- I felt by in large the NCAA Committee did a very good job with the selection process. There is always going to be debate over the last 3 or 4 teams and 3 or 4 teams that were not chosen. I do not think the Committee chose any team this year that had failed to do enough to be in the discussion for a bid. (unlike say two years ago when Air Force and Utah State combined for ZERO top 50 RPI wins while top 25 RPI Missouri State and Cincinnati with their wins over a 4 seed, 5 seed, 6 seed and 7 seed two of which were away from home…were not invited) The fact is every team that was not chosen had the opportunity to get in. Had Syracuse beaten Villanova they would have added another quality victory and would have taken their place. Heck if Syracuse had not lost to South Florida there would be more discussion. VCU did not get any top 50 RPI wins. Ohio State refused to win games outside of Columbus. Virginia Tech lost too often and had too few good wins. Each of these teams had opportunities to get in during the regular season and failed to do so.
- More importantly every team has the opportunity to win their conference tournament. Every year at this time you hear coaches whining about getting more teams into the Big Dance. The problem is there is always going to be a cutoff and there are always going to be those upset that they did not get a bid, such is life. As it stands the NCAA includes everyone through automatic bids (in the form of Conference Tournament Champs in every league except but the Ivy League). Even if your accomplishments are questionable through the end of league play you have the opportunity to play until you lost from your conference tournament on to the national championship. Georgia won 4 games in the SEC this season then went on to win 4 games in 4 days to keep their season alive. That is the beauty of conference tournaments… for all but the 34 at large teams they are the beginning of do or die basketball. The 300+ division one teams' season will not end until they lose. Georgia’s amazing run through the SEC is every bit as special as any run you will witness in the NCAA tourney. This play until you lose aspect of conference tournaments and then the NCAA tournament is the most special part of college basketball.
- Having said all that my biggest disagreement on who got in vs. who did not was the selection of Kentucky over Arizona State. My biggest beef with Kentucky was their inability tow in a meaningful game away from Rupp all season, to me that is a huge fault. Their finish was ultimately what put UK over the top. Their wins did include Tennessee, Arkansas and Vanderbilt so they certainly had some quality to their resume. However, Arizona State beat Xavier, Stanford, and USC. They also swept Arizona and split with Oregon. They were ultimately hurt because they played about 10 horrendous teams (200-300+ RPIs) when other schools were playing teams that were merely bad (100-150 RPIs). Ultimately that was too much to overcome, but I think they did more than Kentucky on the whole. That being said Arizona State should have scheduled better and should have been better down the stretch (5-10 to end the season). Though I disagree with the committee, Arizona State has no one to blame but themselves.
- I felt Tennessee was the strongest two seed. A good case can even be made that based on the body of work Tennessee was not only a one seed, but the strongest one seed. Therefore them having to play in the region with the number 1 overall seed and possibly the strongest 3 seeds seems unfair.
I thought Vanderbilt was seeded too high. They have not really been able to win meaningful games away from home this season either. I felt a team like Clemson which has looked great against top notch competition; even beating Duke on a neutral site deserved a 4 instead.
- I think the Committee did a very good job with Georgia. I felt like they would be hard to seed, because they’d have to do a ton of shifting because clearly Georgia was placed far below where the last at large team. To have the brackets ready for them winning the SEC tourney, clearly they already had the alternatives in place before the SEC tourney ended. That being said I am sure Xavier would much rather be playing Cornell or Boise State. Athletically the Bulldogs are one challenging 14 seed. Then again Xavier was in Georgia’s position a few years ago and were a more aggravating 14 seed than Gonzaga would have hoped to draw. Interesting how something like that can come full circle in a matter of two years.
- I thought Butler was seeded correctly. They have a gaudy record, but only 1 top 50 RPI win. I know they can play, but they lost their chance at a better seed when they lost at home to Drake. That being said, sometimes the draw is more important than the seed. If you are a Butler fan would you rather be playing South Alabama as a tend seed in the first round, or Villanova as a 12? Butler may be better set to win one game and would certainly be a dangerous match-up for Tennessee in round 2.
Coming up this week:
I’ll share my most intriguing first round match-ups, give some information on where upsets could occur, and offer some predictions on how the NCAA Tournament will play out.