The Press Box Perspective: Thoughts on the Bracket Preview

By Andrew Zuhosky

I know, it’s hard to believe, but three weeks from today at noon ET, the Round of 64 in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship — March Madness (YEAH!) — begins.

(Side note: Who else can hear the March Madness version of the CBS College Basketball theme in their heads as they read this column this morning?)

Around this time, pressure will mount on the teams who are projected to enter the tournament as top seeds to keep on winning.

Especially at this time of year, one bad loss could derail a program’s bid at a No. 1-seed. Also at this point in the season, people wonder just what the bracket might look like if the season were to have end. On Feb. 11, the NCAA and CBS Sports gave all of America a look.

For the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament, viewers were able to see a projection of the top four teams in each region’s bracket as it looked heading into games played on Feb. 11 in the “NCAA March Madness Bracket Preview” on CBS.

If you missed this program two weeks ago, the projection looked like this: Villanova University, defending National Champion, had the projected #1 overall seed in the tournament, as well as the No. 1 seed in the East Region, followed by Kansas University being the No.1-seed in the Midwest.

Baylor University was projected as the top seed in the South Region, with Gonzaga University, who had the No.1  ranking in the Feb. 6 Top 25 poll, was projected as the top seed in the West Region.

Also during the half-hour broadcast, CBS Sports Bracketologist Jerry Palm revealed what he predicts would be the rest of the 68-team tournament field might look like after the top 16 seeds were revealed by the NCAA Selection Committee.

Palm’s projections during the program had some interesting potential match-ups. One such match-up, a 7 vs. 10 game in the East Region bracket between The University of Southern California and Michigan, would be a great game if it comes to fruition.

I feel that USC is peaking at the right moment and would give Michigan fits in the contest should it happen.

However, I did not agree with the NCAA Selection Committee’s projection of Villanova, a two-loss team heading into last weekend’s games, as a higher overall seed in the bracket preview over Gonzaga, who had an undefeated 25-0 record going into the weekend of Feb. 11 and 12.

Gonzaga has been impressive all season long and they’re poised to take the West Coast Conference title this year and make a deep run.

In my opinion, the Bulldogs would be the best team in the field if the tournament were to start today. They could win it all.

I also didn’t like how the program was aired on a Saturday afternoon as other games which could have had an impact on the tournament field were being played around the nation. For my money, that was one of the only flaws with the broadcast.

As was said during the program, the validity of the projected bracket wouldn’t last long.

If CBS and the NCAA were to do this type of broadcast again, which I think they should, it should be scheduled on a Sunday evening in the same timeslot as The Selection Show, when most of the weekend’s games are finished.

In addition, CBS and the NCAA should make the bracket projections a weekly offering during the last month or so of the regular season in the future, with the last projections coming on the Sunday before Selection Sunday.

Again, three weeks remain until the start of the tournament. There’s so much that is bound to happen between now and Selection Sunday. Stay tuned because it’ll only get crazier from here.