Some seeds are weird - You may wonder why, for example, Indiana and Minnesota are both 7 seeds, when common sense tells you that Indiana is much better. The answer to almost any question about weird seeds is RPI. Some teams (like Indiana) played a few high profile games in between walkovers against the dregs of Division I. This leads to a very low RPI that will certainly rise during conference season. Big Ten teams tend to schedule this way (look no further than Ann Arbor), and it has hurt their seeding over the years. Maybe next year they'll learn their lesson. Until then, you'll see a lot of low seeds for Big Ten teams, despite the projection putting eight teams in from the conference.
The regions are just for fun - Brackets are evaluated based purely on seeding, and how close my seed predictions are to the actual thing. I have them presented in regions just for the fun of it, so we can use our imaginations to see what a real bracket might look like. There's no consistency for the committee in choosing which regions get play-in games, and sometimes they aren't even 11 seed play-ins, so anything could happen. Regardless, you can still have fun imagining a Michigan-Notre Dame rematch with the winner playing Kentucky.
Here is the first bracket. You can compare it to Bracket Matrix for a sanity check. I'll be contacting them shortly to see if I can get my picks included in their database. Most of my seeds are pretty close to their averages; some are a bit off. The bold city names at the top of each column are the locations of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
|NEW YORK||MEMPHIS||KANSAS CITY||SAN JOSE|
|6||Wisconsin||South Carolina||Florida State||Cincinnati|
|8||Virginia Tech||Maryland||Miami FL||Clemson|
|9||TCU||Oklahoma St.||Seton Hall||SMU|
|10||Iowa St.||Michigan||Northwestern||Texas A&M|
|11||Pittsburgh||Wake Forest||Wichita St.||UT Arlington|
|12||Monmouth||Middle Tennessee||Dayton||UNC Wilmington|
|13||Chattanooga||Tennessee St.||Valparaiso||Fort Wayne|
|14||Vermont||Winthrop||Akron||San Diego St.|
|15||Princeton||Florida Gulf Coast||Lehigh||Texas Southern|
|16||Wagner||North Carolina Central||Sam Houston St.||Long Beach St.|
|16||North Dakota||Cal St. Bakersfield|
1 seeds? Three of my four original 1 seed predictions are currently sitting on the 2 line. I expect Baylor to fall off after a few conference losses. Louisville has a better RPI than Duke right now, so they take a 1 seed that will be settled by the grueling ACC schedule. As for Gonzaga, they had been off my radar for most of the year, but they're currently undefeated and a significant favorite in every game except one the rest of the way, so they're actually a decent bet to hold on to that 1 seed the rest of the season. Finally, Villanova is a 1 seed in every single prediction I've seen, and currently have the best chance of being the #1 overall seed come March.
Big Ten? As mentioned earlier, the Big Ten is pretty under-seeded right now. It would be quite unusual for the highest Big Ten seed to be a 5 (the last time it happened was 2004, when a very down Big Ten only sent three teams to the tournament). I expect someone from the Wisconsin-Indiana-Purdue tier to climb their way up as they take control of the conference. Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern, and Illinois will battle it out with fellow bubble teams Ohio State and Michigan State, who are currently on the outside looking in (not just because I'm a homer I promise). Just about any combination of those 7 bubble teams could make the tournament and I wouldn't be all that surprised.
Michigan? That's right, I just called Michigan a bubble team...for now. I truly expect them to work their way out of that label, possibly pretty quickly. Simply going through the motions of a Big Ten schedule will raise their RPI (which currently sits at 76), and Kenpom still has them as the fourth best team in the conference with a projected record of 10-8. Speaking of which...
10-8 and 11-7 are almost equally as likely. I would expect the difference between those records to lead to a difference in seeding, depending on the quality of that extra win or loss. Michigan starts off conference play relatively lightly, with three home games where they're reasonable favorites (Penn State, Maryland, Nebraska), and two road toss-ups (Iowa and Illinois). Going 4-1 or better over that stretch will be very important before their game in Madison, where the'll be a significant underdog. I'll certainly be watching them against the Hawkeyes on Saturday, hoping they can get off on the right foot in conference play.
Mondays seem like a good day for me to post these projections, so I'll stick with that, except in cases of extreme circumstance. Be sure to keep following along on Twitter for smaller updates throughout the week as the mild chaos of January college basketball begins.