Last year around this time, I went through the exercise of bracketing the first four seed lines (using the CTD seed list current at the time). While I think most specific predictions of sites are basically crapshoots beyond the first few seed lines, it can be useful for understanding how the committee does this. We can also spot some potential issues the committee may face during bracketing, though it depends on how similar the actual seed list is to ours.

Speaking of the actual seed list:

See last year's post for details, but we first need to identify which pod and regional sites are prohibited for particular teams.

From the bracketing principles:

A team will not be permitted to play in any facility in which it has played more than three games during its season, not including conference post-season tournaments.
A host institution’s team shall not be permitted to play at the site where the institution is hosting. However, the team may play on the same days when the institution is hosting.

Pod site prohibitions (not comprehensive)

Auburn Hills - Oakland

Austin - Texas

Dayton - Dayton

Kansas City - none (MVC hosting; Kansas played 3 games at the Sprint Center)

Lexington - Kentucky

Philadelphia - Temple

San Jose - none (WCC hosting)

Salt Lake City - Utah

Region site prohibitions (not comprehensive)

Washington, D.C. - Georgetown

North Texas - none (Big 12 hosting)

Indianapolis - IUPUI

Los Angeles - Pepperdine

The committee will then place the four “number 1 seed” teams seeded 1 through 4 in each of the four regions, then determine the Final Four semifinals pairings, making best effort to pair the top No. 1 seed’s region against the fourth No. 1 seed’s region and the second No. 1 seed’s region against the third No. 1 seed’s region.

The main principle to follow during bracketing (across all seed lines, not just the first line) is: Teams will remain in or as close to their areas of natural interest as possible. A team moved out of its natural area will be placed in the next closest region to the extent possible. If two teams from the same natural region are in contention for the same bracket position, the team ranked higher in the seed list shall remain in its natural region.

So, with that in mind, let's start bracketing. Keep in mind these are based on today's 1-68 seed list as determined by the Crashing the Dance seeding model, and is not necessarily how I think the seed list will end up on Sunday.

By the way, like others you'll find our distance chart useful here.

1. Duke - East (Washington, D.C.)

This is pretty straightforward. Durham is easily closer to D.C. than to any other regional site. Duke is the only school in the first 10 of our seed list with D.C. as its closest regional site, so even if they slide down a bit on the overall seed list, D.C. may be a good bet.

2. Indiana - Midwest (Indianapolis)

Even more of a no brainer than Duke to Washington. I don't think any of the other potential Big 10 champs could jump up to the top seed line, but there are other potential No. 1 seeds that could be sent to Indy. Don't book your hotels quite yet.

3. Louisville - South (North Texas)

The Cardinals are the first team sent outside their natural region, but whoever is the third No. 1 seed likely won't have to travel too far because...

4. Gonzaga - West (Los Angeles)

With Gonzaga a good candidate for one of the No. 1 seeds, it's likely that for the first time since 2008 (UCLA) that the top seed in the West will actually come from the West.

In this scenario, the Final Four pairings will be East vs. West and Midwest vs. South. (I'm not clear why the "making best effort" part is in there. I can see no other bracket principles that conflict pairing 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3.)

The committee will then place the No. 2 seeds in each region in true seed list order.

This is when several of the bracketing principles can come into play, including:

Each of the first three teams selected from a conference shall be placed in different regions.
Conference teams shall not meet prior to the regional final unless a ninth team is selected from a conference. If the committee is unable to reconcile the bracket after exhausting all reasonable options, it has the flexibility to waive this principle to permit two teams from the same conference to meet each other after the second round.

5. Kansas - South (North Texas)

As the first team from the Big 12, there are no conference restrictions here. As I noted last week:

That was referring to the Jayhawks being on the No. 1 line, but they still get their choice here as the first No. 2 seed. So Jerry's World, it is.

6. New Mexico - East (Washington, D.C.)

7. Georgetown - Midwest (Indianapolis)

8. Miami - West (Los Angeles)

The Lobos are actually marginally closer to Arlington than to L.A., but with Kansas already there we'd next like to put them in California.

However, the next two teams cause conflicts, so we have to end up sending them all the way to D.C.

(Aside: For what it's worth, I think the seeding model is slightly overrating the Lobos at #6 overall. If New Mexico is on the 3 seed line, they may avoid being shuffled for other conflicts and could stay west of the Mississippi.)

As host of the East regional, Georgetown is prohibited from playing in D.C. The next closest site is Indianapolis, and since with the first Big East team (Louisville is still in the Big East, right?) already slotted to North Texas, we have no conflicts.

With Duke already in D.C., Miami can't go there because of conference restrictions. Since Georgetown is higher on the our imaginary seed list than Miami, the Hurricanes unfortunately have to head west.

