In a typical year, CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jerry Palm correctly picks 67 of 68 NCAA Tournament teams. That’s a 98.5 percent success rate.
That’s an average year.
In other years – the last five or six, in particular – Palm has been perfect. It’s gotten harder since the field expanded to 68 teams, he said, as the last two or three teams to get in are almost indistinguishable from the two or three teams that just miss out. And yet, Palm is still at least 98.5 percent accurate.
So we have to ask: Now that the (major) conference tournaments are upon us, just how important is this week? How much movement can there really be before Selection Sunday?
Answer: Maybe not as much as you think.
“Well, first of all, all 36 at-large teams are going to lose their final game,” Palm said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “So a lot of teams are taking a loss here. A lot of it just kind of comes out in the wash. Now, if you take a bad loss, then that can hurt you. If you pick up some quality wins – and you’re picking up quality wins away from home, which is important – then you can really help yourself. But you’re not going to go from a team that’s .500 (and) all of a sudden you’re an at-large team. That doesn’t happen. So there’s only so much real movement that can happen. It’s a 35-game season. You’re being judged on a 35-game season, not two or three or four games this week.”
Palm also doesn’t anticipate a great deal of movement among the 1-seeds, either – which he says have been constant for several weeks now. His top four are the top four teams in the AP Poll: Kentucky (31-0), Virginia (28-2), Duke (28-3) and Villanova (29-2).
“Villanova has been there since Gonzaga lost to BYU (on Feb. 28), so that was a couple weeks ago,” Palm said. “It’s been really stable. The top four of the bracket has been really stable this year. Wisconsin (28-3) is right behind. Arizona’s (28-3) in there. Kansas (24-7) is a longshot. They probably can’t get to a 1 now. There’s just too many losses. But the champion of the Big 12 would be a really strong team if they’re able to pull that off.”
On March 1, Palm said that there were about 20 teams on the bubble. Less than two weeks later, he said that number is closer to 12.
“It could go either way,” he said. “You look at a team like Texas (20-12), for example, that’s probably a little bit higher up the bubble or maybe a team like Purdue (20-11) that’s maybe a little bit higher up the bubble. You’re probably going to have to take a bad loss to fall out of the bracket at this point.”
And then are teams like Stanford (19-12) and Old Dominion (24-6) that need to win some games and need some help but that are still good enough to be considered on the bubble.
“There’s still really a lot of teams that could go either way,” Palm said.
Palm remains bullish on Murray State (27-5), saying that the Racers – who won 25 straight games before losing to Belmont in the OVC Championship on Saturday – do not belong in the field of 68.
“You can’t take Murray State,” Palm said. “Murray doesn’t even have (a top-50 win). The two best teams that Murray played: Xavier beat them by 27, (and) Valparaiso beat them by five touchdowns – 35. So there just isn’t any quality there. And people are like, ‘Well, they won 25 games in a row.’ But they also lost to Houston at home. Houston’s RPI is like 250. I don’t even understand the weeping and gnashing of teeth over Murray State.”