Brack8ology: Trust The Process


SC8 has brought in North Carolina resident, data expert, college basketball fan and manager of Jon Pence will be cranking out brackets every week until the NCAA Tournament starts, with multiple updates set for conference championship week. Got complaints, hit him on twitter @scacchoops

by Jon Pence

Trust the Process.  Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers has everyone trusting the process nowadays.  The idea is that a few bumps along the way are worth it if the result is success.  For a team like the 76ers, it means Embiid may sit out a game to rest so that the big man is on the court as much as possible for the entire season.

In bracketology, the idea is the same.  Each week, it’s easy to get lost in the details but as long as you follow the process the end result will be of value.  Let’s take a look at the process that I follow each time I submit a new bracket.

Ineligible Teams

Each season there are a list of teams that aren’t eligible due to NCAA rule violations.  This season those teams are Alabama A&M, Grambling State, Savannah State, and Southeast Missouri State.

Automatic Bids

The first 32 spots in the NCAA tournament go to the automatic qualifiers.  For a bracket in January, I’ll take the top team in each conference based upon overall winning percentage (although in February I’ll shift to using conference winning percentage).  As we get into March and teams start to claim league bids, those teams will be locked in.

At Large

With the automatic bids added, 36 spots remain.  At that point I do my best to sort the eligible teams. Typically, the top 25 teams are in without much consideration.  Filling the next 10-11 spots are where the fun comes in.  A number of factors are used to pick apart the teams and we’ll dive into some of those factors another time.  Ultimately though, we’ll fill the remaining spots and be left with our field of 68.

Ranking the Teams

The next step involves ranking teams 1 to 68 to give us our first look at a bracket.  The S curve is used to fill out the seed such that the Top overall seed plays the bottom 2 seed or the 8th overall team, the 2nd overall seed plays the 7th overall seed, 3rd plays 6th, etc.  

Obeying the Rules

There are several rules that the NCAA puts in place that require some shuffling.

  • Play-in game feature the last at-large teams and lowest ranked teams
  • No hosting institution’s team can actually play at the location where the institution is hosting tournament games
  • The first three teams selected from each conference must be placed in different regions
  • When a conference has more than three teams in the tournament, the committee tries to seed the teams so that they cannot meet until the regional final.
  • A team can’t play a regional final at their arena.  For the 2017-18 season, Memphis can’t be in SOUTH, St. John’s can’t be in EAST.

In these cases, the S curve has to be broken a bit as teams have to be moved.  

So, in March when you’re talking about how [INSERT TEAM HERE] got the toughest draw, you’ll need to remember that the Selection Committee simply listened to Joel Embiid and trusted the process.  On to the bracket….

Final Four: East vs West & Midwest vs South

ALL CAPS/conference indicates an automatic bid


(1) VILLANOVA/Big East vs. (16) RADFORD/Big South

(8) Kentucky vs. (9) SMU

(5) Michigan vs. (12) OLD DOMINION/Conference USA

(4) Clemson vs. (13) EAST TENNESSEE STATE/Southern

(6) Texas Tech vs. (11) PENN/Ivy League

(3) Creighton vs. (14) USC/Western Kentucky

(7) AUBURN/SEC vs. (10) Houston

(2) WEST VIRGINIA/Big 12 vs. (15) BUCKNELL/Patriot League

  • -Villanova in once again the top overall bracket
  • -Houston gets a bump up thanks to a big win over Wichita State this week
  • -Clemson is a 4 seed for now, but losing Donte Grantham for the season could make for an interesting case if the Tigers start to struggle.
  • -Kentucky drops to an 8 seed after losing Florida, but you can bet no 1 seed would want to face the Wildcats talent in the 2nd round.
  • WEST


(8) Seton Hall vs. (9) RHODE ISLAND/Atlantic 10

(5) FSU vs. (12) MURRAY STATE/Ohio Valley

(4) Gonzaga vs. (13) VERMONT/America East

(6) UNC vs. (11) BUFFALO/Mid-American

(3) Florida vs. (14) Marquette

(7) TCU vs. (10) Maryland

(2) Duke vs. (15) SFA/Southland

  • -Kansas moves up to take the 4th overall 1 seed this week thanks to an impressive win at West Virginia.  
  • -Duke drops down to the top 2 seed despite a 2-0 week.  The Blue Devils escaped with a win at Miami and cruised past Pitt.  A win against Virginia on Saturday could see Duke back on the 1 seed in a week.
  • -Florida’s win over Kentucky in Lexington has the Gators fittingly on the 3 line for a team that likes to shoot it from long range.


(8) Texas A&M vs. (9) Butler

(5) ARIZONA/Pac-12 vs. (12) UL LAFAYETTE/Sun Belt

(4) Wichita State vs. (13) LOYOLA-CHICAGO/Missouri Valley

(6) Xavier vs. (11) FLORIDA GULF COAST/Atlantic Sun

(3) NEVADA/Mountain West vs. (14) Kansas State/Virginia Tech

(7) Oklahoma vs. (10) Miami


  • -Virginia stays the 2nd overall seed after two grinding wins at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech in the past week.  Virginia Basketball: Death by a thousand cuts.
  • -Texas A&M managed their first win in a tough Big 12 conference. Road games at LSU and Kansas this week could see the Aggies bounced from a selection if they drop to 1-8 in conference play.
  • -Cincinnati is a perfect 6-0 in conference play and claiming a 2 seed
  • -Arizona claims the 5th seed as the Wildcats have won 4 in a row and won at both Cal and Stanford this past week.


(1) PURDUE/Big Ten vs. (16) COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON/Colonial

(8) Notre Dame vs. (9) Arkansas

(5) Louisville vs. (12) NEW MEXICO STATE/WAC

(4) Tennessee vs. (13) SOUTH DAKOTA/Summit

(6) Ohio State vs. (11) UC SANTA BARBARA/Big West

(3) Arizona State vs. (14) Boise State

(7) Missouri vs. (10) SAINT MARY’S/WCC

(2) Michigan State vs. (15) RIDER/MAAC

  • -Purdue claims the 3rd overall seed.  The Boilermakers won big at home versus Wisconsin and on the road at Iowa in the past week.
  • -The Irish on in a tailspin losing 4 in a row.  They host Virginia Tech in a must-win game on Saturday before a quick turnaround at Duke next Monday night.
  • -Louisville has had a quiet 5-1 start to ACC play.  The Cardinals’ schedule gets tougher the rest of the way starting with a trip to Miami on Wednesday.
  • -Ohio State is 9-0 in the Big Ten after Monday’s win over Nebraska.  The Buckeyes have 3 straight home games before traveling to Purdue on February 7th.

Last Four In

Virginia Tech
Western Kentucky
Kansas State

First Four Out


Next Four Out

Penn State

Multiple Bid Conferences

Conference Teams
Big 12 6
Big East 6
Big Ten 5
Pac-12 3
Conference USA 2
Mountain West 2


Here’s where the fun begins and where we set the Sports Channel 8 bracketology apart from everyone else.  You can simulate the bracket above using  Enjoy!