You've got bracket, bubble questions, we've got answers
If Syracuse is a No. 1 seed, it will most likely be in the West Regional
Are Gonzaga and BYU both set to receive major home-court advantages?
How will the committee evaluate the Pac-10, and specifically Cal?
For the bracket, I had the opportunity to speak with both 2010 Selection Committee chairman Dan Guerrero (UCLA's athletic director) and a former selection committee member who is not on this season's panel. Obviously, neither could address team-specific questions for this season's field, but some of the general tenets they underscored can be mapped onto the current landscape to help refine the developing picture.
RELATED: Andy Glockner's latest Bracket Watch
Add these conversations to others I have had with other committee members over the past six years, and here are educated, interpretive answers to five current bracket questions:
1) Why do you have Kentucky in Milwaukee instead of in New Orleans (SEC country)?
Once seeding is established, the top bracketing priority, especially for the top seeds, is proximity to campus. In Kentucky's case, Milwaukee is much closer to Lexington than any other subregional site.
There is room for consideration for situations that may disadvantage a top seed. That would include trying to avoid situations, if possible based on bracketing procedures, where the high seed could face a second-round game in which it would be at a home-region disadvantage. The committee doesn't "project results," but it also doesn't necessarily want to set up a possible second-rounder like Villanova-Rhode Island in Providence, if it's possible to avoid. In cases like that, though, it would most likely involve sending the lower seed to a different region.
2) Syracuse can't play in the East. If the Orange are a No. 1 seed, why do you send them to the West?
Things can change, but it's very hard to imagine that Kansas and Kentucky won't be 1 seeds. Since there are two Midwest-area regionals (Saint Louis and Houston), it makes more sense not to inconvenience two teams (and two fan bases) by shipping Syracuse to the Midwest or South and sending one of those teams out West. That could change if Syracuse clearly ends up ahead of either team in the curve (which is unlikely), but the best bet is that if 'Cuse is a 1, the Orange will be in the West.
3) What seed does Gonzaga need to land in Spokane and essentially get two home games?
There's no official bar to reach, although it would make things a lot easier for everyone if Gonzaga winds up as a 4 seed or better, so the Bulldogs would be the higher seed in a second-round game.
Bracketing rules only provide for "seed protection" for the top five seeds in each region for the first round only. In theory, a team like Gonzaga (or Rhode Island) could be as low as an 11 seed and still be placed in Spokane (or Providence). In 2007, Louisville was a 6 seed and was slotted into Kentucky's Rupp Arena, putting 3 seed Texas A&M at a distinct locational disadvantage in Round 2. (The Aggies still won.)
What could hurt Gonzaga's hopes if the Zags aren't a top-four seed is their West Coast Conference affiliation. Gonzaga is a much easier team to move to a different region than a team from the Big East or Big 12 that needs to avoid running into higher-seeded league-mates in its half of the bracket.
Globally speaking, the Zags will end up in the most appropriate place given how the bracket shakes out around them, but if they're a 5 seed or lower and end up in Spokane, there's going to be a really ticked-off top-four seed.
4) Will the committee leave BYU in the West with the regional round in Salt Lake City?
This is a big question which is impacted by things like Question No. 1 and complicated by BYU's religious restrictions, which mandate the Cougars be placed into both a Thursday/Saturday subregional and regional. This season, that means BYU has to be in either the East or West region, and the West region would be an enormous home-region advantage.
BYU's situation will be handled similarly to Gonzaga's, with one additional caveat: right now, the Cougars are behind league rival New Mexico on the S-curve. In theory, that would give the Lobos first crack at the West regional and would force the Cougars into the East (because you can't have two of the top three teams from a conference in the same region).
In actuality, the cluster of Big East teams at the top of this week's bracket inadvertently hosed New Mexico, which was a 3 seed. Because Syracuse was the West No. 1, and the Big East also had two 2s (which couldn't be in Syracuse's region) and two 3s (which couldn't be paired in a region with a 2 seed from the conference), bracketing procedure forced the No. 3 seed in the West to be a Big East team. That pushed New Mexico out of the West region and opened the door for BYU to stay.
Bottom line: This situation is a lot more complicated than Gonzaga's, and we'll have to wait until right before Selection Sunday to have a real idea of how likely it will be that BYU gets to stay in the West.
5) In that situation, would the committee make New Mexico a 4 seed and keep them in the West?
It's very unlikely. The committee strongly wants to maintain the integrity of the seeding curve established for the top four seeds. The committee actually has "first quadrant" and "fourth quadrant" subcommittees that spend extra time refining the top four and bottom four seed lines of the bracket. Because most of the top seeds are fairly clear several days in advance and the smaller conference tournament winners also are established early, this work can be done well before the bubble mess in the middle needs to be sorted out.
As such, it would be a strong preference in this case to keep New Mexico as a 3 seed and ship them to another region.
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