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Monday, March 10
Updated: March 11, 6:09 PM ET
 
Georgia's 'domino effect' busts up bracket

By Joe Lunardi
Special to ESPN.com

Georgia was No. 14 on the ESPN.com "S-Curve" at the time of its unexpected departure from postseason play. That made the Bulldogs a solid No. 4 seed, in the West Region via Tampa, in Monday's original projected field.

And then came the press conference in Athens announcing, among other things, that the Bulldogs would not participate in either the SEC or NCAA tournaments. The aftershocks of this quake are being felt as far away as Minneapolis and Tucson, and as nearby as New Orleans.

Huh?

Picture Georgia as the 14th domino in a 65-team row. When it falls, so do domino Nos. 15 through 65. Once repositioned, however, those 15th through 65th dominoes move up a spot. And domino No. 66 fills in the final missing slot.

Congratulations, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are now off the dreaded "Last Four Out" list and back into the projected NCAA field. They join 16 other teams who see their seeding and/or geographic placement rocked by the Harrick family.

Some of the highlights/lowlighths include:

  • Notre Dame regains its rightful place as a No. 4 seed, replacing Georgia, but the Irish go from Birmingham to Salt Lake City in the process.

  • Arizona, the projected No. 1 seed in the West Region, sees its most likely Sweet 16 opponent swapped from the offending Bulldogs to the grateful (?) Fighting Irish.

  • Maryland shifts from a No. 5 in the South (Spokane) to a No. 5 in the West (Salt Lake City), although it seems problematic for the Terps to draw nearby Weber State in a first-round pairing. The committee might be (and has been) forced into such undesireable matchups when forced to build a new bracket on the fly.

  • Michigan State and Alabama become 7/10 opponents in a West Region first-round game in Nashville. In October, one might have thought this to be a potential Final Four encounter.

  • Illinois gets a bit of a break, shifting from the East Region (Salt Lake) in Kentucky's half of the bracket, to the South Region (Tampa), where the No. 1 seed in "only" Texas.

  • Oklahoma State moves up to a No. 5 seed (East Region), but draws Oregon in potentially unfriendly Spokane. The committee would probably not consider this a homecourt disadvantage for the Cowboys.

  • Finally, Minnesota jumps into the bracket thanks to Georgia's departure, and gets the double bonus of a procedural bump to a No. 11 seed in Boston (East Region). The Golden Gophers are a true No. 12 seed on the S-Curve.

    Oh, and did we mention that the SEC tournament had to be re-bracketed as well? But that is Thursday's story. In the meantime, perhaps the most common sense solution to the NCAA tourney dilemma has been ignored.

    What would I do? Scrap the screwy "play-in" game and use Georgia's withdrawal as justification for a return to the preferred 64-team bracket. That could have happened if Georgia's announcement had come after Selection Sunday. As it stands now, the Bulldogs never had a bid (automatic or at-large) to relinguish.

    Joe Lunardi is the resident Bracketologist for ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN Radio. He may be reached at bracketology@comcast.net.








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