Selection Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year. I love watching the conference tournaments leading up to the selection special, and I love to watch as they reveal the teams. Today was no different. My alma mater, Boston University, won the America East in dramatic fashion yesterday and awaited their fate. Barely 20 minutes into the program, Terrier Nation found out where and who our team would be playing. The Terriers drew a 16 seed and the unpleasant task of facing the University of Kansas. While a 16 seed has never defeated a 1 seed in since the tournament took on its current format in 1985, an alum can hope.
The Selection Committee, as usual, has given pundits, bloggers and fans alike plenty to talk about. Did Pitt and Duke deserve #1 seeds? How did USC, Clemson and Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) make it into the field of 68, while St. Mary’s, Colorado, and Virginia Tech are on the outside? Is Florida really a #2 seed? Why is Utah State only a #12 despite a 30-3 record? Check out my quick reaction to each region.
East Region – Ohio State, as much as I hate to say it, deserved the top seed in the tournament. The Buckeyes lost just two games all season, both on the road against highly ranked teams (Wisconsin and Purdue). They easily won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and have played well all season.Georgia is lucky to be in the tournament and lucky to be a 10 seed. Many people thought the Bulldogs were squarely on the bubble. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had them as one of the first 4 teams to miss the tournament. By handing Georgia a 10 seed, the Committee tells everyone that Georgia made the tournament easily. Georgia deserved being in the tournament (they have an RPI of 46 and a strength of schedule of 43) but a 10 seed was generous.
I am surprised that University of Alabama-Birmingham and Clemson both made the tournament. Both teams were on the bubble. Joe Lunardi had UAB as one of the first four out, and Clemson as one of the last 4 in, I think it should have been the other way around. UAB had a very good season, going 22-8 and winning the Conference USA regular season title. The Blazers enter the tournament with an RPI of 31. Clemson finished 21-11 and had an RPI of 55. Either or both could have easily missed the tournament.
The East is top-heavy. The top 4 seeds (Ohio State, North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky) are all capable of winning this region and the tournament. The 5 seed – Xavier, could make a run. My potential sleeper in the region is the 9 seed, Villanova. Nova is just two seasons removed from a Final Four appearance and started this season 17-1. While the Wildcats have disappeared in the second half of the season, they have the talent and the coaching to make some noise in the tournament. They could just as easily lose to George Mason in the first round.
West Region –Duke deserved a number 1 seed, but being shipped to the West Region is hardly a reward for the Blue Devils. As pointed out on the CBS selection special, Duke may have preferred a 2 seed in the East and potential games in Newark. I think the Blue Devils earned their seed with their win over North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game.
San Diego State gets the 2 seed in the West, which is a reward for the Mountain West champions. If they make it to the Sweet Sixteen, the Aztecs will get to play in front of a virtual home crowd in Anaheim. I am happy that the Committee didn’t seed SDSU lower simply because they aren’t from one of the “Power” conferences.
There are some tough teams in the West, UCONN just won 5 games in 5 days to win the Big East. Texas was #1 earlier this season. Arizona has tons of talent and won the Pac-10, and Tennessee is more talented than their record indicates. Temple is seeded too low at 7. Michigan, Tennessee and Penn State are seeded too highly.
Lots of pundits are picking Oakland to upset Texas but I just don’t see that happening. I think Missouri has the best chance of the double-digit seeds to make the Sweet Sixteen.
Southwest Region – The Southwest is tough. Kansas could have easily been the #1 overall seed. Many predicted Notre Dame would be a 1 seed. Purdue finished 2nd in the Big Ten, Louisville made a run to the Big East title game. Beyond the top 4, Georgetown has more talent than its 21-10 record indicates and Texas A&M could make a run.
Illinois got a gift with a 9 seed. The Illini are 19-13 and finished 9-9 in the Big Ten. How did they get a higher seed than Florida State who finished 21-10 and 11-5 in the ACC?
USC is extremely lucky to be in the tournament. USC has an RPI of 69, plays in a weak Pac-10 and finished the season 19-14. Their opponents in the First Four, VCU (23-11, RPI: 51) lost the Colonial Athletic Association title game to Old Dominion, which is probably what got them their bid. How did USC make it over Colorado or Virginia Tech? Colorado had a better record (20-13), better RPI (66) and wins over Kansas State (3 times) and Missouri. Virginia Tech also had a better record (21-11), RPI (60) and wins over Duke and Florida State (2 times). USC being in the tournament is a surprise.
The 16 seed in the West are the Boston University Terriers. Get ready to be surprised America. The first 16 over 1 upset in tournament history is about to happen. Mark it down!
Southeast Region – The Southeast Region is the easiest region of the four. Pittsburgh has a clear path to the Final Four. The 2 seed, Florida, is overrated. Charles Barkley says it is so, and I agree. BYU earned a 2 seed but the Selection Committee snubbed the Cougars. Many of the other teams in the Southeast are also overrated – Wisconsin at 4, Kansas State as 5 and St. John’s at 6.
While I believe Kansas State and St. John’s are overrated, both have the talent to make some noise in the tournament. Perhaps this potential is what the Selection Committee used when assigning K State and St. John’s their seeds. Kansas State was a preseason top 5 pick, and seem to have found themselves late in the season following a midseason swoon. St. John’s has wins over Notre Dame, Duke, UCONN and Pitt, so the Johnnies certainly have the ability to win the big game. On the flip side, St. John’s has also lost games to Fordham and St. Bonaventure. The Red Storm are unpredictable. They could make a run to the Sweet 16 or they could lose to Gonzaga in their first game.
Gonzaga (11) and Utah State (12) are seeded lower than expected. Joe Lunardi had the Zags and the Aggies as 9 seeds. Utah State finished the season 30-3 with an RPI of 18 yet is a 13 seed! Come on Selection Committee!
Belmont is getting a lot of press as a potential giant killer. I could see that upset happening as Wisconsin is a weak 4 seed, and Belmont played both Tennessee and Vanderbilt close during the season. The Bruins lost to Tennessee by just 1 point back in December.
Biggest snub: St. Mary’s – The Gaels finished the season ranked 48 in the RPI with a 25-8 record. They tied Gonzaga for first place in the West Coast Conference and have a win of St. John’s and Gonzaga, as well as a 1 point loss to BYU. St. Mary’s has shown that it is capable of playing with the big boys and certainly deserved to make the field of 68 more than USC or VCU.