The debate over the validity of handing out automatic NCAA bids is one that has raged on through the annals of time. For multiple-bid leagues who are smuggling a variety of programs into the 68 team tournament, it's a boon when a bubble team picks itself up by the bootsraps and vaults itself into the tournament. It never affects the credibility of the conference's other at-large bids. This week, the agonizing howls of regular season conference champions in one-bid leagues that suffered losses at the most inopportune time will echo into the wee early hours of Thursday morning.
No. 1 seeds lost in 21 of 32 conference tournaments this week. The final No. 1 to taste the sour aftertaste of defeat was Michigan just before the Selection Committee was preparing to wrap up their secret meetings. The most disappointing loss had to have been Green Bay, which may have been worthy of an at-large bid in the one-bid Horizon League.
The most crushing was Georgia State dropping a six point lead with one minute to go in the Sun Belt Championship game. Defensive rebounding was an issue for the Panthers all season long because of their small ball, roster, but it came back to bite them when Louisiana Lafayette’s Shawn Long tracked one of their 20 offensive boards down and shoveled it to a teammate under the basket who laid it in off the glass with 1.5 seconds left on the clock. The Panthers would lose in overtime after going 17-1 in conference play.
The loudest voice during Conference Championship Week was Coach K’s. Coach Krzyzewski has been vocal about bubble teams in the ACC getting more respect. Only five ACC teams were projected to reach the NCAA Tournament which is inexplicable when you consider that the Atlantic-10 was expected to be awarded six tournament bids of its own.
I said to [N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried] at the end of the game, “I hope you guys get in.” I don’t understand it. They won at Tennessee. They probably should have beaten Syracuse twice. I think they’ve played a really good schedule, and they’ve got one of the best players in the country…. I’ll get in trouble probably for saying it. Like the Atlantic 10, they’re a really good conference. I hear people saying there are six teams in there. Come on. I mean, they’re good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through.
We’ll never know if Coach K’s prolific lobbying efforts had an impact on the Selection Committee, but NC State was chosen as one of the last four in as an 11 seed. Coach K's comments had to have swayed some of the members in that room.
The Selection Committee may attempt to be impartial, but don’t tell that to Wichita State. There are a litany of Godfather references that apply to the Selection Committee’s subversive disregard for Wichita State’s wellbeing. After getting the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Division, the Selection Committee left a severed horse’s head underneath their sheets. Three-quarters of the Midwest Region reached the Final Four last season. If the Shockers make a return trek to the Final Four, they could conceivably face Texas Southern, Kentucky, Louisville, Duke and Michigan.
Texas Southern is significant because Aaric Murray is a 7-foot scoring savant who dropped 48 on Temple early on in the regular season. Last March, the SWAC Champion nearly upset No. 1 seeded Gonzaga in the second round.
The Selection Committee also turned on the American Conference, illegitimate scion of the old Big East. They paddled the Mustangs out to the center of a calm river and returned alone.
SMU probably should have held their Selection Sunday viewing party in Larry Brown’s basement because just as Wichita State was a reminder that seeding is overrated, SMU learned that the Associated Press doesn’t flower the NCAA tournament field. The 25th ranked Mustangs held a Selection Sunday viewing party and looked so hopeful, only to be blindsided by their exclusion from the tournament.
SMU lookin' like Lizzy from Walking Dead "looking at the flowers"— DJ RedHerring Dunson (@CerebralSportex) March 17, 2014
25th ranked team was so full of hope on Selection Sunday. 20 minutes later, they looked like Geno Smith on draft day. pic.twitter.com/uPKvLSkBnM— DJ RedHerring Dunson (@CerebralSportex) March 17, 2014
It was the most shocking twist of Selection Sunday. Dallas' iconic Who Shot J.R. twist is an apt comparison for what happened to Larry Brown's Mustangs. SMU’s Moody Coliseum was a Dallas sanctuary for the Mustangs this season where they won 15 of 16 games during the regular season. On Sunday, the Mustangs suffered an excruciating defeat at the hands of the Selection Committee in front of their 303rd ranked non-conference strength of schedule. Instead, the Mustangs were forced to twiddle their thumbs like Geno Smith playing Candy Crush for three hours on Draft Day waiting to hear their matchup.
