Welcome! This is the first solo bracket I've posted on our fancy site here this season - whoa, wake up Jim! I did a combined preseason bracket with @MidRange_Report and a dueling article with him in December, but it's 4 weeks from showtime, so let's really dig in here...
Note: I had to swap Syracuse up to the 9 line with Michigan because the 2/7/10 seed cluster is so loaded with ACC teams. A little inside baseball - if Syracuse only plays Louisville/UNC/FSU once during the regular season, they could play them in the Round of 32, by rule.
1. This was a fun one for a lot of reasons. Most notably, I love being able to pick a Final Four of Gonzaga, Louisville, Villanova, and Arizona.
2. Some supremely fun matchups/potential matchups early. Notably: old MVC rivalry rematch of Wichita State and Creighton, big brother/little brother in-state games of UNC/UNC Asheville and Florida State/FGCU, other possible in-state battles between Butler/Purdue and UCLA/St. Mary's, a border war between North and South Carolina, an experienced Wisconsin/young and talented Kentucky rematch, and an ACC reunion of Maryland/Clemson.
3. Marquette, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and Texas Tech need to be very thankful that the committee is apparently starting to use analytics-based rankings a little bit more. Their RPIs are very much in the danger zone of being deal-breakers for their at-large candidacy (all 76 or higher). The highest-ever RPI to get an at-large bid is 67 (USC in 2011) - maybe we'll see that change this year?
4. The MVC is sneaking closer to two at-large bids. If either Illinois St. or Wichita St. loses in the Arch Madness final to the other, I think it's very plausible they both make the field, with ISU probably having the better overall case (pending other tournament results). Until then, it's a modified version of Dory from Finding Nemo's axiom: "Just keep winning, just keep winning..."
5. I tried to start with the Top 16 that the committee used on 2/11 and adjust from there. Leaping Gonzaga from 4 to 1 for winning at St. Mary's and vs. San Francisco is admittedly probably dumb, but they're now 7-0 vs. the RPI top 50, 11-0 vs. the top 100, and they HAVEN'T EFFING LOST. They're #1 with a bullet in KenPom - the distance between them and #2 is the same as the distance between #2 and #15. I don't what the hell else they're supposed to do.
Other adjustments off that - I would not have had Florida so high, but they haven't lost since, so they remain at 10. Duke continues to creep up after a road win at Virginia, Louisville snuck ahead of UNC for the top 2 and top ACC slot, and the top of the Big Ten continued to fart away its shot at a protected seed.
6. The "Next Four Out" and "Others" really don't feel that close to the field for me, outside of maybe Texas Tech (NCSOS will be an absolute killer for them, though).
7. Just for fun, some upsets I like: Wilmington over Wisconsin, Vermont over West Virginia (!), Wichita over Creighton (Shockers probably favored), and Clemson over Maryland (spread might be a pick'em?).