The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 68 (31 automatic and 37 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out a Tourney Pick ‘Em '11 entry today. The Bracket Big Board is updated every Monday until the dance card is officially unveiled March 13.
This March marks the fifth anniversary of an upset-laden tournament that will forever live in Tourney Pick ‘Em infamy. In 2006, George Mason, a surprising at-large selection from the unheralded Colonial, rode in a pumpkin carriage all the way to the Final Four, toppling Wichita St. along with perennial goliaths Michigan St., North Carolina and Connecticut. Suffice it to say, the Patriots’ path of destruction left brackets bloodied in their wake. It was the second time in tournament history a double-digit seed had reached the pinnacle of college basketball. Though Cinderella failed to pen a storybook ending – Mason’s dreams were crushed by eventual champ Florida in the national semifinals – its improbable run captivated the country. That is, for those who didn’t pick the heavily favored Huskies.
Today, Jim Larranaga again has his club in position to shock the basketball world.
Because the Wizards have failed several courses at Hogwartz, Georgetown is the class of D.C. hoops. Mason, however, isn’t far behind. Currently sitting atop the very competitive Colonial, a conference that will likely earn multiple bids from the Selection Committee, the Pats have raced out to a 13-2 mark, tying a school record with 11 consecutive victories. Athletic, disciplined and confident, the underappreciated Patriots, who released an extremely cheesy and somewhat creepy anime-inspired video mocking AP pollsters a couple weeks ago, have pummeled one conference rival after another, winning by an average margin of 15.6 points per game. Larranaga has applauded his team’s performance but continues to dish out large portions of humble pie:
"I'm enjoying being around the players because they are enjoying themselves," he said. "I'm enjoying it because they are following instructions and executing very well. I'm enjoying it because the younger guys are working so hard and becoming better.
"We've been good, but good is relative. There's always more to do."
Ignore Larranaga’s humility, Mason has excellent odds of again donning a glass slipper. On paper, this year’s squad is better than the legendary ’06 team. The Pats’ scoring execution has been magnificent averaging 1.13 points per possession, good for 23rd nationally. Led by versatile forwards Ryan Pearson and Cam Long, they’ve netted nearly 40 percent from long-range and almost 52 percent from inside the arc. More impressively, the polished Pats have turned the rock over just 16.9 percent percent of the time, ranking 14th in the country. Although the ’06 team was bigger on the boards and stiffer defensively, this year’s version isn’t a pushover. Opponents are shooting just 30 percent from three and have averaged a pedestrian 0.92 points per possession against it.
Depth is a concern, but goliaths from the Big Six should fear David. James Madison head coach Matt Brady, whose team was outscored 43-30 in a loss at the Patriot Center on Saturday, believes the big boys will soon be shaking in their sneakers:
"They're dynamite. They're the class of the league," Brady said of the Patriots. "They're a team that can be really dangerous in March, and I don't mean in Richmond [for the CAA tournament]. I mean on the national landscape. There's no reason why this team can't make a lot of noise."
No matter what happens in the CAA tournament, and despite conference commissioner Tom Yeager's belief his league is a "tweener," the Pats should have their dancing shoes ready. Their overall resume warrants strong at-large consideration, especially in a season where the back-end of the bubble is, as usual, full of ugly ducklings. If they cut down the nets in Richmond, a 7-9 seed appears very likely. If not, it could be double-digit deja vu all over gain.
Watch out America. The Patriots are poised to wreak serious bracket havoc.
Here are the risers and fallers on this week's Triple-B:
*For games played through Sunday, February 13
*RPI data provided by Rivals
*Efficiency stats from KenPom.com
*Orange teams on the rise, blue falling
On the Bubble: UTEP (19-5), Butler (18-9), Clemson (17-8), Oklahoma St. (16-8), Kansas St. (16-9), Duquesne (16-7), Washington St. (17-8), Valparaiso (19-7), VCU (20-7), Michigan (16-10), UAB (18-6)
Dropped Out: UTEP, Washington St., Oklahoma St., Duquesne, Harvard, Austin Peay
Conference Breakdown: American East (1), ACC (4), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (3), Big 12 (5), Big East (11), Big Sky (1), Big South (1), Big Ten (6), Big West (1), Colonial (2), Conference USA (1), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (2), Mountain West (4), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (3), Patriot (1), SEC (5), Southern (1), Southland (1), SWAC (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (1), WAC (1)
Image courtesy of US Presswire