Saturday, March 12, 2016

What to do with an empty bracket?

347 NCAA Division I basketball teams at the start of the season were all vying for a spot in the big dance. It seems like even as selection Sunday quickly approaches that just that many have a chance and or a solid reason as to why they should be in the tournament.

So what to do with the empty bracket? Well, I am certainly not telling you how to fill out your bracket. You certainly don’t want my advice as my bracket historically ends up looking like a hot mess as the tournament advances through the sweet 16. It seems intuition and gut feelings work best in making predictions where reason, statistics, and logic seem to be useless.  

What I am talking about is more of the question who should even be in the tournament. You can’t even think about who will win the head to head matchups if you don’t know who’s in the tournament. Quite frankly none of the big name teams have really shown that they deserve to be in this year. No team has really earned the number one seed. So how should they decide? I think that they should give all the teams in the division a number and use a random number generator to pick what teams will play.  

Now, that is just my suggestion and as interesting as that would be, I don’t think they will decide it that way this year. They will continue with the auto bids and the committee selection process like they have done in years past.

This year’s tournament for certain will be very interesting. There are many predictions as to who will make the tournament and they all show that there will be several new faces that will be in as well as some familiar ones who will not. In my opinion this will be the first year that truly anyone in the bracket could will it all. There really is no powerhouse team that has played unbelievably well. All of the teams have that I think will be in have proved that they can win but, they have also proven that they are all beatable.

To me this uncertainty makes it more exciting. I love underdogs and if you have listened to my football predictions on HawkTalk you know how much faith I have in major upsets. I we could select the better team just by paper stats they would not need to play the game.  

There also are some strong teams in the field that I expect to perform well and here are my predations as to who will be in. To me it is safe to say that Kansas and Villanova with the best records of 28-4, Virginia, Oregon, Xavier, Miami, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Michigan State, West Virginia, Indiana, and yes even Kentucky at 23- 8 and Duke at 23-10 will all make the tournament. To me all but the teams listed with the exception of Kentucky and Duke have all earned a spot in the tournament. While this has not been the best year for powerhouse teams all of these I expect to be 5 seeds or above simply on schedule toughness and overall record.  

Kansas especially has played the best of any team all season beating UCLA, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Kansas State, among others. As of know they are undoubtedly the best team with tournament hopes. They have a strong starting crew Perry Ellis who leads the team averaging almost 17 points per game. Alongside him are Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., Devonte’ Graham, and the rest of the team.

Kentucky and Duke are another issue. I do not think that either of these teams has truly earned a spot in the tournament. However I do believe that they will be in the round of 64 based only off of reputation and toughness of schedule. Those two getting in will have little to do with their on-court performance this year. I do not expect them to get out of the second round. They are simply not that strong of teams.  

Based on the teams rich history I think that they will be a 5 seed or better which is outrageous but will probably be true. However bot have lost to teams that a top caliber team shouldn’t have. Duke lost to UNC, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Louisville. Kentucky lost to Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.

On the other hand, Monmouth at 27-7 and Valparaiso at 26-6 should both be in the tournament. They have both played extremely well this season in their respective conferences.  

Monmouth has played well beating teams like Notre Dame, Dayton, UCLA, and Georgetown. However their one inhibiting factor is that they lost Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference final game to Iona who now has the auto bid. Monmouth has a strong point leader with Justin Robinson leading the team with almost 20 points per game. They also have strong defensive game. As a team they average 15 steals and 41 rebounds per game. As a whole this team if they are able to sneak in has a strong chance to perform well on the big stage.  

Valparaiso also has had an impressive season but sits in a worse spot than Monmouth. They have played well but have not really beaten any big name teams other than Missouri State. As a solid basketball team they deserve a chance at the big dance based on overall record eliminating the toughness of schedule factor. They similarly lost in overtime for the horizon league championship. Valpo will make it to the tournament but I simply do not think they are strong enough to win it all.   

Overall this March Madness will be the most bizarre one that we have ever seen. It will full of more than its share of upsets. I expect this to be the year where the underdogs out preform the teams we have been accustomed to seeing in the tournament. For my finial prediction I am really going out on a limb and hopefully it won’t break. Personally I love the underdogs.  My finial prediction is that if Monmouth makes the tournament, that they upset everyone and win it all.

Yes I said it. I predict Monmouth as the National Champions. You can call me crazy but as I said earlier, logic is useless for predictions like this. Anyone can win and that’s why they play the game. You have to go with your gut and mine tells me that Monmouth takes home the trophy.  

-Joe Kubicki

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