Monday, May 16, 2011

Annual Geo-Spatial NCAA Tourney Travel Map

At roughly four hours post-announcement of the NCAA tournament brackets (which translates to 1:30 a.m. Central), this is one of my fastest turnarounds for posting my annual geo-spatial bracket! Unless you have some really fine eyesight, you are urged to click on the map to enlarge it.

Each clustering shows the teams playing in a given region, shaded in the color of the host school (the home team is also underlined). I would say 15 of the 16 regions are geographically compact, to one extent or another. Only one regional, which I am calling the "super-jumbled" regional, is really a grab-bag, sending No. 7-seeded Cal to Louisville, along with Illinois-Chicago and Jacksonville State (Alabama); these teams are seen as red blocks.

I would say the Alabama (No. 2 seed), Texas (No. 3), Missouri (No. 5), Georgia (No. 6), and (arguably) the Michigan (No. 10) regionals are extremely compact. There are several others, such as the Florida (No. 4) and Stanford (No. 15) regions, in which three of the schools are located pretty close to each other and the fourth is coming from great distance.

As a Michigan alum, let me state my beef with the seedings from the outset. The Wolverines were typically ranked at (or around) No. 2 in the national polls in the closing weeks of the regular season. Yet, the Maize and Blue ended up with a No. 10 seed! What do Arizona State (No. 1 seed) and Arizona (No. 8) have in common this season? They were both beaten by Michigan. OK, the Big 10 was down this year and the Wolverines had a few bad non-conference losses. But a 10 seed?

Also noteworthy (although not necessarily undeserved) is UCLA being completely unseeded, which I assume is the first time that's ever happened. With 24 appearances in the Women's College World Series and 11 NCAA national championships, it must be quite a shock for the Bruins to be considered almost as an afterthought by the commitee. We'll see if they can pull a surprise in the Florida regional.

[Credit: The map onto which I superimposed the softball teams is known as a cartogram, which adjusts the sizes of states or other jurisdictions from their usual sizes and boundaries to reflect other characteristics, such as population. I used this cartogram, which is based on each state's number of electoral votes in the 2008 presidential election.]