Within 24 hours of the last time we spoke, the college basketball season was called off and the March Madness rug was pulled out from under us.
We all have memories of that Thursday. Memories of disappointment because the season was done — not to mention the panic surrounding the unknown that was ahead. I remember driving on a near-empty expressway to the Newark Liberty International Airport and walking into what seemed like an abandoned terminal. I had just witnessed the last basketball game of the season, canceled after one half. And while there would be no more hoops in March, one could at least look ahead to this fall when things would be back to normal.
Here we are some eight months later and things are anything but normal. We enter a new season that feels very much like that second week in March, where we really aren’t sure if we would play, and if we do, for how long? But this Wednesday, the 2020-21 season will kick off and we can all enjoy the sport we love just in time for a holiday that will be much different compared to past years.
So as the season begins, so begins the process of projecting the field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament. And just like the changes in our lives over the last year, the bracket this year will look much different than it has in the past.
Even in this very early attempt at projecting what the field will look like in March, you will notice some differences. First, with the NCAA’s announcement of moving the entire tournament to Indianapolis, you will see there are no regional sites, as well as no pod sites for the first weekend. For the committee, this will make bracketing a much easier task since the travel concerns that come into play when placing a team in a region are now gone. This will result in a more purely seeded bracket that is balanced throughout the regions.
The second thing you will notice is that there is one more at-large team this year. The Ivy League — at least for now — has made a decision to not allow their student-athletes to compete in winter sports. This will give one bubble team a pass into the field that they normally would not have received (in this bracket, SMU is that school).
Finally, once the games get going and we can start to compare results, the bracketing process will be very uneven. Some teams are playing a full non-conference slate, while others will only play a few, if any. And due to incomplete/unreleased schedules, we will consistently see last-minute additions and updates. All of these factors will make for some interesting debates regarding a team’s relative strengths. Let us just hope and pray that from a safety perspective, these games can go on.
LAST FOUR IN: SMU, Seton Hall, Marquette, Maryland
FIRST FOUR OUT: BYU, Richmond, Dayton, Clemson
NEXT FOUR OUT: USC, NC State, Xavier, Georgia
CONFERENCES WITH MULTIPLE BIDS
Big 10: 10
BIG 12: 6
BIG EAST: 6
Something new I’m very excited about this season is the Bracketology by TKBrackets podcast. On each episode we will take a look at the most recent bracket and highlight teams that have made moves. We will also have guests on like the top bracketologists in the country, NCAA staff members who help put the official bracket together, former selection committee members and the biggest names in college basketball.
Check out the latest podcast and get caught up on all the past episodes right here at Buzzsprout or anywhere you go to listen to podcasts.