In case you weren't aware, SB Nation has their own bracketologist on staff (and he did better than Joe Lunardi last year!). Chris Dobbertean runs Blogging The Bracket and is a great resource.
Since it's that time of year, Chris offered to answer some questions about the tournament, seeding process, and how he sees Villanova and the rest of the BIG EAST fitting in.
For those new to Bracketology, how are they built? Are you building it as if the season ended today or are you playing out the remainder of the schedule in your head at this point in the season?
CD: I build the bracket based on if the season ended the night before the bracket's release (so my Friday bracket will take into account Thursday night's games). If I had a more powerful computer and some better programming skills, I'd set up a simulator for the rest of the season. Otherwise, it's too difficult to project that many future games.
I attempt to follow the NCAA's Principles and Procedures document as closely as possible.
The overwhelming opinion seems to be that barring a collapse, Villanova will be in the East region. In your latest bracket, you have them as a 2-seed in the South. What's the reasoning there (it seems more appropriate to send Arizona to Houston than Syracuse)?
CD: The challenge in assigning the top four seed lines to regions is two-fold. The Committee aims to keep these teams as close to their natural regions as possible, as they've played well enough over the course of a season to earn that honor. However, they also want to try to keep the bracket as balanced as possible. The Principles and Procedures document is a bit contradictory to be honest, as it explicitly indicates that teams are supposed to be placed in regions in true seed list order. However, earlier on is the statement on keeping teams as close to their natural regions as possible.
In the case of my Tuesday bracket, I assigned the top four seeds to regions based on their proximity to the regional site, so Kentucky was sent to the Midwest in Cleveland as the top overall seed. No. 2 Virginia was assigned to the East in Syracuse, the closest remaining site. Therefore, third-ranked Wisconsin received top billing in the South in Houston, while Duke, the last No. 1, was shipped West to L.A. by default.
Gonzaga, as the top ranked No. 2 seed, falls into the West, setting up a 4 vs. 5 matchup. Villanova, as the second-ranked two seed (No. 6 overall) could have been assigned to either Houston or Syracuse, and I ended up choosing Houston, simply because I attempted to keep the potential 3 vs. 6 Elite Eight matchup in place.
How close is Villanova to the 1-line? Who needs to lose (and how many times?)
CD: Villanova is very close, particularly after Wisconsin's loss to Maryland on Tuesday. Gonzaga probably has a bit of an edge, since they only have one loss, but the Wildcats' overall profile is far more impressive to me than the Bulldogs. So, a Zags loss would be helpful, perhaps against BYU on Saturday.
To me, the race for the number ones breaks down like this -- Kentucky is locked in, barring a horrible loss, say to Mississippi State tonight -- and either Virginia or Duke will get one, but I doubt both will. So, that leaves two spots.
In my opinion, two from Gonzaga, Villanova, and Wisconsin will claim them. Kansas isn't rising up there with seven losses and Arizona isn't with losses to Arizona State, Oregon State, and UNLV.
The Selection Committee loves conference championships, especially sweeps. So winning both the Big East regular season and tournament crowns would really help Nova's case.
You had Seton Hall in your also considered category, but barring at tournament championship, there's no way they can get in, right?
CD: Since the Pirates are 3-9 in their last 12 and have largely undone the good work they did in November and December, this is indeed the case.
I stink a picking brackets - who are your mid-majors sleepers to watch this year? Also, give us your early Final Four picks.
CD: Mid-majors I'd pay attention to are Iona, a fun offensive team to watch and a possible at-large threat should it fail to win the MAAC; SoCon leader Wofford, which won at N.C. State and beat Iona; Murray State, which is threatening to run the table in the OVC and has a history of winning NCAA games; the Southland's Stephen F. Austin, which isn't as good as last season, but is pretty close; and Georgia State out of the Sun Belt, a team that features former Kentucky player Ryan Harrow, inspirational Louisville transfer Kevin Ware, and the talented R.J. Hunter, who happens to be the coach's son.
My early Final Four picks are Kentucky, Wisconsin, Villanova, and Wichita State as a surprise.