By the time the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee makes it back into the conference room on Sunday morning, the at-large bids will have long-been decided.
That’s always the case, as the committee will have argued their way through — for hours and hours and hours — all of the teams that are sitting on the bubble, coming up with a ranked order. The way things worked out this season, with the final game of the day with any bubble implications wrapping up around 6 p.m. ET, that fact was virtually assured.
They have decided whether or not Ole Miss will get an at-large bid if they don’t beat Florida and get the SEC’s automatic bid on Sunday afternoon. Whether the Rebels lose by 50 or because the referees pulled another Richmond is irrelevant.
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In our latest bracket projection, we have Ole Miss as the second-to-last team in the tournament. But where things get interesting are if the committee currently has Ole Miss out of the tournament field with a loss, because that means there needs to be a contingency plan. If Ole Miss wins, they get slotted somewhere. If they lose, they drop out of the field and whoever that last team on the cut line is — Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee, La Salle, whoever — gets their spot.
While the focus of tournament talk during the week almost always seem to focus on the bubble — especially when a team like Kentucky is involved in that conversation — much of Saturday and essentially all of Sunday involves around finalizing the seed list and putting those teams into the bracket.
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Who gets the No. 1 seeds? Does, say, Gonzaga really have a stronger profile than New Mexico? Should Louisville or Indiana get the Midwest and the cozy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis? How is it possible that Team X is seeded above Team Y when they both played Team Z and Team X got blown out twice and Team Y beat them? How can five Atlantic 10 teams get slotted into the bracket if three are six or seven seeds and two more are 10 or 11 seeds?
And that doesn’t even take into account the games that are being played today. What if:
- What if Ohio State beats Wisconsin? Can they climb up to the No. 2 seed line?
- What is Wisconsin beats Ohio State? Are they a No. 3 seed?
- Where do North Carolina get bracketed if they beat Miami, which would be their best win of the season?
As the committee builds the bracket throughout Sunday, they build it with these contingencies in mind. And if any of Sunday’s outcomes will significantly change one team’s profile — and remember, the committee’s goal is to minimize just how much value they give to the most recent results — they will build a separate bracket. Committee chair Mike Bobinski told us at the mock selection committee last month that there was one year where the committee had to build six different brackets on Sunday.
So yes, there will be plenty to discuss in that conference room until the brackets are announced at 6 p.m. ET on CBS.
And those discussions and decisions will play a major role in what the bracket you fill out for your office pool will look like.
Those conversations just won’t have all that much to do with the bubble’s cut line.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.