The snubbing of SMU and Louisville’s seeding as a four seed were shots across the bow of the American Athletic Conference. Former Big East members Memphis and UConn were locks to reach the NCAA Tournament, however, there wasn’t enough room for SMU. The biggest knock against SMU was their 303rd ranked out of conference strength of schedule. It may seem like nitpicking, but non-conference strength of schedule was a heavy point of emphasis for the Selection Committee’s decision making.
As a consolation prize, the NIT gave them the No. 1 seed in their second class tournament.
Watching SMU awkwardly squirm in their chairs had to be the most uncomfortable moment of his coaching career. That’s the type of situation where a fake power outage and a sprint to the nearest exit would have been justifiable.
Another program that benefitted from scheduling and conference was Stanford. The Cardinals finished sixth in the Pac-12 and lost three straight games between February 26 and March 5, but they've won a slew of games against NCAA Tournament teams and Top 100 RPI opponents. During their nonconference slate they faced UConn, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Texas Southern and BYU. The Pac-12 is well represented in the Big Dance and the Committee may have helped save Johnny Dawkins’ job.
Nebraska and Baylor have come a long ways. The former Big 12 doormats were once rivals of the bottom feeding variety. On Friday at 12:40 pm, they’ll meet in the second round of the West regional. A month ago, these two programs resumes were being shredded by Selection Committee members. Nebraska started out the New Year on a five game losing streak. Baylor was 2-8 in the Big 12 and had lost seven of their last eight games on Nov. 8. Nebraska started out the New Year on a five game losing streak. Baylor was 2-8 in the Big 12.
Baylor center Isaiah Austin is on a tear, but it’s not his offensive game that propelled Baylor during their 10 out of 11 game winning streak that culminated in a Big 12 Championship Game berth. In the last four games, Austin recorded 18 blocks including seven against Texas’ imposing frontcourt.
The most intriguing matchups of the first round begins with Dayton vs. Ohio State in a Buckeye State South Regional clash. However, this is bigger than just little brother, big brother. For Dayton forward Jordan Sibert, it's a chance to remind Ohio State about what they were missing.
Not only is Dayton head coach Archie Miller the brother of Arizona’s Sean Miller, but he’s also a former assistant on Thad Matta’s Ohio State staff. If Sibert were still on the Buckeyes roster, he’d be their best spot-up shooter along the three-point line.
If he’d been on the court Saturday vs. Michigan’s three point win over Ohio State, the outcome may have been different.
For years Kansas has been avoiding Wichita State, Georgia Tech has avoided Georgia State, and so on just as Ohio State has ducked Dayton because there was nothing to gain. The NCAA gave Dayton a matchup to get up even more motivated for.
Iowa (lack of defense), Saint Louis, San Diego State (both struggle to score) and Colorado each backed into this tournament. However, Colorado may be the most deceptive team in this field. The fact is that they’re falling backward into the bracket after losing 6-foot-6 point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to an ACL tear in January. At the time of their starting point guard’s injury, the Buffs were a Top 25 team with its sights set on a higher goal. Colorado eked out a pair of wins in the Pac-12 tournament before getting used as a speed bump by Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.
Villanova is an inexplicable No. 2 seed while Louisville is the four seed. Last week, in a posthumous breakdown of the Big East’s former leaders, we took a look at both team’s profiles. Villanova had a tougher out of conference schedule, but they haven’t had a major win over a ranked foe since November. They're 1-3 against the RPI's Top 25, but were crushed twice by Creighton and once by Syracuse. Meanwhile, out in the Midwest Duke, is a No. 3 seed.
As the 8 seed, Colorado drew Pittsburgh’s card in the South region. Pittsburgh was exposed as a Big East grafter posing as an ACC contender in the month of February before rattling of five wins in their last seven games.