2011 NCAA tournament

2011 Pre-season Bracket Projection: Midnight Madness edition

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Time for a little pre-season fun, Midnight Madness style.

After a rather interesting off-season – my Top 5 story lines here – let’s take an updated look the new 68-team bracket.  Quick note of caution … selecting and seeding teams for a bracket projection in March is easier than estimating what might happen over the next five months. So consider this effort what it is: a mix of what we know, what we expect, and a lot of guesswork.

Midnight Madness Bracket Projection (2010-2011)

NEW – Power 24 | Midnight Madness edition.

If there is common ground, it’s that defending champ Duke should open the season as the No. 1 team.  No exception here as the Blue Devils remain the overall top seed.  From there, we start tweaking.  Joining Duke on the top line are: Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh.  The Panthers made the biggest leap from August, but coach Jamie Dixon is bullish on his team and we’ll buy it.  The uncertainty surrounding star recruits at Kentucky (Enes Kanter) and Kansas (Josh Selby) are also considerations.  Both the Wildcats and Jayhawks lead a group of solid No. 2 seeds along with Ohio State and Kansas State.  Syracuse, Villanova, Florida and Memphis fall into the three-line.  Talk about powerhouse names.

First Four:  The new format begins with four games in Dayton.   Projected matchups … New Mexico vs. Dayton | Louisville vs. USC | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. S.F. Austin.  In this scenario, New Mexico, Dayton, Louisville and USC are the last four at-large teams in the field.  Lehigh, Vermont, Jackson State and S.F. Austin are projected as the lowest four ranked teams on the S-curve.

Last 5 IN: Northwestern, New Mexico, USC, Louisville, Dayton.  First 5 OUT: Maryland, Connecticut, Northern Iowa, St. Louis, Notre Dame.

Several others teams under consideration are listed with the bracket projection under Bracketology.  We all know there will be a surprise or two along the way – especially in conference tournaments.  One could easily argue that Illinois and Virginia Tech missed last year’s tournament because New Mexico State (WAC) and Houston (C-USA) won their league tournaments.  It happens almost every year and teams on the bubble this March will face the same fate – even with the expanded field.  Someone will always be the first team out.

If you want to know how we did last season, check out 2010 Projection Results.

Take a look.  Send a rebound.  Differences of opinion are part of the fun. 

Duke earns top spot in our first 68-team bracket

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Defending champion Duke sits atop our first 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket for 2011. The other teams on the top line: Purdue, Kentucky, and Michigan State.  With the Wildcats moving up (from our April look-ahead), Kansas now headlines a strong group of No. 2-seeds that include Ohio State, Texas, and Villanova.

The first real question, however, is … which teams face off in the new Opening Round (considered the First Four).  These four games will be played in Dayton, with winners moving into the traditional 64-team bracket design.  The last four at-large teams are paired, along with teams seeded 65-68 on the S-curve.  Our initial projection looks like this … St. John’s vs. NC State | St. Louis vs. Miami-FL | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. SF AustinNote: I originally projected Northwestern as one of the final four teams “in” but Kevin Coble has since decided not to return to the Wildcats for the 2010-2011 season.

As I have time, I’ll be working on a graphic to showcase these pairings.  For now, these teams are listed in the bracket with a “/” in between; the winner goes on the seed line indicated.  The St. John’s-NC State winner becomes a 12-seed in the East, playing Missouri in Tampa.  The St.Louis-Miami winner gets a 12-seed opposite national runner-up Butler (game in Tucson, Southeast Region).  The other winners earn 16-seeds in the Southwest and West.

Enough talk for now.  Several teams moved one seed line to accommodate bracketing issues.  BYU always creates some chaos because the Cougars cannot be placed in Friday-Sunday sites.  Have a different opinion?  Send a rebound.  The breakdown by conference and other teams considered are listed below the bracket.

68-TEAM BRACKET PROJECTION for 2011

EAST — Newark Southwest — San Antonio
Charlotte Chicago
1) DUKE 1) PURDUE
16) MORGAN STATE 16) JACKSON ST/SF AUSTIN
8) Wisconsin 8) Texas A&M
9) WICHITA STATE 9) Richmond
Tampa Charlotte
5) Missouri 5) Tennessee
12) St. John’s/NC State 12) Louisville
4) Florida 4) North Carolina
13) OLD DOMINION 13) MURRAY STATE
Denver Tampa
6) XAVIER 6) Georgetown
11) Arizona 11) Mississippi State
3) Kansas State 3) MEMPHIS
14) WEBER STATE 14) CHARLESTON
Washington, DC Tulsa
7) Illinois 7) SAN DIEGO ST
10) Virginia Tech 10) Minnesota
2) VILLANOVA 2) Texas
15) E. TENNESSEE ST. 15) HARVARD
SOUTHEAST — New Orleans WEST– Anaheim
Cleveland Chicago
1) KENTUCKY 1) Michigan State
16) WINTHROP 16) LEHIGH/VERMONT
8) Connecticut 8) Temple
9) Florida State 9) Georgia Tech
Tucson Denver
5) BUTLER 5) WASHINGTON
12) St.Louis/Miami-FL 12) UTAH STATE
4) Baylor 4) Syracuse
13) OHIO 13) OAKLAND
Washington, DC Tucson
6) Wake Forest 6) GONZAGA
11) New Mexico 11) BYU
3) Pittsburgh 3) West Virginia
14) FAIRFIELD 14) PACIFIC
Cleveland Tulsa
7) California 7) Maryland
10) Mississippi 10) Georgia
2) Ohio State 2) KANSAS
15) ROBERT MORRIS 15) NORTH TEXAS

