Even though the 2011 NCAA Tournament brackets come out March 13, ESPN has predicted which schools will get the No. 1 seeds. It’s never an exact science when anyone is trying to predict which schools will have the most success in conference tournaments, especially because some conferences have even more competition than what will take place in the NCAA Tournament. One of those conferences looks to be the Big East, which ESPN is now predicting will have 11 teams invited to play out of the full field of 68 teams.
According to ESPN, or more specifically their NCAA expert Joe Lunardi, there are 11 conferences that will end up with multiple teams getting invites to the big dance. The SEC, Big 12, and Big Ten Conferences will have six teams, the ACC will have four teams and the Mountain West, Pac-10 and Atlantic 10 will each have three teams. Bold predictions indeed, but there is a chance that he got the Pac-10 wrong. While it has admittedly been a down year in the Pac-10, it is entirely possible that USC or Washington State pulls out a win in the conference tournament and joins Arizona, UCLA and Washington on Selection Sunday.
As for the teams netting the top four seeds in the tournament, that will be the ultimate sign of respect from the NCAA Selection Committee. For the No. 1 seeds, ESPN placed Ohio State as No. 1 in the East, Kansas as No. 1 in the Southwest, Pittsburgh as No. 1 in the Southeast, and Brigham Young as No. 1 in the West. Duke fans probably don’t want to hear this, but they were placed as the No. 2 team in the East, which could possibly be a tough road for either school. At this point of the season though, it might be too early to count out those kids at Notre Dame that have been playing at an extremely high level lately.
When it comes to the individual brackets, the Southeast certainly looks like a tough one. In addition to Pittsburgh as the No. 1 seed, it has Texas at No. 2, Wisconsin at No. 3, and Georgetown at No. 5. In the preseason, analysts had predicted all of them to be among the elite teams in the country, and tournament time might wake up some of those teams to present very tough tournament matchups. There are some key matchups that could develop in the respective conference tournaments that could bump up certain teams and drop others though, so we may be a long way from knowing exactly how this is going to turn out.
Even though there are 68 teams in the field this year, it seems there are more bubble teams than ever. Increasing the field from 65 to 68 teams was supposed to give three more teams a chance that wouldn’t, but it could end up creating even more debate due to the teams that might not make it in the end. It’s definitely going to made Selection Sunday that much more interesting.
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