Blog Entry

Projecting the first-round destinations

Posted on: March 8, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 2:37 pm
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Posted by MATT JONES

I am a dork. Let’s get that out of the way right up front, because otherwise what I am attempting to do below will make no sense. While everyone else on the internet is giving their latest Bracketology projections and attempting to define the bottom half of the field of 68, I have a completely different goal. I want to try and get in the tournament committee’s minds and figure out exactly where the top seeds in the NCAA tournament will play their first round games .

Now this may seem like a silly enterprise, as on the surface it seems impossible to predict. If the process was random, with 68 teams and 8 different locales, projecting any team to any first round destination would be complete folly. But the process isn’t random and there is some logical basis to the assignments. In fact, if you understand two rules, projecting the assignments of some top teams can come rather easily:

1. The committee will try to put teams seeded in the top 4  teams in their region close to home.

2.  Duke will play in the state of North Carolina

Those two rules if not officially set in stone, are nearly always followed and thus give us some logical basis to begin a projection. At this point, our resident bracketologist Jerry Palm has these teams as the top 4 seeds:

  1. Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
  2. Duke, Syracuse, Purdue, San Diego State
  3. North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida
  4. Louisville, Kentucky, St. Johns, BYU

While the order of those teams may change a bit and a couple of teams could crash the group (Vanderbilt, West Virginia, UCONN), it is likely that the vast majority of these teams will represent the 16 top seeds. For this year’s tournament, there are eight cities hosting first round games:

Cleveland
Chicago
Denver
Tucson

Washington DC

Tampa
Tulsa
Charlotte

Each city will be the host site of two of the top 16 seeds. So using our two rules above, we can begin projecting teams to particular sites based upon location. Cleveland is just a hop, skip and a jump from two No.1 seeds, Ohio State and Pittsburgh. Tulsa is the closest to Kansas and Chicago is virtually an extension of Notre Dame. So after placing the top seeds, the list looks like this:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame
Denver:
Tucson:
Washington DC:

Tampa

Tulsa:
Kansas

Charlotte

Duke is a 2 seed and Charlotte is in North Carolina, thus making the Blue Devils a lock for the banking capital of America due to Rule No. 2. Purdue is within a quick drive to Chicago and Tucson is the only host city anywhere close to San Diego State. Syracuse would probably prefer to be in Cleveland, but because that locale is full, Washington DC becomes the most likely destination.

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Tucson:
San Diego State
Washington DC:
Syracuse

Tampa

Tulsa:
Kansas
Charlotte:
Duke

North Carolina is apparently still located in North Carolina and thus placing the Tar Heels in Charlotte ensures a packed house for each session. Tulsa is the location closest to Texas, making the Longhorns a likely candidate for that beautiful city. Tampa is in Florida and has a huge arena to fill, potentially enticing the fickle Gators fans to make the short drive. Wisconsin has no obvious destination, as nothing left is very close to Madison. But with Denver in that same general part of America and only one other western team, the Badgers seem likely headed for the Rockies:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Wisconsin
Tucson:
San Diego State
Washington DC:
Syracuse
Tampa:
Florida
Tulsa:
Kansas, Texas
Charlotte:
Duke, North Carolina

This is when it starts to get tricky. BYU is the farthest west and can’t play on Sunday, meaning that Tucson is the likely home for the Cougars. St. John’s is in New York, which likes to think of DC as its dorky extension, thus sending the Red Storm to the nation’s capital. Louisville and Kentucky are both not close to either remaining destination, but the Cardinals are slightly farther west, sending them to Denver and Kentucky to Tampa. That makes the final split look like this:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Wisconsin, Louisville
Tucson: San Diego State, BYU
Tampa:
Florida, Kentucky
Washington DC:
Syracuse, St. Johns
Tulsa:
Kansas, Texas
Charlotte:
Duke, North Carolina

Of course it is just as likely that the committee follows none of these parameters and just does what it wants. But if logic is used, you can book your travel destinations now.

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