Some final thoughts on the selection committee’s job
Overall, this was one of the most uneventful championship weeks ever in terms of the field changing, teams playing their way in, bid thieves, etc. When Ole Miss — a team that selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said was already in before the SEC final — winning the auto bid to escape Dayton is the biggest drama, you know there wasn’t a ton of selection-room drama.
Per BracketMatrix.com, there are over 100 people who project NCAA fields now, and virtually every single one of them got 67 or 68 teams correct. Flip a coin, pick Tennessee or Middle Tennessee State, and go. I chose the Vols. I was “wrong.”
So with very few tough decisions to make in terms of acceptance into the field, you would have thought that the committee would have had extra time to smooth out the seeding and placement. I have always believed the committee spends too little time putting the bracket together. While I actually got 63 of the 68 teams within one seed line of the actual bracket (very accurate overall), there are pieces of evidence this year that supports that belief. The committee got sloppy in a couple of spots, with no real reason or excuse to do so.
1) Oregon being seeded as a 12 (a natural 11 that got pushed down to adhere to bracketing rules) was a ridiculous determination that helped create the silliest situation in the bracket: The UNLV-Cal rematch in which 12-seed Cal is playing a semi-home game in San Jose.
Had Oregon been seeded correctly, this wouldn’t have happened. Cal could have moved into the Ducks’ 12-seed spot. But even with the Ducks seeded comically low, the committee could have done a straight swap of Akron for Cal and avoided the whole situation anyway. Just a bizarre series of mistakes from a 10-man panel that has technology to help them.
2) The committee showed the Mountain West (and Atlantic 10) consummate respect by taking a fifth team from the league. Boise State would have been in the main draw had Florida beaten Ole Miss on Sunday, but since the Rebels won the auto bid, they were not eligible to be placed in a First Four game, so the Broncos dropped into that slot. Fine, that happens.
But what about the relative seeding in the league? Conference double champ New Mexico, owner of the No. 1 RPI and 19 top-100 wins, ended up ninth overall on the seed list, so they dropped to a 3-seed. They were five spots and two seed lines behind a Gonzaga team that had a clearly inferior profile, in my opinion. Since they both landed in the West, maybe we’ll get that in the Elite Eight and see what happens on the floor. The Lobos’ placement wasn’t the most egregious thing you’ll ever see, but it smacks of a lack of respect for the league.
The good thing about the Mountain West is it played a double round-robin schedule, so it’s pretty easy to see who was better in league play. Colorado State finished 11-5, a game ahead of UNLV and two games ahead of San Diego State, yet the Rams ended up 30th on the seed curve, somehow four spots behind the Aztecs and a crazy 12 spots behind UNLV. I know nonconference play matters, too, but what did UNLV and San Diego State do that was so great to overcome the league performance by such a significant magnitude? That made no sense.
3) Louisville was tabbed as the No. 1 overall seed, swiping that designation away from, well, Kansas, since Indiana was the third No. 1 on the list ,and grabbing the Indianapolis regional. That’s a big boost for the Cardinals, who should have great crowd support assuming they advance to the Sweet 16. So, to reward the best team in the bracket, the committee loaded the regional with six other teams in Pomeroy’s top 20? What??
This region is much, much more difficult than a couple of the others. Duke, which has one loss all season with Ryan Kelly healthy, gets the 2-seed and may draw Michigan State in a Sweet 16 game. Final Four sleeper Saint Louis is in here. Oklahoma State is. Memphis is. Creighton is the 7-seed. And that’s not to mention the 12-seed is Oregon. Totally crazy.
Overall, the committee did a decent job, but really, the standards should have been higher this season. They didn’t have very much selection trouble to deal with. As such, the seeding and bracketing processes should have had more polish.