What a contrast Missouri's two games this week were. On Monday night, they get run out of Allen Fieldhouse in a 19-point loss to Kansas only to come back Saturday and dominate Oklahoma State by 15 at home.
But after that, I have Missouri sliding back one spot from last week. Not so much because of the loss, but because of what I'm learning each week about bracketing. It would be easy, for example, to put Missouri at a 6-seed ahead of mid-major New Mexico. But the Lobos have the country's No. 13 RPI and just came off a big win against BYU. Missouri's RPI is 44, which dropped them a line this week.
Regardless, the Tigers have an interesting Round 1 matchup: Against Connecticut, which knocked out the Tigers in last year's tourney. Missouri is one of seven Big 12 teams in this bracket, with Kansas moving back to the overall No. 1 slot and Texas A&M being one of my last four teams in.
One other bracket tidbit of interest this week: The Atlantic 10 has as many teams (Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island, Charlotte, Richmond) as the Big Ten and Pac-10 combined (Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, California).
Here's this week's bracket:
MIDWEST (St. Louis)
Oklahoma City: 1. Kansas vs. 16. Sam Houston State vs. Jackson State; 8. Florida State vs. 9. California
Providence: 4. Tennessee vs. 13. Maryland; 5. Temple vs. 12. Marquette
Spokane: 3. Kansas State vs. 14. Pacific; 6. Ohio State vs. 11. Richmond
Providence: 2. Georgetown vs. 15. Charleston; 7. Xavier vs. 10. Siena
New Orleans: 1. Villanova vs. 16. Robert Morris; 8. Ole Miss vs. 9. Oklahoma State
San Jose: 4. Georgia Tech vs. 13. Akron; 5. Vanderbilt vs. 12. Cornell
Buffalo: 3. Purdue vs. 14. Stony Brook; 6. Butler vs. 11. Cincinnati
Jacksonville: 2. Duke vs. 15. Lafayette; 7. Missouri vs. 10. Connecticut
Oklahoma City: 1. Kentucky vs. 16. Morgan State; 8. Baylor vs. 9. Mississippi State
Spokane: 4. Pittsburgh vs. 13. Murray State; 5. Gonzaga vs. 12. Florida
New Orleans: 3. Wisconsin vs. 14. IUPUI; 6. New Mexico vs. 11. North Carolina
Milwaukee: 2. Texas vs. 15. Jacksonville; 7. Clemson vs. 10. Charlotte
WEST (Salt Lake City)
Buffalo: 1. Syracuse vs. 16. Arkansas State; 8. Rhode Island vs. 9. St. Mary's
San Jose: 4. BYU vs. 13. George Mason; 5. Northern Iowa vs. 12. Texas A&M
Jacksonville: 3. West Virginia vs. 14. Coastal Carolina ; 6. Wake Forest vs. 11. Louisiana Tech
Milwaukee: 2. Michigan State vs. 15. Weber State; 7. UAB vs. 10. UNLV
One concept I'm also introducing is tallying my Final Four. In years past, I would do a weekly bracketology and then actually play out that bracket in my mind. I'd include some odd upsets in the early rounds and sometimes a homer pick for Missouri or Illinois, but eventually, I'd pick a strong Final Four. Here's the cool thing, though, if I had up the total number of times a team ends up in my imaginary Final Four, the four teams with the most points (and in separate regions in the real bracket announced in March) have more than not ended up in the Final Four.
For instance, last year's top four teams just so happened to represent four different regions. In order, the teams that appeared most in my Final Four bracketologies were: North Carolina, Connecticut, Villanova and Michigan State.
Now, this doesn't always work. There will always be some surprising teams like George Mason in 2006 or Georgia Tech in 2004. But other teams that weren't necessarily expected have also made my bracket work in March by following this formula, such as LSU in 2006, Louisville in 2005 or Marquette and Syracuse in 2003.
I started doing this in 2003 after I correctly predicted the Final Four in 2002 (Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana) and it's worked fairly well since. So now, in addition to providing a bracket, I'll give my Final Four tallies and at the end of the year we can see if any of it made sense. So far, based off three brackets, here's who I've had in my Final Four:
Kansas (3); Kentucky (3); Michigan State (2); Villanova, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Texas (all with 1).