It’s 88 days until Selection Sunday. Each week until the bracket is revealed, basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson will reveal how he sees the bracket playing out. This week, he got some help from CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm, who will release his first mock bracket this week.
“It’s a nebulous thing. In many ways, it’s like doing a preseason bracket, which is a lot of dart throwing. You’ve got a little bit of data to go on, but you can’t trust the data that you normally trust in February and March,” Palm said of piecing together a bracket this early in the season. “You have to do a lot more digging and looking at how good some of these teams are because you’re going to play someone who’s a pretty decent team, but their RPI is 90 but you know they’re better than 90. You have to dig a lot more this time of year than you do a couple months from now.”
Take a team like Massachusetts, for instance. The Minutemen are the top-ranked team in the RPI, but they’re not in consideration for a No. 1 seed right now, probably not a top-four seed.
“Things like the RPI are not that helpful in December,” Palm said. “UMass is the No. 1 team in the RPI, but UMass is not going to be a No. 1 seed. They’ve got a reasonable enough collection of wins, but they’re not a No. 1-seed type of team now.”
As far as Illinois is concerned, John Groce’s club is going to have some work to do during the Big Ten season if it is to be included in future NCAA tournament projections.
“It’s always about quality wins. Illinois is going to have a lot of chances because they’re in the Big Ten. There will be a lot of good teams on the schedule.
Everywhere you look, you’re going to have one chance a week to pick up a win to help your tournament resume,” Palm said. “The Georgia Tech loss wasn’t that great and there’s no shame in the Oregon loss. There’s just no one in the nonconference part of the schedule that’s helpful to them. They’re going to have to be probably better than .500 in the regular season in the league to be a part of the conversation. They didn’t do anything outside the league to make their case. If you don’t do anything outside the league and you don’t do anything inside the league, that’s how you play yourself into the NIT.”
Here’s a look at The News-Gazette’s top-four seeds for each region with a comment from Palm about a team from each region.
Palm on the Wildcats: “They’re a team that’s probably still a No. 1 seed candidate two months from now, three months from now. Assuming everyone stays healthy, they’re a team that’s going to be right there come March. They’re not going to be undefeated — that’s too much to ask — but they’re going to be in the hunt deep into the season.”
2. Oklahoma State
Palm on the Badgers: “Undefeated in December doesn’t mean a lot. It just means you haven’t played a team yet good enough to beat you. Doesn’t mean you’re necessarily great. I’m torn between Ohio State, Syracuse and Wisconsin as No. 1 seeds. It’s pretty obvious that Syracuse, Ohio State and Wisconsin are pretty good, just not sure if they’re there just yet. I do like Louisville as No. 1 seed.”
1. Michigan State
Palm on the Spartans: “I like them a lot, they’re really good. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses. They can handle the ball, they can shoot from anywhere on the floor and of course they’re always one of the better rebounding teams in the country just about every year. They’ve got that loss to Carolina, but Michigan State is going to be in the hunt all the way.”
2. Ohio State
4. North Carolina
Palm on the Tar Heels: “They are team schizophrenia. They’re got three good wins already — Michigan State, Louisville, Kentucky — and they’re going to get two or three shots at Duke. If they can get one or two of those, that will be as good a collection of wins that anyone will have at the end of the season. They’re not at full strength yet. How they gel when they get their players back might even be more important.”