Ever since Joe Lunardi first invented Bracketology (you know, before his ESPN days and he went so "commercial" with it), fans have turned to experts to see where, or even if, their favorite teams will play in the NCAA Tournament. The term has even expanded to other sports, such as the NCAA Hockey tournament (where I'm a self-proclaimed expert too [shameless self-promotion]).
With Western Michigan winning the MAC Championship last night, and Toledo's rough loss to NIU all but assuring their exclusion as an at-large team, all eyes turn to these experts to try and get a feel for where and who the Broncos will be playing come Thursday or Friday.
We here at the Belt have compiled a short list of the Bracketology's (there are at least 85 on the internet, not joking), with the Broncos appearing to garner a 13-seed in the NCAA tournament. Here's some individual breakdowns.
Blogging The Bracket
Let's start about as in-house as we can with our fellow SB Nation blog Blogging The Bracket. Unfortunately, they show no love for the Broncos, carding them as a 14-seed and putting them in San Antonio against Andrew Wiggins and the Kansas Jayhawks.
You'll remember that Toledo hung tough with Kansas at The Phog earlier this year, and Joel Embiid is out with a fractured back or something, so if ever there was a chance for WMU to pull an ultimate upset, this could be it. Shayne Whittington could work down lown, and if Connar Tava or Tucker Haymond could corral Wiggins......
The Four-Letter (or ESPN for you commercialists)
Syracuse is the former home of current EMU head coach Rob Murphy, so the Steve Hawkins has certainly seen the stingy Orange zone that got them to the Final Four last season. Hawkins also said after the EMU win this year that his preparation for the game was watching about 75% Syracuse games versus 25% of EMU games. So yeah, the scouting is already pretty much done.
Syracuse also has been struggling as of late after being the 2nd-to-last undefeated team in the nation. They haven't really beaten anyone convincingly since February started outside of Florida State and Clemson, and have lost 5 of their last 7 games, with a near loss to Maryland in there as well.
Still, it's Syracuse in the state of New York, and Jim Boehiem is kinda good at this basketball thing, especially in March, so I don't like these odds. But hey, stranger things have happened.
Jerry Palm (or the Palm reader as they call him), has Western Michigan as a 13-seed against Doug McDermott and Creighton. It's also in San Diego, so our
degenerate gambler in-house odds man Keith can attend and provide hard hitting coverage from his comfortable South Cali residence.
McDermott is clearly the star here. A 6-8 forward that can shoot from anywhere on the court. He's a mis-match for anyone, and the question would be if the 6-7 Tava or 6-5 Haymond could guard him. McDermott, who plays for his dad, is currently 5th all-time on the NCAA scoring list, and sits 60 points away from tying Alphonso Ford at 3,165 points. In fact, if Creighton makes a deep run and McDermott can total 145 points (which is just 3 HUGE games), he would sit 2nd all-time. No one is touching Pete Maravich though. Ever.
Nothing really else to say about this one. If McDermott is on, it's hard to stop the Blue Jays. If not, this could be an upset. Hey, Providence beat them.......
Speaking of McDermott, he's on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, ripping off old Larry Bird cover shots. Weird. As for Michel Beller, the SI Bracketologist, he has Western Michigan as a 13-seed as well. The opponent? San Diego State in a regional not listed (San Diego maybe?)
The Aztechs have just 4 losses this year: Arizona (a probable 1-seed), #20 New Mexico on the road and in the MWC Title game, and at Wyoming. That Wyoming game is probably the lone reason they are a 4-seed, and this team is a very tough out.
However, in Steve Fisher's 15 season at the helm of SDSU, the Aztechs have only won a total of 3 NCAA Tournament games. Two of those came with Kawhi Leonard in the 2011 edition, which saw San Diego State bow out as a 2-seed to eventual NCAA Champion UConn in the Sweet 16. Otherwise? Last year's win over Oklahoma is the other win, but they promptly exited after losing to 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast (DUNK CITY!).