NOTES on the BRACKET: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed in this projection, followed by Purdue, Kentucky, and Michigan State.  Next in line (No. 2 seeds): Kansas, Ohio State, Texas, Villanova

Last Five teams in (at large): Arizona, St. John’s, Miami-FL, St. Louis, NC State

First Five teams out (at large): Washington State, Dayton, VCU, UCLA, Northwestern

Also considered (not listed in any order): UNLV, Northern Iowa, Rhode Island, Cincinnati, Cleveland State, Creighton, South Florida, George Mason, Texas Tech, Nevada, Arizona State, UTEP, UAB, Virginia, Oregon

Conference Breakdown: ACC (8), Big East (8), Big  Ten (7), SEC (6), Big 12 (6), Atlantic 10 (4), Pac-10 (3), Mountain West (3)

For more, follow my blog at Bracketville.  I’m also on Twitter at BracketguyDave.

Allen's out. Where's that leave Michigan State?

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Michigan State’s primed for a run at the 2011 NCAA tournament title. But it’ll have to do without Chris Allen.

The 6-foot-3 guard — the Spartans’ best perimeter defender and a starter last season – won’t be back for his senior season after he failed to satisfy demands set forth by coach Tom Izzo from the past few months. He’d been on thin ice since the spring. According to Jeff Goodman, Allen’s the first Spartan dismissed during the Izzo era. The school released this quote from Izzo:

Otto Greule Jr/Getty

“It’s been no secret that Chris Allen’s been in a tenuous position since the spring,” Izzo said. “There were multiple obligations that Chris had to meet in order to return for his senior season. While he did make progress through the summer, he has failed to meet all the obligations and will not be a part of our program this fall. I know he’s going to be a great player. He deserves another chance to play basketball somewhere, but it’s in everyone’s interest that it be somewhere other than Michigan State. Like every player, he has to mature a little bit. I think a year away from the game will be beneficial for his development as a person and a player.”

Allen averaged 8.2 points, 2.0 assists, was their third-most efficient offense player and played 61.8 percent of MSU’s minutes last season. He also issued a perfunctory statement.

“Coach was straight-forward with me about what I needed to do to remain a part of the team. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet all the obligations,” Allen said. “I have enjoyed my time at Michigan State and I appreciate all the support from my fans, and everyone associated with the program. It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out, but I’m leaving on good terms with my teammates and coaches.”

There’s no word on where he’ll transfer.

As for the Spartans, they remain one of the elite teams for the 2010-11 season. They return major contributors in Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Draymond Green as well as key subs (now starters?) Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious. That’s still a Final Four-worthy group which will be bolstered by freshmen Keith Appling, Russell Byrd and Adreian Payne.

There’s a concern about perimeter defense (will Summers step into that role?) and some worries about the rotation, but things could be offset by the team chemistry. (Perhaps it’ll be similar to what Georgetown experienced last season when DaJuan Summers left early for the NBA.)

Perhaps Duke just became the lock-solid preseason No. 1. Perhaps Purdue just became the co-favorite to win the Big Ten. Perhaps.

But if I learned anything from the 2010 NCAA tournament, it’s that it’s stupid to underestimate an Izzo team, even when there are injury or depth issues. This team did reach the Final Four last season without Lucas.

Perhaps it’s a bit much. But I’ll bite.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Coble walks away, Northwestern misses out

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Northwestern’s never made the NCAA tournament.

It missed a golden opportunity last season when forward Kevin Coble missed year because of foot surgery. As a junior in 2008-09, he averaged 15.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and was second-team All-Big Ten. Without his talents, the Wildcats finished 20-14 overall and 7-11 in the Big Ten.
If they hope to snap that streak in 2010, they’ll have to do it without Coble. Again.

Coble released a statement Tuesday announcing he’ll graduate in December and pass on playing more basketball.

“The recovery of my foot is most important and extends far beyond my basketball career,” Coble said. “I will continue to follow my surgeon’s rehabilitation schedule and have been told by my surgeon that I will have a full recovery. I will not be transferring to another school and with that, will be finishing the last of my classes at Northwestern this fall.”

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody was reportedly taken aback by Coble’s decision, but should take comfort in knowing that forward John Shurma – who posted 18.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game last season – will be around this season.

Still, it’d be nice to have Coble around. There’s no room for error in next season’s Big Ten.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.