NCAA Bracket 2011: B/R Writer Has Most Accurate Bracket Projections in America
The NCAA Selection Committee was relatively consistent in picking its field of 68 on Sunday night.
It rewarded teams for playing challenging out-of-conference schedules and winning games away from home, so I'm not sure why everyone is so shocked by who got in and who got left out.
My bracket projections for Bleacher Report and FOXSports.com were not only the most accurate in the country, but I was also the only one out of 89 bracketologists to correctly predict 67 of the 68 teams that made the field.
For the second straight year, Joe Lunardi of ESPN finished in lower than 50th place.
My success was due to the fact that I had USC, VCU and UAB in my field. Southern Cal had five wins over the top 50, so while the Trojans suffered six losses to sub-100 teams—including three to sub-200 competition—people aren't too up in arms about their inclusion. They played the 66th most difficult non-conference schedule in the country, which included two big wins over Texas (home) and Tennessee (away).
But if USC was invited to the Big Dance, why was Colorado left out? Good question.
The Buffaloes were the only team I picked that didn't make the field and while they certainly deserved to get in ahead of Clemson (we'll get to that later), I can see why USC was chosen first.
Which snub most deserved to make the field?
Colorado won six games over top-50 teams, but three of those came over the same conference foe (Kansas State) and its best out-of-league victory was against Colorado State, which was a fringe bubble team at best. The Buffaloes' second-best non-conference win? Indiana.
This is probably because Colorado played just the 325th toughest schedule outside its league. The Buffaloes also had a losing record against the top 100 (8-10) and in road/neutral games (6-11), so while their exclusion was undeserved, it wasn't exactly surprising.
VCU deserved to be in the field. The Rams' win over George Mason in the Colonial semifinals was one of the biggest wins of Championship Week. Snapping the Patriots' nation-long 16-game winning streak not only gave VCU its second RPI top-25 win (the Rams also won at Old Dominion), but it also gave the team its third top-50 victory to go along with a critical neutral-court win over UCLA.
The Committee wants you to prove that you can beat good teams out of your league away from home because the NCAA tournament is played against good teams out of your league away from home.
USC did that. VCU did that. Virginia Tech and Alabama did not.
The Tide, who played the 284th toughest non-conference schedule, can claim Lipscomb as their best win outside the SEC. Lipscomb. Do we need to go on? Fine.
Alabama also had bad computer numbers (RPI 80, SOS 114), four losses against sub-100 competition, a 5-11 record away from home and while it did win four top-50 games, Alabama was just 5-7 against the top 100.
The Hokies, who played the 157th toughest non-conference schedule, won just two games over the top 50 and while they did beat Penn State, that win came at home. Virginia Tech's best out-of-league win away from Blacksburg was over Oklahoma State—not very impressive. VT also stumbled in two games that could have locked up a spot, falling to Boston College and Clemson in the final week of the regular season.
I can see a case for putting Va Tech in over UAB, but I had the Blazers in my field because I paid attention to what the Committee did last year.
In 2010, UTEP won the Conference USA regular-season title, but failed to win the league's automatic bid. Still, despite a lack of big victories, the Miners earned an at-large berth. Interestingly, most of the national pundits agreed with this move. But when UAB made an expanded field this year with a slightly better profile, you would think ESPN's analysts had just been told they'd be forced to watch 24 straight hours of Around the Horn.
UAB had the best RPI (31) and the most top-100 wins (10) of all bubble teams. The Blazers also had a solid 9-6 record away from home and only one sub-100 loss. The fact that they were 1-4 against the top 50 is certainly reason to complain, but they beat VCU and while top-50 wins are important, it isn't the only criterion used by the Committee.
While I can see a case for Virginia Tech, I definitely can't see one for Clemson. The Tigers played the 195th toughest non-conference schedule and had exactly zero wins against the top 50. Their best victory out of the ACC was over College of Charleston and they were just 6-9 in road/neutral games.
But I'm not going to throw a fit over Clemson making it in over Colorado, because none of these teams are worthy of getting red in the face over.
It's like trying to pick the best Stuart Scott catchphrase; there just aren't too many good ones from which to choose.
Follow me on Twitter at @ JordanHarrison.
Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at email@example.com
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