OK, let's change some pace. We've seen some 14 and 13 seed projections, but what about a 12-seed? Yep, Bracket March has Western Michigan facing off against Big XII Runner-Up Baylor in San Diego, with PAC-12 Champion UCLA as the 4-seed in the region. Also, Mercer is there, so the Broncos are the only non-Bear team in that region.
I like the Broncos' odds to make the Sweet 16 here. Both Baylor and UCLA can be streaky. Baylor is a team that beat Kentucky, but lost to Texas Tech. UCLA is a team that lost to Washington State (10-21, 3-15) just a week ago. Also, Steve Alford is their coach. He doesn't win in the NCAA tournament. Seriously, since taking SEMO to the Sweet 16 back in 1999, he has 3 NCAA Tournament wins in 6 tries. Most recently, his 3-seed New Mexico team lost to Harvard.
OK, I'll take a stab at it. I really wish the Bracket Committee takes a good look at WMU's work. They've beaten New Mexico State without Whittington, they've ran train though one of the toughest MAC schedules you could assemble, and they've played a good tournament team in North Dakota State really close early in the season. This won't happen, but I can dream.
In the end, Western has just 2 losses since January 19th, a bad loss to Bowling Green. They did get thumped by Buffalo, but held their own in Savage Arena before choking. That game alone will probably be the difference between a 12 and 13 seed. If someone in that room can say, "hey, Toledo was a REALLY good team and Western just kinda fell apart for 3 minutes at the end on the road," WMU can get the bump.
Ultimately, it won't happen, so the Broncos are a 13-seed. However, if they are announced as a 12-seed later today, I wouldn't be shocked at all.
Hey, Bracket Matrix also does NIT stuff too! Well, kinda. It's a little dated, but hey, it exists. They have Toledo as a 5-seed against Marquette. Usually, that means they'd go on the road BUT Marquette is hosting the Milwaukee "second and third" round games so Toledo would get to play at home! YAY LOOPHOLES!
Seriously though, Toledo should get the MAC bid for the 14-4 record in the MAC. It's like kissing your sister though when you only lose 6 games all year. But when one of those losses is NIU, that's what you get. Ultimately, having a loss to a sub 200 RPI team does that to you.
After that, you also have NYC Buckets projecting Toledo as a 3-seed, hosting Indiana State (small world as I referenced Larry Bird earlier). The Rockets then would face the winner of Utah and UC Irvine (in theory), and if the Utes lose, another home game would ensue! I like this one.
I really like Toledo to advance far in the NIT. They have the talent, and if they can keep their head right (and play some damn defense), they can go all the way to New York.
CBI and CIT Odds
So who is left? Let's assume everyone lower than EMU is automatically done. Sorry NIU and Miami, but your seasons are over. Let's also assume that Ohio and Akron are both getting post-season bids off the bat. We'll get to EMU and Buffalo in a minute.
Ohio has rumors swirling that they are going to host a CBI tournament game. So let's slot them there. Let's also assume the CIT, which has a bigger 32-team field, is going to take both Akron (who bring the MAC perennial powerhouse image with them) and Buffalo (RELEASE THE KRAKEN). In fact, since the CIT expanded to 24 teams in 2011 (then 32 in 2012), the tournament has taken 8 bids from the MAC, with a low point of one last year.
Buffalo is so familiar with the CIT too. Their two bids trail only Kent State's three for most by a MAC school since the tournament's inception in 2009. And you know what? With EMU's tough schedule and strong MAC Tournament showing, I bet the CIT takes the Eagles as well, though they'll be on the road because....ummm.......yeah, I won't keep beating that joke to death.
If I had to take a stab at it, I'd only put Akron as having a chance to host. Buffalo can't really because of the NCAA Second and Third round games in the city. Akron has the J.A.R., but the attendance wasn't that great. Still, it's close to Cleveland and that could be enough to push a couple home games.
Also, one last note to Ohio. Western Michigan set the CBI bar high with their semi-finals appearance last season. Do not disappoint.