Selection Sunday is upon us once again, the day the 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket is finally revealed (5:30 p.m., CBS) after days of deliberation by 10 committee members sequestered in a New York City hotel and weeks of speculation by professional and amateur bracketologists.
Bracket nerds have been trying to predict the tournament field using the Ratings Percentage Index, KenPom.com, other computer rankings and factors such as which teams had key players injured, which teams did well on the road and at neutral sites, which teams finished the season strong and which went stumbling to the finish line.
If their calculations prove accurate, there should be plenty of high-fiving in the state of Florida over the next 48 hours.
Four men’s teams from the Sunshine State — Miami, Florida State, Florida and Florida Gulf Coast — are locks to earn bids. The only question is where they’ll be seeded and where they’ll play their opening games.
A day later, on Selection Monday, at least four women’s teams from Florida are slated to get invitations. The Florida State women are predicted to be a No. 3 seed, Miami a No. 5 seed and South Florida a No. 9. Stetson plays Florida Gulf Coast for the Atlantic Sun tournament title and an automatic bid on Sunday, while Bethune-Cookman lost in the MEAC tournament title game on Saturday and has to hope for an at-large bid.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the UM men as a No. 8 seed, playing No. 9 Dayton in Buffalo, New York; FSU as a No. 3 in Orlando playing No. 14 Winthrop; UF as a No. 5 in Orlando, playing No. 12 UNC-Wilmington; and FGCU as a No. 14 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, playing third-seeded Baylor (with former Hurricane Manu Lecomte at point guard).
The Canes lost three key starters from last year’s Sweet 16 team and don’t have a true point guard, so reaching 21 victories and the ACC tournament quarterfinals is already beyond expectations.
Signature wins over North Carolina, Duke and Virginia proved UM can compete with anybody.
The Canes are coming off a 78-53 loss to the Tar Heels in the ACC tournament, but coach Jim Larrañaga has high hopes.
“I would look at Carolina and think they’re a real threat to win the national championship, and yet we split with them,” Larrañaga said.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton also said he feels “very good” about the Seminoles (25-8) heading into the tournament despite a 4-4 record over the past eight games and a 77-73 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament semifinals on Friday night.
“I think we’ve been pretty good at bouncing back all year,” Hamilton said.
“We won 25 games. So we realize we’re a pretty good basketball team. [On Friday night], I think we just got beat by a team that was red hot.”
The Gators (24-8) are hoping to land in Orlando, where it would feel like a home arena, but a loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament quarterfinals on Friday could drop their seeding, which would affect where they wind up.
Of course, nothing is final until the brackets are announced, but here’s how things will likely play out for the men’s field:
▪ Smaller conference champs who booked tickets early: Bucknell, East Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast (Dunk City, Baaaaby!), Gonzaga, Iona, Jacksonville State (Alabama), Northern Kentucky (The Norse!), South Dakota State (the Jackrabbits), UNC-Wilmington, Wichita State, Winthrop, Vermont, North Carolina Central and Mount St. Mary’s.
▪ Big conference locks: American (Cincinnati, SMU); Atlantic 10 (Dayton, VCU); ACC (Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech); Big 12 (Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia); Big East (Butler, Creighton, Villanova); Big Ten (Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin); Pac-12 (Arizona, Oregon, UCLA); and SEC (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina).
ON THE BUBBLE
Wake Forest: 19-13 overall (9-9 ACC), RPI 39, Strength of Schedule 22. Will eight top-100 wins be enough?
Syracuse: 18-14 (10-8 ACC), RPI 84, SOS 62. First-round ACC tournament loss to Miami hurt as will 2-11 road record.
Kansas State: 20-13 (8-10 Big 12 record hurts), RPI 56, SOS 43. In its favor — beat Baylor twice, lost to West Virginia by just one point.
Xavier: 21-13, RPI 32, SOS 16: In its favor — very tough schedule, a win over Butler. On the other hand, it lost six in a row at the end of the regular season.
Seton Hall: 21-11, RPI 45, SOS 48: The Pirates beat Butler in their regular-season finale and added to their résumé with a Big East tournament win over Marquette. Seton Hall has four signature wins against top-40 RPI teams Butler, South Carolina, Creighton and Xavier.
Providence: 20-12, RPI 55, SOS 47. The Big East had many similar teams jockeying for position.
Marquette: 19-12, RPI 59, SOS 54. See Providence.
Southern California: 24-9, RPI 43, SOS 77. If the Pac-12 gets a fourth team into The Dance, it will be USC. The Trojans have two statement wins over UCLA and SMU and just one loss outside the RPI top 100.
Michigan State: 19-14, RPI 48, SOS 11. Great strength of schedule and Tom Izzo’s tournament history will help. The Spartans have been in 19 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and they’ll likely make it 20.
Vanderbilt: 19-15, 37 RPI, SOS 2. If you play the second-hardest schedule in the nation and win 19 games, you deserve a strong look. But no team with more than 14 losses has ever gotten an at-large bid.
UT-Arlington: 25-7, RPI 34, SOS 146. Weak schedule could be its downfall.
Illinois State: 27-6, RPI 35, SOS 159. See UT-Arlington. The Redbirds’ only win over a tournament team was over Wichita State at home. They could sneak in, but chances are they’ll end up in the NIT.
Middle Tennessee: 29-4, RPI 36, SOS 170. Twenty-nine wins is 29 wins. Blue Raiders played in Conference USA title game with automatic bid at stake late Saturday.
At this point, time is up. Buzzer sounded. No more chances to impress the committee. Sixty-eight teams will be on that bracket. Deserving teams will be left off. Let the celebrating and belly-aching begin.