If you have been following sports news in general or college football in particular the last few weeks, you have become familiar with the story of Purdue student . Trent is battling osteosarcoma, a particularly aggressive form of bone cancer. In his case, it is now terminal.
I had the opportunity to meet Tyler last fall, between his previous battle with this disease and his current one. The things that draw people to Tyler – his courage, grace, and faith – have been an inspiration to everyone in the Purdue community, especially the football team, which named him as a captain. His story has now become national news.
Tyler has also used his platform to try to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer research. If you would like to help out, Purdue has set up a Tyler Strong fund for that purpose.
When I first met Tyler, we talked about a lot of our mutual qualities. One of those was an interest in combining sports and analytics. His major was business data analytics, but until recently, he was also a sports writer for the Purdue Exponent, the university's student newspaper.
I was hoping at some point last season to introduce him to Bracketology and have him assist me on a bracket. Circumstances did not work out to allow that, but now they have. Tyler worked with me in putting together this season's preseason bracket.
Here are the top seeds from each region on the eve of the 2018-19 college basketball season:
The SEC, with eight teams in the bracket prediction, and the ACC, with seven teams in the field of 68, are each strong at the top. For the ACC, that is typical, but it's relatively high cotton for the SEC, which will be right with the ACC in the battle for the best conference this season. We ended up with two No. 1 seeds from the ACC, but it is easy to see how that could end up as two from the SEC as well.
Tennessee just missed the top line of the bracket. The Volunteers return most of the team that was the surprise co-champion of the SEC regular season title and went to the Sweet 16. Tennessee was upended in the tournament by the team of destiny that was Loyola. The Vols are led by the reigning SEC player of the year, Grant Williams, who is now getting All-American attention. They will likely be right on Kentucky's heels all season in the SEC – or vice versa.
Gonzaga could end up being a tough case for the committee if the injury to center Killian Tillie impacts how the Bulldogs play in the non-conference part of their schedule. Like all non-majors, that is where Gonzaga has to make its case for a high seed in the NCAA tournament. That is when they get to play their better opponents. Barring an unexpectedly speedy recovery, Tillie will miss games against Washington, Tennessee and North Carolina. Losses in all three of those could make it hard for the Zags to build a resume that would put them on the top line of the bracket.
The Big Ten ties the SEC for the most teams in this bracket with eight, but none are seeded higher than No. 3 Michigan State. Michigan is considered the consensus runner up, but several teams behind those two could occupy the middle-to-bottom of the bracket. You could put the six other conference teams in the bracket, from No. 6 seeds Purdue and Indiana to No. 11 seed Minnesota, in any order and nobody should be surprised. Iowa, which is not in the bracket, is capable of getting a spot as well. It would be surprising if fewer than six Big Ten teams got bids and eight is a likely maximum.
As with all preseason brackets, we have no data to work with. I usually do have data for the next bracket projection, which is in mid-December. The first NCAA NET rankings are expected to be out by then. It seems unlikely that we will get the formula to do the calculations ourselves.