In the past, it’s been easy to criticize the committee for the decisions they made with bubble teams.
Not so much.
In fact, I’ll go as far as today that the committee nailed this. It’s flawless, as far as I’m concerned, not just with the teams they put in and the teams they kept out, but with who got slotted into the First Four.
Let’s start with who was left out. The way I see it, there were just two teams on the wrong side of the bubble that actually, honestly, truly had an argument to be in the NCAA tournament. That would be Syracuse and Illinois State, and I find it hard to make the argument that either of them should have been in the tournament.
RELATED: Printable NCAA Tournament Bracket
Illinois State simply didn’t have enough quality wins. That’s the bottom line. Their only top 80 win came against Wichita State at home. That’s it. They also lost to TCU, San Francisco, Tulsa and Murray State. I do think Illinois State is a damn good team and I would have loved to see them in the Big Dance, but they just don’t have the body of work to justify it. Them’s the breaks.
As far as Syracuse is concerned, we’re talking about a team that had an RPI of 84, and had they gotten an at-large bid, it would have set a record. The Orange do have some good wins — six top 50 wins, including Duke, Florida State and Virginia — but every one of those wins came at home, and they went just 2-11 away from the Carrier Dome. Throw in an unimpressive non-conference schedule and a quarter of ugly losses — Georgia Tech, UConn, Boston College and St. John’s at home by 33 points — and what you get is a team that is going to the NIT.
I also think that the committee got it right with who is in the First Four. The way the seed list broke down, Kansas State and USC were the last two teams in the field, followed by Providence and Wake Forest. (Rhode Island skipped out on the First Four because they won their automatic bid.) To me, there was a pretty clear difference between Xavier, VCU and Marquette — the last teams to avoid the play-in game — and the teams that are getting sent to Dayton this week.
That doesn’t, however, mean that I think the committee got the bracket perfect.
They did some things with seeding that I flat out don’t agree with.
Wichita State should not be a No. 10 seed. KenPom is widely regarded as the best metric for measuring how good teams are, and Wichita State is ranked eighth nationally there. It’s not fair for Dayton to draw the Shockers in the first round, and it’s not fair that, should Wichita State advance, Kentucky has to play them in the second round.
But I will say this: Seeing Wichita State and Kentucky square off again is going to be fun. If you don’t remember, the Shockers were 35-0 in 2014 when Kentucky, a No. 8 seed, beat them en route to the national title game.
I guarantee that Gregg Marshall hasn’t forgotten about that.