The day of reckoning has arrived for college basketball steals hoping to receive a spot on the NCAA Tournament bracket.
Tonight, the music will stop with a limited number of empty chairs, only this game of musical chairs features several experts sifting through data to forecast the outcome.
Bracketology has transformed Selection Sunday from a guessing game to a scientific process. We won't know the exact placement of all 68 participants until the grid is unveiled, but many expert projections give us a good jumping point.
Some last-minute conference title games can tilt the seeding, but the selection committee should be fickle enough to crumble up their brackets and start fresh because of one game.
Michigan at No. 1
Villanova's shocking loss to Seton Hall created a top-seed opening alongside Florida, Arizona and Wichita State. It looks like Michigan is next in line to assume that void.
Winners of their last seven games, the Wolverines have gone 25-8 heading into their Big 10 Tournament championship bout with Michigan State.
They are 5-4 against ranked opponents, including a two-point loss to Arizona and a pair of victories over the Spartans. The advanced numbers also don't speak too kindly to their No. 1 candidacy.
Despite their stellar offense, the defense remains a concern. According to Sports-Reference.com, their 102.4 points per 100 possessions ranks 135 out of 351 eligible schools. Ken Pomeroy's team ratings place them outside the top 10 at 11, making a No. 1 seed feel like a knee-jerk reaction to their recent success.
A poor showing against Michigan State would throw that top seed into jeopardy. Also, will the projectors and selection committee feel differently after Duke and Virginia's ACC title clash? Each all top-10 nationally ranked schools are projected to earn a No. 2 or 3 seed.
How much should recent play factor into the bracket?
Mixing regular-season results with hold/cold streaks and conference tournament results make bracket forecasting a painstakingly difficult challenge. It's easy to slap a low seed on unassuming conference winners such as Wofford, Weber State and Albany, but how about everyone else?
Louisville is rolling heading into its title defense, having won 12 of its last 13 en route to capturing the newly assembled American Conference crown. Rated second in Pomeroy's ratings, the Cardinals are a strong Final Four contender, yet they're not in play for a No. 1 seed.
All three projections slot Louisville as a No. 3 seed. Beller explained his reasoning.
Louisville shared the AAC regular season championship with Cincinnati and won the conference tournament. So why are they not even a No. 2 seed? Two reasons. First, the Cardinals don't have one impressive win out of their conference. Their non-conference schedule ranked 163rd in the country, and the only two non-conference teams they played that will be in the dance, North Carolina and Kentucky, beat them.
Meanwhile, Syracuse has dropped five of its last seven games after starting the season 25-0. Although many pickers will shy away from the cold squad, the committee can't ignore 25 consecutive victories.
Lunardi and Beller have kept them at No. 3, but Miller is not as forgiving, slotting the Orangemen at No. 5 behind Michigan, Villanova, Duke and Cincinnati in the East region.
Seeding is important, but it means nothing if you're left off the card altogether.
A few teams tip-toeing on the edge won't get a chance to claw their way past the elite squads. These three brackets draw similar conclusions over who's in and who's out.
|Bubble Team Projections|
|BYU (23-11)||Arkansas (21-11)|
|Dayton (23-10)||California (19-13)|
|Nebraska (21-12)||Florida State (19-13)|
|SMU (23-9)||Minnesota (21-13)|
|Tennessee (21-12)||NC State (21-13)|
|Southern Miss (27-6)|
|Beller, Lunardi and Miller's projections|
Based on these projections, BYU, Dayton, Xavier, SMU, Tennessee and Nebraska should all get a chance to at least partake in the first set of play-in games that cut the field down to 64.
Despite its 21-12 record, Pomerov's system slots Tennessee at No. 13. Its only double-digit defeat came at the hands of Florida, but the Volunteers played the Gators tougher during a seven-point loss on Saturday. The shortcoming snapped a five-game winning streak, so look out for Tennessee.
On the gloomier side, Minnesota, California, Florida State, NC State, Southern Miss and Arkansas are among the top teams expected to get left off the bracket.