We were proud of our work (63 out of 65), but less than enthused with several unfair major-biased outcomes and several odd-seedings.
1) Mid-Majors Get the Rawest of Deals
34 at-large bids. 28 go to “Majors” and 6 go to “Mid-Majors”. How sweet! Sadly, ESPN’s Jay Bilas (picking the four #1 seeds, pansy) openly stated during ESPN's watered-down Bracketology 101 that mid-majors get a break on their schedules (please, who will schedule 95% of them?) while CBS’s brilliant duo of Nantz/Packer (hah!) believe the mid-majors are going to continue to lose steam as conferences continue to expand. I'm asking this to all parties involved: explain to me how Illinois State isn’t getting half the pub of half-runs like Dayton, UMASS, Virginia Tech, and even UAB (since when was Conference USA reputable in the least bit?) as being snubbed? Point is: ESPN needs to cancel Bracketbusters. They don’t matter. It just excites those of us who support the little guys and boosts established majors in that particular season (i.e. Kent State, Gonzaga, Drake, and Butler.) VCU’s win at Akron (or winning the CAA by 3-games) was useless and the MVC (8-2 in Bracketbusters) couldn’t land a second team in the field while the Sun Belt got 2 and the WCC 3 (Illinois State again, anyone?)
2) Sheet of Integrity: Who Cares!
I’m not going to hide my emotions. I’m far from excited about this bracket. It’s going to be #1-team heavy in most Final Four predictions, experts and novices (not me though!). UNC, Kansas, and UCLA will be in at least 75% of most brackateer’s Final Fours. Is Memphis, as a #1 seed, truly a wild-card? At least Bob Knight picked Pittsburgh to win the while thing. With so few mid-majors present (go Mason!), Oregon a 9-seed, several rather ludicrous seedings (Kansas State all the way down to #11, Kent State a 9-seed, and USC only a 6-spot?) and plenty of undeserving teams (nearly every seed 10 through 12)…how can I be excited??? Nice try tournament committee matching up UNC/Indiana potentially and offering up Beasley/Mayo in the opening round. Pay and I instantly realized that both were simply TV-based matchups. Those typically don’t work out, either. I have to fairly admit though, a small portion of my skepticism is rooted in the fact that my childhood team is the Orange and I am an alum of VCU.
3) Last Two Out?
I’m ecstatic Ohio State (2-10 vs. the RPI Top 50) and Virginia Tech (1-7 against the RPI Top 50) didn’t ride overrated final weeks to get in. As inspiring as Seth Greenberg (who I love) tried to be following Tech’s 2-point last-second loss to the Heels, Greenberg yelled and screamed because his team didn’t have the credentials to lay out for anyone. You don't get into the tournament for "almost-beating" anyone either. No matter how close it seems or where the game is played. As for the Buckeyes, two home wins against Big Ten squads just ain’t enough. My frustration with Oregon’s #9-seed is only quenched minimally with the exclusion of the Buckeyes and Hokies.
4) Switching Around a Few Things…
Interesting, to say the least, to see Georgetown acquiesced so much (first for not being able to play in DC and for Texas not being able to be grouped in the same region as Texas). In fact, they might’ve moved down two full rankings and allowed Kansas a much easier pass to the Final Four (remember who coaches them though) and an easier path for them to the Elite Eight against Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk. Tennessee was arguably the 5th or 6th overall seed and is now in the same bracket as overall #1 UNC. Is this fair? Probably not.
5) An Arizona Argument Not Involving John McCain
Arizona proved how mighty a fantastic (#2 overall) SOS is. While the RPI had to matter behind closed doors, it’s clear conferences and conference marks didn’t (according to the tourney chairman, at least). That’s the only reason I can conceive ASU (who swept Arizona and owns a win versus Stanford which Zona doesn’t) was the first Pac-10 team out and Arizona was the last Pac-10 team in (again, don’t get me STARTED on Oregon). Arizona State had a putrid out-of-conference schedule. Then again, it is their fault LSU and Illinois stunk up the joint? ASU also won AT #3-seed Xavier. I knew Arizona would be in, but I don’t like it at the expense of ASU, no matter how many RPI Top 100 opponents they had. (I also HATE Arizona. Yeah, I said it.)
6) Predictions and Projections
For the last eight years, I have taken my pre-season champion pick immediately after I first see the field of 64/65. At least when it’s humanely possible. At the beginning of the season, here was my Final Four: North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, and Michigan State (whoops). I won’t reveal who I picked as my pre-season champs; however, it’s fair to say they will be a popular pick to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Oh yeah, MJ didn’t play there. There’s one clue.
