Welcome to another week of the Talk to the Palm Bracketology mailbag. If you want to read one of the previous columns, you can find them at the bottom of this page.
Many of you asked questions about specific teams of the nature of "what do we have to do to get in?" As I said last week, there is no definite answer to that question short of winning your conference tournament, so again, I am skipping those. Here are some that have more definite answers.
Q: Would it behoove more leagues to play noncon games later in the year to exhibit relative strength after more games have been played and roles are better defined? - @kerba1123
Talk to the Palm: From a purely Bracketology perspective, it does not matter when games are played. November games count the same as those in March. However, it is an interesting concept. The Big 12 and SEC played a challenge last weekend in the middle of conference play. That was good TV, but the Bracketology impact varied from team to team.
The Bracket Buster concept of several years ago attempted to pit top non-majors against each other in the latter part of the season. I liked that concept as well as it gave those teams a chance to pick up good wins, but it was really more of a TV event than something that had significant bracket impact. In the end, it got too bloated and it went away.
In the major conferences, you typically get plenty of chances to test yourself against good teams late in the season. Those wins can impress the committee every bit as much as a non-conference quality win.
What I would really like to see is the Bracket Buster concept revived pitting majors against non-majors. Not holding my breath.
Talk to the Palm: Last season, we had a few pretty good candidates from the non-major conferences that do not typically have a shot at those. Belmont ended up getting an at-large bid out of the OVC. The Southern Conference was pretty good as well, but was unable to get a second team in.
The key for these teams is that they have to pretty much dominate their leagues because failing to do so means picking up losses that would be hard to recover from. Remember, for one of these teams to be an at-large, they have to lose in their conference tournament.
This year, there are only a couple of good candidates. East Tennessee State is probably the best out there at the moment. The Buccaneers won at LSU and only have one bad loss, which came at North Dakota State. Fortunately for them, they can take a loss in the conference tournament that is not too damaging. Furman and UNC Greensboro are also top 100 teams in the NET.
Northern Iowa may have a shot at an at-large bid as well. The Panthers won at Colorado and put up a decent fight against West Virginia. However, UNI already has two bad losses in the league, including one to Illinois State, which is the Redbirds' only conference win. To have a shot at an at-large bid, the Panthers would likely have to win out to the conference tournament final and lose to Loyola or Bradley, if either can assert itself to finish a not too distant second in the regular season.
Q: Has anything been applied to rectify the lack of snake-seeding with the potential top #1 seed being paired with the best #2? (MSU last year, UM in early reveal bracket before that) -- @sflone
Talk to the Palm: In neither of those instances was the top No. 1 seed paired with the top No. 2. The last time that happened was in 2015, when No. 1 overall seed Kentucky and fifth overall Wisconsin were sent to the same region. The bracketing rules were changed to give the committee the flexibility to prevent that from happening again.
The main thing to note here is that geography drives the bracket. The higher a team is on the 1-68 seed list, the more likely it gets to play relatively close to home. Teams 1-16 are placed in the bracket in the closest available region and sub-region available, in keeping with other bracketing rules, like conference separation. For teams after that, only the sub-region is considered. Some level of balance is desired, but no effort has ever been made to snake the bracket, nor will any such effort be made in the foreseeable future. However, the committee will move the top No. 2 out of its natural region if necessary to protect it from the top No. 1.
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