LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09: Colorado State Rams fans cheer as the team takes on the San Diego State Aztecs during a semifinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center March 9, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. San Diego State won 79-69. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
So, you guys may have heard that the NCAA brackets are coming out today. Or you may not have, seeing as how WVU last played approximately 47 days ago and has been idly awaiting its bid and seeding fate. And if you're an employer, you're probably dreading the appreciable drop in your employees' productivity this week as everyone is doing research, making picks, and joining in office pools to follow the madness. Well, we here at the Smoking Musket would never encourage that type of wasteful behavior. No, we encourage you to join our yearly Bracket Challenge---hosted this year on Yahoo!---in your free time at home, far, far away from the office. More to come on that later, so keep your eyes peeled.
In the meantime, you're probably going to need some practice filling out brackets where less is at stake. That's why you probably want to check out the SB Nation "Wisdom of the Crowds" bracket pick page hosted by Yahoo!. That way you can make practice picks competing for only $10,000 before you make your all-important picks later this week for bragging rights here at the Smoking Musket.
I've said this on record before: WVU is in. No need to sweat at all when the field is announced later on tonight---the only thing we're waiting on is our seeding. Based on most of the projected brackets I've seen, WVU is safely in as a 10 or 11 seed, which doesn't seem too far off given WVU's RPI, which was last seen hovering around 50. And honestly, that's not a bad place to be as a first round win against a 6 or 7 seed would present a winnable matchup followed by a second-round game against a 2 seed, likely someone from the pool of Duke/UNC/Ohio State/Michigan State/Kansas/Missouri/Baylor. Given how well we played against Baylor (or even Syracuse for that matter), a game against that caliber of team isn't an automatic loss.
It will be most interesting to see who the last four teams in are. If you remember, VCU was one of the last four in and they ended up making the Final Four. So it's not like those teams are meaningless. There so many different projections at this point, it's hard to get a grasp on which teams are truly on the bubble. So here's my best guess at the last four in when tonight's bracket is picked:
Seton Hall 20-12 (8-10) RPI: 62 SOS: 56 - The Hall would be the first Big East team to make the dance with a losing conference record since...Seton Hall approximately 2 decades ago. They have an interesting profile, starting out hot and earning some very solid wins (such as a blowout of WVU), before slumping in the middle and finishing okay, with a win over Georgetown to complement the resume' (sound familiar?). A win over Louisville in the Big East tourney would have been nice, but I think they make it.
Mississippi State 21-11 (8-8) RPI: 71 SOS: 81 - Another team that beat WVU, Mississippi State has a very average record in a balanced league, but lacks the kind of marquee wins the selection committee typically looks for. The computer numbers aren't great, either, but the bubble is soft. Call it a hunch, but I think Mississippi State is this year's USC---a team that gets in for reasons only the selection committee truly knows.
Oral Roberts 27-6 (17-1) RPI: 58 SOS: 231 - Finally, a team over whom WVU owns a victory. ORU ran roughshod over basically everyone in league play, then inexplicably bowed out early in the conference tournament. Despite the lack of marquee wins or a strong non-con profile, the gaudy league numbers are too compelling for the selection committee to leave them out.
Drexel 27-6 (16-2) RPI: 64 SOS: 247 - Very similar numbers to ORU, but in a more competitive league and with more top 100 wins. I just don't think the committee will keep out these types of teams given the mediocrity plaguing the rest of the bubble and teams like Northwestern, Cal, Washington, and Tennessee all losing early in their tournaments.
Who do you think makes the last four in? And will any of these teams be this year's VCU and make a run to the Final Four?
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