It’s that wonderful time of year again, where college hoops fans will sit around on their asses, stuff their faces with delicious food and beverage, and start cheering for schools they have never seen play. It’s March Madness; so sit back, relax, and strap it down.
Selection Sunday brings weeks of pointless and increasingly annoying speculation to a merciful end. The field is decided, the seedings are set, and all that’s left is to fill out the brackets. Almost.
Even though Billy Packer has finally faded to black, there still seems to be a sense of injustice hovering over Selection Sunday. Everyone knows somebody is gonna get screwed, it’s just a matter of who and how many. This year for once, the selection committee did a pretty decent job–decent–not great.
Mississippi State’s performance in the SEC Tournament seemed to be enough to put them into the field. But when the dust settled, the Bulldogs were likely the first team left out. Some bad losses and a fairly low RPI could be used to justify their exclusion, but you have to wonder if the committee remembered what happened last year, when Mississippi State used a surprising run in the SEC Tourney to land a NCAA berth then played poorly in a first-round loss to Washington. Illinois faded a bit down the stretch but certainly could have landed a bid had they managed to knock-off Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals. In the end, a low RPI likely cost the Illini a spot. Virginia Tech has a good resume and is probably upset that Wake Forest is in the NCAA Tournament. No argument here, Wake’s selection was very surprising.
Wake Forest? The Deacons lost five of their last six games, including losses to NC State and North Carolina. Wake’s best win came against Maryland, but aside from a non-conference win over Gonzaga their resume didn’t appear to be very strong. Eight mid-major teams received at large bids, which was also a surprise. I can’t argue with any of those selections, although I was a bit surprised that UTEP made the field after losing in the Conference USA title game. The Miners can play, that’s for sure. The seedings were once again very strange. Purdue has looked very average at best since losing Robbie Hummel and got obliterated in the Big Ten Tournament yet still landed a No. 4 seed. The Boilers do have to face a tough Siena team, but were lucky to get such a high seed. The same goes for Texas A&M, who got a higher seed than many people expected. Meanwhile, Cornell managed to land only a No. 12 seed and Maryland a No. 4 despite being the best team in the ACC for much of the season, including the recent win over Duke. I could go on, but in the interests of time, I’ll stop here.
Midwest Region is murderers row
Kansas may have earned the top overall seed, but the Jayhawks landed in a Midwest Region is absolutely stacked. Ohio State could have easily been a No. 1 seed, while Georgetown played like a No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. Throw in Maryland, the best No. 4 seed in the field, along with teams like Michigan State, Oklahoma State, and Northern Iowa and you have one dynamic region. If Kansas makes it into the Final Four, it will really be an accomplishment.
West Region could be kind to Cuse afterall
Just about everybody is angry that Syracuse got sent out west instead of Duke. However, Syracuse appears to have the easiest road to the Final Four of the top seeds. The Cuse are clearly the most talented team in the region and hold a big advantage inside against nearly every team in the region, with the possible exception of a big Florida State team they could meet in the second round.
East Region tough to forecast
Kentucky appears to be the cream of the crop in the East, but the rest of the region could be filled with close games and upsets. A potential Wisconsin-Temple matchup in the second round could go either way, that is if Temple manages to get by a talented Cornell team seeded much too low. Steve Alford certainly remembers when his Iowa Hawkeyes landed a No.3 seed in the tournament and were upset by Northwestern State. History could repeat itself when New Mexico takes on Anthony Johnson and Montana in San Jose.
South Region the weakest link
Duke might not find the going very tough along the road to the Final Four. The South Region has a number of teams that appear to be seeded too high, including Baylor, Purdue, and Texas A&M. Throw in inconsistent teams like California, Louisville, and Villanova (as of late) and who knows what will happen.
Stay tuned for a whole bunch of previews, coverage, and analysis throughout the next few days and the duration of the NCAA Tournament.