NCAA Committee Picks Right Teams, Wrong Seed; Georgia Caps Wild SEC Weekend

This year the committee gave us no Syracuse’s – teams inexplicably omitted, and no Arkansas’ – teams that came out of left field to make the field. In the selection process, no matter how many make the tournament, a few teams inevitably get left out. Debates follow, expanding the field will not solve it. Outside of the Arizona State controversy, the committee tip-toed the bubble nicely, escaping criticism, mostly thanks to teams settling it on the court. However, maybe they ran out of coffee in the Indianapolis NCAA headquarters when it came time to seed the teams.

Arizona State beat Arizona head to head twice, finished ahead of the ‘Cats in the top-RPI rated Pac-10 conference, and posted a signature non-conference win over Xavier. In the end, committee chair Tom O’Conner said the weak SOS (296 non-conference) and overall weak RPI of 83, which would have been the highest RPI to earn an at-large bid, kept the Sun Devils on the outside. All weekend, we heard they should not take conference into consideration, it’s well stated that head to head rarely comes into play – for better or worse. Stack Arizona and ASU next to each other with school names removed, Arizona has a better statistical resume across the board. Likewise, Baylor and St. Joe’s, two of the last at-large teams to earn bids, also stack up favorably against ASU, each with an RPI about 40 spots lower, 20 wins on the season, St. Joe’s with a better Top 50 record, while not exactly Arizona’s schedule both the Bears and Hawks had markedly better schedules overall and non-conference, and each played better than the Sun Devils in road/neutral games. ASU absolutely has a case, the committee has just as good an argument to leave them out. Until the official selection criteria changes, they made the right choice.

Villanova over Virginia Tech match-up statistically, actually back to back in the unofficial RPI (credit to Ken Pomeroy) with similar SOS. The big difference, wins against the Top 50, of which Tech only has one to ‘Nova’s 4, plus the blown call against G’Town that would make 5. No argument on that. Va. Tech had their chance, beat UNC on Saturday and punch your ticket. The Hokies put up a valiant effort, but came up short, just like their tourney hopes. If someone told me Villanova would live to see the Big Dance during that 2-6 stretch spanning late January into February, I would have said, sure, just like Georgia. That’s what makes Championship Week, and all of March, great.

After nailing the top seeds, hard to miss after how the conference tournaments played out, many of the seeds boggle my mind starting with the 2 seeds. Tennessee, arguably a #1 seed until losing on Saturday in the crazy SEC tournament deservedly dropped to the 2 line, but landed in the East, along with the top seed in the tournament, UNC. If you rank the 1’s and 2’s from 1-8, as the committee allegedly does, that means they slated the Volunteers eighth, behind Georgetown, Duke, and Texas, none of whom won their respective conference tournaments and all of whom started the weekend behind Tennessee. To boot, they draw Carolina in Raleigh. Meanwhile, as a 2-seed Texas would play in Houston, a qucik drive from Austin, against top seed Memphis in the regionals. Unfair to the Vols, Tigers, and Tar Heels, for drawing a virtual fifth top seed in their bracket, so much for being the top team in the tournament. Why not flip Texas and Tennessee? Makes the regionals more equitable, and the subregionals, in Little Rock and Birmingham, are in close proximity anyway.

As CBS unveiled the brackets, Indiana as an eight seed immediately caught my eye. Have the Hoosiers fallen this far this fast, or did the committee weight their post-Kelvin Sampson play more heavil, as they would with an injured player (i.e. Kenyon Martin)? They played uninspired down the stretch, not shocked they fell, but surprised it was this far. On the bottom half of the East, outside of Tennessee, Butler deserved better than a 7. At least a Top-20 team all season, after a strong Sweet-16 showing last season, the Bulldogs paid the price for its Mid-Major schedule, 29-3 record aside. Great mid-major clash in the first round with South Alabama, possibly painful second round match for the Vols.

Over in the Midwest, no surprises in the top half, though Villanova slipping in off the bubble with a high seed creates a big conference battle in the 5-12 game. Kansas State falling to an 11 surprised me, though they struggled down the stretch before quickly bowing out in the Big 12 tournament. The Wildcats misgivings benefit the fans, an OJ Mayo-Michael Beasley showdown in Round One. CBS will send the check in the mail, great game.

Oregon, with only a slightly better resume than Arizona State, did not deserve a 9 seed, way overrated for a team that should have just slid in. Then how does Temple, A-10 Conference Tournament champs and second-place regular season finisher, receive a higher seed than St. Joes, who they finished second in the tourney and fourth in the season. Miami benefited from the stats and the ACC conference because in the few games I saw the ‘Canes did not play like a seven seed. Maybe some insight into my pick.

Georgia caused a disruption out West. Teams rarely come out of nowhere in major conference tournaments, but Xavier cannot be happy drawing a big conference opponent, off an unprecedented weekend run, in the first round. The Bulldogs RPI and profile compares to a Winthrop or San Diego, both 13-seeds, so sticking Georgia at 14 with limited time between the SEC final and 6 PM deadline is fair. No matter where Georgia goes, the Bulldogs run this weekend will never be forgotten, winning twice in one day, three times in under 30 hours, after finishing last in the SEC East. Great story, amid a terrible weekend for the city of Atlanta.

We’ll breakdown match-ups to watch and make some picks as Thursday approaches. At first glance, UCLA has the easiest route of the top seeds, while Memphis and UNC face the most top-heavy regions. Come Thursday, everything goes out the window when the upsets start, the bracket busters emerge, what looks good on paper often goes to shreds.


One Response

  1. […] David Fix wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIn the end, committee chair Tom O’Conner said the weak SOS (296 non-conference) and overall weak RPI of 83, which would have been the highest RPI to earn an at-large bid, kept the Sun Devils on the outside. All weekend, we heard they … […]

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