Selection Sunday brings on an interesting question every year: What exactly does the selection committee evaluate and how does the bracket get put together?
This year's bracket did not come about without its share of criticism. Despite the usual arguments surrounding the last teams in the field – call me crazy, but I’d much rather see a competitive Tennessee or Alabama or Virginia in the field than Middle Tennessee State or St. Mary’s. Overall, this was a season filled with 2- and 3-seeds, so there was little wonder why the discussion centered around the top spots.
With Louisville, Indiana, Kansas and Gonzaga grabbing the four regional No. 1s, teams like Miami (ACC champs) and Duke (16 BPI top-100 wins) are undoubtedly going to have some grievances – especially with the Zags playing such a poor out-of-conference schedule. As Jay Bilas astutely pointed out, the committee seemed to judge a team more on the teams it scheduled and lost to than the ones that it beat. The opportunities for the “little guys” make March better than, say, the BCS, but at a certain point the selection committee needs to remind itself that it’s not a negative to reward impressive wins over valiant losing efforts.
However, of all the top-tier seeds, Louisville has to be shaking its head.
The Cardinals earned the No. 1 overall seed after blitzing through the Big East Tournament, and their reward is the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis, the toughest region by far. Why anoint a squad the best in the country then give it the most obstacle-ridden route to Atlanta?
For Rick Pitino’s team to reach the Final Four, it’ll likely have to knock off Missouri/Colorado State (not easy), Oklahoma State/Saint Louis/Oregon (not easy), and Michigan State/Creighton/Duke (not easy). Meanwhile, Gonzaga, widely considered the worst 1-seed, gets a relatively cruise-control region.
Guys, what are we doing here?
The committee is in the unenviable position of making millions happy through a tedious process. Ultimately, the bracket will work itself out, leaving the pretenders in its wake, but it does beg the question: Why are we making it harder on the teams who’ve earned the easiest paths?
Bracketology Gone Weird
New Mexico: It’s tough to imagine a situation simillar to the one New Mexico’s is facing. As the regular season and conference tourney champion of the country’s No. 1-ranked RPI conference – it sounds strange, but the Mountain West was incredibly strong this season – the Lobos only received a 3-seed. Seems odd. Steve Alford has done a fine job with this team, so don’t be surprised if Tony Snell & Co. come out of Gonzaga’s bracket. After all, the resume speaks for itself.
Pac-12: Man, as much credit as the committee gave Gonzaga and St. Mary’s out west, the Pacific coast’s premier conference got shafted in terms of seeding. Its champion (Oregon) received a 12-seed. Cal and Colorado were handed double-digit seeds. Its two most talented teams, UCLA and Arizona, were given 6-seeds. Basketball is down out there, but is it really that far down?
Miami: For the first time in history, the ACC regular season and tournament champion did not receive a No. 1 seed. In this case, the Hurricanes did not make the selection committee’s decision an easy one – losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech were embarrassing, to say the least – but this is a quality team playing some of its best basketball. Point guard Shane Larkin is one of the nation’s best and won’t let his team be an easy out in the East.