It’s Selection Sunday: What will be the talking points?


By the time the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee makes it back into the conference room on Sunday morning, the at-large bids will have long-been decided.

That’s always the case, as the committee will have argued their way through — for hours and hours and hours — all of the teams that are sitting on the bubble, coming up with a ranked order. The way things worked out this season, with the final game of the day with any bubble implications wrapping up around 6 p.m. ET, that fact was virtually assured.

They have decided whether or not Ole Miss will get an at-large bid if they don’t beat Florida and get the SEC’s automatic bid on Sunday afternoon. Whether the Rebels lose by 50 or because the referees pulled another Richmond is irrelevant.

Kentucky’s wait on Selection Sunday will be ‘agonizing’

In our latest bracket projection, we have Ole Miss as the second-to-last team in the tournament. But where things get interesting are if the committee currently has Ole Miss out of the tournament field with a loss, because that means there needs to be a contingency plan. If Ole Miss wins, they get slotted somewhere. If they lose, they drop out of the field and whoever that last team on the cut line is — Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee, La Salle, whoever — gets their spot.

While the focus of tournament talk during the week almost always seem to focus on the bubble — especially when a team like Kentucky is involved in that conversation — much of Saturday and essentially all of Sunday involves around finalizing the seed list and putting those teams into the bracket.

NCAA tournament projections: Is your team in the Big Dance?

Who gets the No. 1 seeds? Does, say, Gonzaga really have a stronger profile than New Mexico? Should Louisville or Indiana get the Midwest and the cozy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis? How is it possible that Team X is seeded above Team Y when they both played Team Z and Team X got blown out twice and Team Y beat them? How can five Atlantic 10 teams get slotted into the bracket if three are six or seven seeds and two more are 10 or 11 seeds?

And that doesn’t even take into account the games that are being played today. What if:

  • What if Ohio State beats Wisconsin? Can they climb up to the No. 2 seed line?
  • What is Wisconsin beats Ohio State? Are they a No. 3 seed?
  • Where do North Carolina get bracketed if they beat Miami, which would be their best win of the season?

As the committee builds the bracket throughout Sunday, they build it with these contingencies in mind. And if any of Sunday’s outcomes will significantly change one team’s profile — and remember, the committee’s goal is to minimize just how much value they give to the most recent results — they will build a separate bracket. Committee chair Mike Bobinski told us at the mock selection committee last month that there was one year where the committee had to build six different brackets on Sunday.

So yes, there will be plenty to discuss in that conference room until the brackets are announced at 6 p.m. ET on CBS.

And those discussions and decisions will play a major role in what the bracket you fill out for your office pool will look like.

Those conversations just won’t have all that much to do with the bubble’s cut line.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
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Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
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When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.