BRACKETWATCH: Welcome Back to Bracket Szn

By Patrick Vint on January 27, 2021 at 12:00 pm
A 2 seed?  A 2 SEED?!?!? [breaks clipboard]
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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The calendar will soon turn to February, which means it's time we start watching the brackets again.  Obviously, despite last week's loss to Indiana, Iowa basketball is expected to garner a high seed -- low seed? -- well-ranked place in the NCAA Tournament field.  Still, the loss to the Hoosiers exposed something that the Hawkeyes' other two losses had not.  Gonzaga was to be expected; that was the top team in the country, after all.  Minnesota was dismissible as a fluke of late-game insanity and hot overtime shooting.  But Indiana felt like the first time that someone had actually shut down Iowa's offense in a way that made the game competitive.  Indiana got clutch shooting, but with Iowa going nearly ten minutes without a basket down the stretch, it wasn't really necessary.

That loss, and the manner in which it occurred, sent Iowa down in the polls.  But did it have an effect on the brackets?

ESPN (Joe Lunardi):  2 seed, Region 1, vs. Grand Canyon

Lunardi has been pretty consistent on Iowa in recent weeks, briefly moving the Hawkeyes to no. 1 but relegating them back to No. 2 before the Indiana game had even occurred.  The Hawkeyes stay there this week, but their placement in Gonzaga's regional means they're probably the last of the No. 2 seeds at the moment (the others are Texas, Houston and Alabama, because everything is football now).

Lunardi's bracket does include an intriguing possibility: If Iowa were to get past Grand Canyon University (no longer coached by Thunder Dan Majerle, for those of you scoring at home), the Hawkeyes would face the winner of a 7/10 game between Florida and...Drake.  I don't want to see Drake in the Tournament.  Basketball karma is real, and will come up and bite you if given the opportunity.  Iowa losing out on its first Sweet 16 trip in 23 years at the hands of an in-state team it recently refused to play would be the ultimate "ball don't lie" moment.

CBS (Jerry Palm):  2 seed, Region 2, vs. UC Irvine

Palm has Iowa slightly higher than Lunardi: The Hawks get the Baylor bracket, meaning they are the third-ranked of the two seeds.  UC Irvine is currently undefeated in the Big West, but only won a single non-conference game against a Division I opponent, so we should be good.  Winner would get Clemson or Oregon, but both of those teams are fading at the moment.

We probably should discuss 2 seed philosophy here, because it's odd.  In the history of the 64/68-team tournament, 2 seeds are 57-25 against 7 seeds.  That's a 69.5% win percentage.  It's actually lower against 10 seeds: 32-18, or 64%.  Regardless, it's a considerably worse position than 1 seeds, which get through an 8/9 winner at an 86% rate.  Let's get a 1 seed.

SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean):  2 seed, Region 1, vs. Grand Canyon

If Dobbertean's projection looks familiar, it should: It's the same as Lunardi's.  Iowa gets the final 2 seed, against Grand Canyon, with Gonzaga waiting on the other side of the bracket.  Oklahoma State and UConn are on the other side of Iowa's first weekend, and Cade Cunningham vs. Joe Wieskamp would determine whether we get Pro Wieskamp next year.

Fox Sports (???):  2 seed, "South" Region, vs. Sam Houston State

Fox is just tweeting out a bracket this year, which is certainly a choice.  They have Iowa in the Baylor region, again meaning the Hawkeyes are the third No. 2 seed.  Sam Houston State would be interesting, as the Bearkats play super-fast, chuck a ton of threes, and basically just try to force turnovers or give up layups on defense.  With that said, they've played five teams in the Kenpom top 60 and lost all five by at least 16 points.  They've played games against Howard Payne and Mary Hardin Baylor; those aren't people, they're actual colleges.

Boise State and UConn are on the other side of the weekend.  A potential BSU matchup would be interesting, as Boise has UNC-like levels of size to throw at Iowa's frontcourt.

The Bracket Matrix: 2 seed, Region 2

Bracket Matrix is less a bracket projection and more a consensus opinion, taking dozens of brackets from famous, and decidedly less-famous, bracketologists and averaging out a ranking.  Iowa is ranked as a 2 seed by the vast majority of those bracket people.  There are a smattering of 1 seeds, mostly from analytics-based rankings (for what it's worth, Iowa would be a 1 seed if Kenpom bracketed) and a couple of 3 seeds from obvious haters

It's no surprise that Iowa is the third of the 2 seeds; it's a slight surprise that they're far closer to Texas, the second 2 seed, than they are to the final 2 seed, Alabama.  If you bracketed out the current breakdown, Iowa would be in Baylor's bracket, playing UC Irvine, with Louisville and Rutgers on the other side of the weekend.  That obviously can't happen, but LSU and Drake are also available on the 10 seed line.  This Drake thing feels inevitable, doesn't it?

NCAA NET rankings: No. 5

The NET is supposed to be the primary ranking system used by the tournament committee, which is a good thing for Iowa: The Big Ten is so deep and loaded that Iowa's record against "Quad 1" and "Quad 2" teams is going to be solid.

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