BadgerNation Bracketology

(Getty Images)

For the second straight week, 16 new teams have entered the bracket, showing how volatile college basketball will be as we get closer to Selection Sunday in March. In his seventh year doing bracketology, BadgerNation proudly welcomes Kyle Reichert to our staff as our resident Bracketologist for the 2013-14 season.

Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!

This Week's Bracket

BadgerNation Bracket - Edition 5

This week 16 teams found their way into the projected NCAA Tournament field. Eleven of these teams were among the low-major automatic bid conferences (14 seeds and below) but back-to-back weeks of 16 new teams is significant. Nearly half of the field has changed since the beginning of the New Year.

Before the season started, I commented on how conference realignment would affect the tournament. I suggested that the disintegration of the "old" Big East into the "new" Big East and American Athletic Conference (AAC) would shift even more bids away from the mid and low major conferences and towards the "BCS" conferences.

The "Power 7" conferences (B1G, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big East, AAC) currently occupy 38 bids, or roughly 56% of the field. That is a significant portion of the tournament, and I see that number going nowhere but up as the Missouri Valley and Conference USA are unlikely to retain their current two bid status on Selection Sunday, and the Atlantic-10 will be lucky if they sneak five teams in, as I currently have projected.

Wisconsin remains a one seed in spite of the loss at Indiana. One loss generally does not affect a team, especially if it is a close game in a tough road environment, as was the case on Tuesday night for the Badgers in Bloomington. The only way the Badgers could have dropped would have been if another team directly below them had made a statement worthy of a jump to the one line. In my judgment, that did not happen and therefore the Badgers remain seeded at the top.

With several tough tests coming up, Wisconsin has a chance to solidify their standing on the one line or at worst, barring a major meltdown, secure a top three seed and likely the luxury of playing their first weekend games in Milwaukee. Stay tuned!


There are a lot of misconceptions about making a bracket. Basically, you take the winners of the automatic-bid conferences, then the next best teams that didn't win their conference and rank them 1-68. Once these rankings are done, the teams are split up at increments of 4 into their seeds. The last 4 at-large teams and the last 4 auto bid teams are seeded in pairs, and represent the new "First Four" model, with play-in games on the first Tuesday and Wednesday of the tournament. Once I break the teams up into seeds, it is easy for me to see where one team maybe should be ahead of another. After teams are seeded, I make note of the "first four out" and "next four out" to keep a full radar of teams that are near tournament contention.

One small change to the bracket this year will be the number of auto bids and at-large bids. The breakup of the original Big East resulted in the creation of the new American Athletic Conference (AAC). Because the AAC meets the criteria for an automatic bid, the number of auto bids rose from 31 to 32. That, in turn, shrunk the number of at-large bids from 37 to 36. This really will not have a large impact on the bracket, as the winners of the new Big East and AAC will likely be teams that would have gotten in if the old conference was still in place. This is the second time that a conference breakup has resulted in an increase in auto bids, the first being the splitting of the WAC into the Mountain West about 10 years ago. That was the beginning of the play-in games, as the NCAA didn't want to see the number of at-large bids change out of fear of lowering the quality of the tournament. Since then, the play-in games have grown from one to four, so there is no reason to expand the tournament based on the most recent conference expansion.

As far as selecting teams, my process is not complicated. Remember, I am only selecting 36 teams because of the 32 auto bids. During the season, I use the current conference leaders to determine who my auto bids go to. Once I have these teams selected, I rank them 1-32. I then select the remaining 36 teams based on factors like the RPI, with special focus on certain RPI characteristics like quality wins and strength of schedule. The selection committee looks at each team as an independent in their selection in March, so I try not to let conference affiliation affect my seeding. I have a natural bias towards the Big Ten, simply by virtue of seeing so many Big Ten games in person each season. I do my best not to let this bias be a part of my bracket.

I am interested to see how the shift of power towards the major conferences affects seeding. The Horizon League, Conference USA and the Missouri Valley Conference all lost teams to the redistributed Big East and AAC. There were also some shifts among the low-major conferences that will have minor impacts. Bottom line: previous conference reputations will be more irrelevant than ever and there will be a period of feeling-out with the realignment.

In my opinion, the Big Ten returns as the best conference, but the ACC is not far behind. The AAC and new Big East are about equal, the Big 12 is about their level and the SEC and Pac-12 continue to lag slightly behind, despite having some top-level teams at the top of their conferences. The Atlantic-10 continues its rise and the Mountain West will be as competitive as always.

I'm looking to build on a season in which I correctly predicted 66 of the 68 teams in the field, correctly predicted 22 teams' seeds, got 28 teams predicted within one seed and 12 teams within two seeds.

I'll be releasing a bracket every Friday, after the big Thursday games and before the busy weekends. Recommended Stories

Up Next