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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Bracket overview: Big East feast to be famine, bet on Bucks

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NEW YORK -- Eleven Big East schools made the NCAA tournament, but none is in the First Four.

That's strong.

Eleven Big East schools made the NCAA tournament and none will make the Final Four.

That's a prediction.

Want more?

No problem.

Here are some random thoughts and wild predictions about the Field of 68:

NCAA tournament
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
West Regional breakdown: Duke is the star, but UConn will steal show. Read More >>
Gregg Doyel Gregg Doyel
Southwest Regional breakdown: Hoyas better be right on status of Wright. Read More >>
Matt Jones Matt Jones
Southeast Regional breakdown: Pitt ready to pounce, but watch out for others. Read More >>
Eric Angevine Eric Angevine
East Regional breakdown: The Buckeyes' prize for No. 1 overall seed? A brutal road. Read More >>
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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 55 RPI was omitted this season, but six non-BCS-affiliated schools with top 55 RPIs were left out -- specifically Harvard (35), Cleveland State (42), Missouri State (43), St. Mary's (46), Colorado State (50) and Marshall (54). That means the three best RPIs omitted from the field belonged to non-BCS affiliated schools for the seventh 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.

(Here's the rundown from the past seven years)

Top three RPIs left out of the NCAA tournament

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 noticed about the bracket

1. Being the No. 1 overall seed isn't all that great: Ohio State ran through its non-league schedule and its Big Ten schedule before cruising to a Big Ten tournament title on Sunday, at which point the Buckeyes were the obvious No. 1 overall seed. For that, their reward was a region that includes a North Carolina team whose only two losses since Jan. 16 both came to Duke, a Syracuse team that spent part of the season ranked in the top five and a Kentucky team that has won six straight thanks to a roster featuring at least three future pros. So congrats, Buckeyes. And good luck.

2. Notable wins aren't all that important: I've always operated under the impression that the selection committee values teams that have shown they can beat quality opponents, but I'm scrapping that theory after Clemson and UAB made the field of 68. Clemson entered Selection Sunday with zero top-50 wins, but the Tigers still got an at-large bid. UAB entered Selection Sunday with only one top-50 win (and it was against No. 49 VCU), but the Blazers still got an at-large bid, too. Meantime, Colorado was left out with six top-50 wins. I can live with Virginia Tech and St. Mary's missing the field. But Colorado out with all those wins seems crazy considering the Buffaloes only have six losses outside of the top 50. I mean, Clemson also has six losses outside of the top 50. So the only real difference between Colorado and Clemson is that Colorado has six top 50 wins compared to Clemson's zero, and yet Clemson is the one that got the at-large bid. Simply put, I don't get it.

3. Tampa will have a bunch of coaches with Final Four experience: If UAB drops Clemson to 0-6 against top-50 teams on Tuesday, six of the eight teams playing Thursday in Tampa will feature men who have coached in Final Fours. They would be UAB's Mike Davis (one Final Four), West Virginia's Bob Huggins (two Final Fours), Michigan State's Tom Izzo (six Final Fours), UCLA's Ben Howland (three Final Fours), Florida's Billy Donovan (three Final Fours) and Kentucky's John Calipari (two Final Fours). That would be 17 total Final Fours between six of the eight coaches, though it's worth noting (before 185 readers note it for me) that both of Calipari's Final Fours were later vacated.

Ranking the regions from toughest to easiest

1. West: The ACC tournament champions (Duke), Mountain West tournament champions (San Diego State) and Big East tournament champions (Connecticut) are all here -- plus four other teams (Texas, Arizona, Tennessee and Missouri) that were ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll at various points this season. Lots of people thought Duke had a simple path to the Final Four last season. This season, it won't be nearly as simple.

Fan Poll

Which No. 1 seed has the easiest bracket?

Ohio State
16%
Kansas
17%
Pittsburgh
43%
Duke
24%

Total Votes: 116,780

2. East: The Big Ten tournament champions (Ohio State), SEC tournament champions (Kentucky) and Pac-10 tournament champions (Washington) are all here -- plus the regular-season champs from the ACC (North Carolina), Atlantic 10 (Xavier) and Colonial (George Mason). The Buckeyes are the favorite, clearly. But it's not difficult to imagine a scenario under which UNC, Syracuse or Kentucky advances to Houston instead.

3. Southwest: Three of the schools here (Kansas, Notre Dame and Purdue) were in play for a No. 1 seed as recently as 10 days ago, which sounds nice. But another way to look at this regional is to point out that the No. 2 (Notre Dame), No. 3 (Purdue), No. 4 (Louisville) and No. 5 (Vanderbilt) seeds are all teams that, in theory, overachieved this season. That's among the reasons why I believe Kansas is the safest of the No. 1 seeds to make it to the Final Four. Of course, I thought something similar last season, then watched Northern Iowa dump the Jayhawks in the second round. So who knows?

4. Southeast: In recent weeks, I've seen the No. 2 seed (Florida) lose the SEC tournament title game to Kentucky, the No. 3 seed (BYU) lose its best interior player to an Honor Code violation and the No. 4 seed (Wisconsin) score 33 points in a loss to Penn State. The No. 5 seed (Kansas State) was a bubble team a month ago, and the No. 6 seed (St. John's) recently lost a key player to a torn ACL. So if Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon doesn't make his first Final Four this season, it won't be because he didn't have a favorable region.

Seeded too low: Texas is the No. 4 seed in the West despite a No. 4 ranking at KenPom.com.

Seeded too high: Florida is a No. 2 seed in the Southeast despite a No. 19 ranking at Kenpom.com.

Seven teams I could see winning it all

1. Ohio State
2. Kansas
3. Duke
4. North Carolina
5. Texas
6 Pittsburgh
7. Kentucky

Two double-digit seeds that will make the Sweet 16

  No. 11 Marquette and No. 11 Missouri

My Final Four

  Ohio State vs. San Diego State
  Kansas vs. Wisconsin

My National Championship Game

  Ohio State vs. Kansas

My National Champion

  Ohio State


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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