A deeper look at Bracketology

VCU made the Final Four after sneaking into the tourney. Who will be on the bubble this season? AP Photo/Michael Thomas

Welcome back to the expanded edition of Joe Lunardi's Rundown. Later this season, this series will feature Tournament Odds, an element that will take you deeper into Bracketology. Bracketology provides a snapshot of how the bracket looks on a specific day, but through the use of Lunardi's extensive database of previous seasons, tournament odds tells you how the bracket likely will look come Selection Sunday. Today's installment marks the first report of the 2011-12 season.

This season's Rundown feature is again centered on the "First Four" round instituted for the 2011 NCAA tournament.

The "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 March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio, will advance into the standard 64-team bracket on the seed lines indicated.

Interestingly, a new NCAA bubble was created by the adoption of the First Four round. We have the traditional "Last Four" at-large teams, now slated for the additional games in Dayton, plus a "Next-To-Last Four" just above them on the S-Curve. You can bet there will be heated debate -- as well as actual competition -- among teams to avoid the First Four round and advance directly to the NCAA's opening weekend, regardless of the success of VCU last season.

We'll have all that and more to discuss when the full Bracketology schedule resumes in January. The popular "Tournament Odds" report will also return at that time.