail it completely.
So I guess what I'm saying is that though this would be a good time to tell you how smart I am, the truth is that it does not take any special skill or insight to project a bracket. All it takes is a basic understanding of what the committee desires, a subscription to CollegeRPI.com, a few hours of free time and a sprinkle of luck at the end.
That's the secret to becoming a Bracketologist.