Note: The four-letter network has angered me a lot over the past few weeks. However, their special 'Black Magic' (Documentary about athletes who attended black colleges and universities, specifically during the Civil Rights Movement) is powerful and moving. It should be mandatory viewing in ALL classrooms (and will be in my own).
Clement has cited many of the bones that I was to pick, so to avoid being redundant, I will mention some other things on my mind following the Tournament Selection Show.
1) Bracket Results
As Clement stated, we successfully picked 63 of 65 teams in correct fashion. Here are the unofficial bracket metrics:
Correct Teams: 63/65
Exact Seeds: 32/65
Within One Seed: 52/65
In sum, I am not too happy with the results given the amazing work that both Clement and I put in. Did I mention humility was among my strongest attributes? While I am not surprised by the inclusion of either South Alabama or Oregon (they were our last two out), their seedings remain curious. This leads us to ...
2) What On Earth Were You Thinking?
As a fan, I love that George Mason (my alma mater) is in a pod with Notre Dame (i.e. the team that every mid-major wants to play) and Washington State. As someone who projects brackets, I was shocked. Up until Arkansas choked, WASU was our top #7 seed and was immediately ousted from the conversation for a #4 seed. Why? Try 0-5 against the conference brass. If you don't buy that one because UCLA and Stanford are really superb, why don't you consider their 4-7 mark against the RPI Top 50? Were the road wins versus Boise State, Baylor and Gonzaga in non-conference play more important than a 10-8 finish?
3) Do Vanderbilt's Wins at Memorial Gymnasium Count As Neutral Court Victories?
That's the only way they deserve a #4 seed. Yes, I understand that they defeated mighty Tennessee. So did the team that forgot how to play basketball, Arkansas - not to mention, they did it on an actual neutral court. Oh wait. They also defeated the Commodores twice. I laud Kevin Stallings for his amazing coaching job the last two seasons and his ability to craft a schedule that largely avoids facing off against the lower-third of Division I college basketball. With that said, the bulk of Vandy's results were within the friendly confines of Memorial Gymnasium (a very underrated home court advantage). They sustained 3 losses of 16 points or more away from home, two of which were against non-tournament teams. I apologize if I sound hostile. I just provide the facts, rather than some distorted, politically correct hogwash.
4) While I Love Blake Griffin, I Am Not In Love With Oklahoma's #6 Seed
Since January 27, you have had floor seats to my somewhat unhealthy man crush on Blake Griffin. Though the Sooners sustained injury after injury (by the way, their medical team deserves an award) this season, they had 11 losses, went 6-8 against the RPI Top 50 and were a meager 8-8 on road and neutral settings. Oklahoma had zero signature victories and had its best victory (by the seedings) in Charleston against West Virginia. Meanwhile, Phil Martelli has to be licking his chops with this favorable matchup and a veteran team led by Pat Calathes. If the team that beat Xavier twice comes out, then this may be decided by the third media timeout.
5) Let's Not Fake The Funk
Over the course of a few months in which you become familiar with team resumes, it's comical to think that conference affiliation is not brought up. It's irrelevant. Why? Because if you actually know the resumes of teams, then you know their credentials. If you still have a few brain cells remaining, you can extrapolate the conference in which the team plays. Since everyone knows exactly who is being discussed, let's talk about conference affiliation. Let's bring up the records of double-digit seeds from major conferences in years past. Let's just be honest and lay it all out there. Then, we can all have our ice cream celebrating your informed decisions.
6) Penalize Conferences That Play Their Tournaments on Home Courts Of Non #1 seeds
I'm talking to you, Mountain West and West Coast Conferences. UNLV earned a #8 seed with two home wins against BYU (only wins against the RPI Top 50), the second leading to an automatic bid. Mind you, the Runnin' Rebels required late-game heroics against basketball giants Texas Christian and benefited immensely from the home crowd against a determined yet considerably weak Utah squad. In the West Coast Conference, we all know about San Diego. If you watched the tournament, you could not have scripted better choke jobs from St. Mary's (15-2 run to end regulation forcing overtime) and Gonzaga (they fell two seed lines for not showing up entirely). As a result, the tournament selection committee made an unprecedented decision to include three teams from the 14th-rated conference in what was a perfect storm scenario - both Gonzaga and St. Mary's are legit. In addition to punishing conferences that play tournaments on the home court of a team that did not win the regular season, let us punish teams that lose their conference tournament on their home floor (South Alabama), especially when it's not to the team that wins the automatic bid.