This assumes that the committee puts a higher preference on keeping a team on their natural seed line near the top of the bracket than keeping them closer to home.

The committee will then place the No. 3 seeds in each region in true seed list order.

Additional bracketing principles can come into play on the third line, including:

No more than one team from a conference may be seeded in the same grouping of four in line Nos. 1-4 and 13-16 in a region, unless a conference has four or more teams seeded in line Nos. 1-4. In lines No. 5-12, two teams from the same conference may be placed in the same group of four

9. Michigan State - East (Washington, D.C.)

10. Michigan - South (North Texas)

The next two are essentially the same from a bracketing perspective - same conference, roughly the same distance from each regional site. Indiana is already in the Midwest, so neither get their first choice. The eventual relative order these two could come down to the B1G tourney, but for now we'll send the Spartans to Washington and Michigan to to North Texas.

11. Florida - Midwest (Indianapolis)

The Gators will be the first team from the SEC, so they don't have to worry about conference conflicts of their own creation. They may still fall prey to other conference conflicts or relative balance between regions, but for now we'll put them in the Midwest.

12. Ohio State - West (Los Angeles)

A fourth B1G team in the top 12. The first three have to be in different regions, but there is more flexibility with the fourth. However, putting them in Indy doesn't really help with balance, and it sends a team above them on the seed list to an unfavorable location. So, California it is for the Buckeyes.

13. Marquette - East (Washington, D.C.)

14. St. Louis - Midwest (Indianapolis)

15. Arizona - West (Los Angeles)

16. Syracuse - South (North Texas)

We're going to keep these four together because the initial slotting is fairly straightforward and the interesting stuff doesn't come up until afterward. Marquette is closer to Indy, but we already have Georgetown there. St. Louis and Arizona get their preferred site, and Syracuse heads south. That does set up a potential Big East Sweet 16 matchup, but that's allowed as long as there are four Big East teams in lines 1 through 4. It also slightly helps the regional balance. Speaking of that…

After the top four seed lines have been assigned, determine the relative strengths of the regions by adding the "true seed" numbers in each region to determine if any severe numerical imbalance exists. Generally, no more than five points should separate the lowest and highest total.

Uh oh. Here's how the numbers add up:

East: 29

South: 34

Midwest: 34

West: 39

So much for Duke always getting the easy bracket, right? We do have a bit of an imbalance, but our hands are tied somewhat because (1) there are four teams from each of the Big Ten and Big East and (2) Georgetown can't play in D.C.

We presume the committee won't tweak the No. 1 line to keep geographical preference, and the restrictions mean can't really do much on the No. 2 line. We also presume the committe won't swap teams between the No. 2 and 3 lines.

The big problem with tweaking the No. 3 line is that there are three Big Ten teams and they're currently in order of geographical preference. If we shuffle them around, we could be sending the second best Big Ten team to California while keeping the fourth best closer to home. What would the committee do in this case?

It looks like we might be able to make it good enough by tweaking a few things on the No. 4 line. Let's put Marquette in L.A., move Arizona to Dallas (their second-closest site) and put Syracuse in D.C. The downside is that the fourth-best Big East team is the closest to home, which seems unfair. The committee's bracketing principles give them flexibility, but it also leaves ambigutiy and makes it hard to know what they'd do in a situation like this.

Much better now:

East: 32

South: 33

Midwest: 34

West: 37

In “true seed” order, the committee then assigns each team (and, therefore, all teams in its bracket group—e.g., seeds 1, 8, 9, 16) to second-/third-round sites.

In other words, we need to assign pod sites for each of the 16 teams we've placed in regions. Most in the first several lines get their preferred site.

1. Duke - Philadelphia

2. Indiana - Dayton

3. Louisville - Lexington

4. Gonzaga - Salt Lake City

5. Kansas - Kansas City

6. New Mexico - Salt Lake City

7. Georgetown - Philadelphia

8. Miami - Lexington

9. Michigan State - Auburn Hills

10. Michigan - Auburn Hills

11. Florida - Dayton

12. Ohio State - Kansas City

13. Marquette - Austin

14. St. Louis - Austin

15. Arizona - San Jose

16. Syracuse - San Jose

Indiana is slightly closer to Lexington, but I doubt the committee will send the Hoosiers into Wildcat country. The Wolverines and Sparty hanging together in Auburn Hills could be fun. One or both has a pretty good chance of being there unless they slip a bit.

Time permitting, we'll tackle the remainder of the seed lines in Episode II. There are fewer restrictions in the 5-12 lines, and generally fewer conference conflicts in the 13-16 lines, so they may not be quite as exciting. There is also more chance of predicting the wrong seeds in the 5 to 12 range, so it may not be all that useful.