Woah, the SEC got more than three teams in this time?
Yes! A combination of things led us here, like rebuilding plans that worked in Arkansas and LSU to a league-wide effort to schedule better non-conference teams to boost everyone’s RPI. If Texas A&M hadn’t blown it against Auburn in the SEC Tournament, we might’ve even had six teams in.
OK, so who is going where?
Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed, so the Wildcats get to be the 1-seed in their most favorable region geographically. That happens to be the Midwest region this year, which ends up in Cleveland. They’ll first play 16-seeded Hampton or Manhattan, pending their First Four matchup, followed by the winner of 8-seed Cincinnati and 9-seed Purdue in Louisville.
Arkansas secured the 5-seed in the West region, which finishes in Los Angeles. If the Razorbacks make it past their first-round opponent 12-seeded Wofford, they’ll get the winner of 4-seed UNC and 13-seed Harvard. The Razorbacks’ opening site is in Jacksonville, FL.
Georgia made it in this year as an 10-seed in the East region, and that one has its finals in Syracuse. The Bulldogs will first play 7-seed Michigan State, and if they succeed, they’ll take on the winner of the game between 2-seed Virginia and 15-seed Belmont. Their opening game(s) will happen in Charlotte.
LSU kind of backed into the bracket this year as an 9-seed, as the Tigers couldn’t quite pile up enough bad losses to be left out. They’re making an appearance in the West region, with their first opponent being 8-seed NC State. If they pass that test, they’ll get 1-seed Villanova. LSU’s opening site is Pittsburgh.
Finally, Ole Miss squeaked into the Field of 68 as an 11-seed, and it will play a First Four game in Dayton for the right to join the Field of 64. Their first opponent is fellow 11-seed BYU. If the Rebels make it out of Dayton, they’ll take the 11 line in the West region, pitting them against 6-seed Xavier in Jacksonville. If they win that one too, they’ll have to face the winner of 3-seed Baylor and 14-seed Georgia State.
Where’s my printable bracket?
Who got the best draw?
I have to go with Kentucky here. Kansas is not a scary 2-seed, given that UK obliterated the Jayhawks 72-40 in November. Of course, that could be moot as KU may not even make it that far. The early general consensus seems to be that 3-seed Notre Dame is the only team in the region that can really give the Cats a run for their money. If only one team among the other 15 is a threat, that’s not bad at all. As far as the KenPom ratings go, the region has four top-20 teams besides UK. Only one of them can possibly play the Wildcats due to the way the seeding worked out. That’s favorable.
Who got the worst draw?
It’s hard to argue against Arkansas here. The Hogs are in the West region, where the top four seeds are Wisconsin, Arizona, Baylor, and North Carolina. That’s pretty brutal. They also get a feisty 12-seed in Wofford to begin things with. Arkansas has a better shot at winning a game than, say, Georgia does, but the Hogs’ prospects for more success than that are more limited than those of the other 5-seeds.
Can you give me a hastily assembled prediction for where everyone ends up?
Arkansas gets past Wofford and edges North Carolina, but Wisconsin drops the hammer in the Sweet 16. LSU beats NC State but falls to Villanova in the second round. Georgia loses badly to Michigan State, while Ole Miss can’t keep up with BYU in each of their first games. Kentucky, of course, will win the whole thing.
How about a Final Four?
Based on less than 10 minutes of thought, give me Kentucky over Notre Dame in the Midwest, Virginia over Northern Iowa in the East, Arizona over Wisconsin in the West, and Duke over Iowa State in the South. In the Final Four, I’ll go with Kentucky and Virginia, with the Wildcats winning it all. Aside from the UK picks, that’s all probably wrong.