Welcome to the new, expanded edition of Joe Lunardi's Rundown; come 2011, this will again feature "Tournament Odds," which debuted last season.
The most significant change in this season's Rundown involves the new "First Four" round instituted for the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Our inaugural "First Four" projected below pairs the last four at-large entries in the expanded 68-team field (for two games) along with the last four automatic qualifiers (for two more games). The winners of these four contests, to be played Mar. 15-16 in Dayton, Ohio, will advance into the standard 64-team bracket on the seed lines indicated.
The NCAA hasn't specifically addressed how it will handle those games. Instead, these are projections based on the current constraints laid out by the NCAA: teams from the same conference facing each other, home-court advantage, etc. The formula could change, but this is our best educated guess for now.
We have this: