How did this year’s Selection Committee do? Here are some initial reactions …
The Big Ten was obviously respected as a conference (No. 2 in the RPI). Not only did the Big Ten receive seven bids, middle-of-the-road teams such as Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State earned seeds between 8 and 10. That would suggest those teams were voted into the Field before Sunday. Maybe they weren’t even on the bubble when Committee members arrived in Indianapolis. We don’t know.
UAB and VCU were the wildcards. We had them listed among the First 5 OUT in our final projection. UAB appears to have earned an at-large bid because the Blazers won the regular season Conference USA title. The other big notch on their belt was an RPI of 31.
It’s interesting that UAB lost twice to Memphis – which after winning the league tournament – earned a 12-seed; same as UAB. Ironically, UAB’s best win was VCU. No beef with honoring a conference champion, although Missouri State apparently didn’t receive the same consideration. VCU was a tough call to the very end. It seems the win over UCLA carried significant clout. That and beating George Mason and Old Dominion – both worthy NCAA teams. Of the two, selecting VCU seems the most logical.
Colorado probably has the biggest grievance. The Buffaloes beat Kansas State three times (a 5 seed), Texas, and Missouri. The logical explanation is CU’s horrible non-conference strength of schedule (No. 325). Virginia Tech learned that lesson last year when the Hokies were told as much in post-bracket interviews with the Selection Committee chair. Maybe Colorado wasn’t listening. That was the reason why Colorado was listed as one of our Last 5 IN.
Heartbreak again for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ non-conference schedule was better than last year, but not stellar. They did beat Penn State at home and Oklahoma State. They also beat Duke at home. My guess is that being swept by Boston College hurt the Hokies – especially considering they also lost to Clemson in their only meeting.
Since Clemson was one of the last teams in the Field of 68, we have to reason it’s because the Tigers swept Boston College and beat Virginia Tech. We had Clemson in for that reason. The odd part is that Virginia Tech had two higher level wins (Duke, Penn State), and that’s why we included the Hokies as one of our final teams.
What about seeding …. I think Texas is under seeded as a four; the Longhorns have a lot of quality wins against a good schedule. Even with a late slide, Missouri at an 11-seed seems low. UNLV dropping to an eight seed also appears off a bit. Same for Gonzaga as an 11-seed. With St. Mary’s missing, it’s obvious the West Coast Conference didn’t impress Committee members. Florida got a lot of respect for winning the SEC, but may be a seed line too high.
Richmond and Utah State may not have made the NCAAs if they had lost their conference tournaments. Both earned 12 seeds – suggesting neither had much wiggle room. That’s somewhat surprising for Richmond – which had a pretty decent resume in the Atlantic 10. Utah State won at St. Mary’s in the BracketBuster; maybe that was what ended the Gaels’ hopes.
Given the mediocre bubble surrounding this year’s tournament, it’s hard for any teams to have serious complaints. Flaws were everywhere.
Along the top line, Notre Dame had more high RPI wins, but didn’t win a regular season or conference title. That’s why Pittsburgh and Duke took the final No. 1 seeds. In some ways, though, Notre Dame may like it’s spot in the Southwest better than Anaheim.
Now, it’s time to get ready for March Madness. Championship Week was unbelievable. How about more of the same? The NCAA Tournament will be great, because it always is – regardless of whether we agree with one or two decisions. Enjoy the hoops, and thanks for a great year of bracket projections.