Tag Archives: ACC

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

 It’s that time of year again;  the most wonderful time of the year for college sports fans.  The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament field was just revealed and people around the country are preparing excuses for why they suddenly developed illnesses on Thursday and Friday.

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.

Who runs your office pool? It is estimated that March Madness costs employers between $1.4 billion and $3.8 billion in lost productivity per year.

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 RegionDuke 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.

Can Duke defend its national title? San Diego State, UCONN and Texas stand in their way in the West Region.

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.

GO BU!

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.

St. Mary's will be playing in the NIT, but should b in the field of 68.

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.

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The Field of 68… Or How Will This Affect My Bracket

A mock 68 team bracket. From CBS Sports.

Yesterday afternoon the NCAA announced its new plan for an expanded 68 team NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Their decision and its timing were both shrewd maneuvers by the NCAA. They chose to announce their new plan during one of the two days a year without majors sports, and they chose to blend the two most popular potential formats for the newly dubbed “first round.” One of the most popular formats would have had the 8 lowest seeded, automatic qualifiers (teams from small conferences such as America East, Big Sky, NEC and MEAC) play 4 games to determine who would be the 16 seeds. This would have expanded on the current “opening round” format, as the two lowest seeded teams currently play for the right to be the last 16 seed. Under this scenario, at-large teams would benefit the most. More spots would be available, taking teams off the bubble. The other format suggested was to have the last 8 at-large teams play for the right to be the final 4 at-large teams in the tournament. In all likelihood, the teams that won these games would have been slotted in as 11 or 12 seeds.

By choosing to blend the two formats, the NCAA avoided thoroughly angering both the large conferences and the small conferences. If the NCAA had chosen either format, there would have been backlash from the conferences affected. I believe that if the smaller schools and conferences were forced to contest all of the play-in games we could have seen a repeat of lawsuits and potential Congressional interference similar to the what is taking place with the BCS. In forcing 4 of the lowest seeded teams to play for 16 seeds, the NCAA is hoping to create better match-ups in what has now been renamed the 2nd round (previously the first round, I know this is getting confusing). Basically, ever team between 11/12 (wherever the NCAA decides to put the at-large play-in winners) and 16 will be seeded 2 slots lower than they would have in the previous format. This should lead to better match-ups between the lowest seeded teams and their higher seeded counterparts. If the NCAA had chosen to make the at-large teams play all 4 play-ins, the power conferences would have been up in arms and several important fan-bases would have been angered. Since in the end, this is all about money the NCAA did not want to anger fans of teams that sell a lot of tickets. The decision to make the last 4 at-large teams play for the last 2 at-large spots does create come compelling basketball between middling teams from the power conferences. The standard of basketball will likely be higher in these games than in the games between the future 16 seeds, and in theory, the winners will be better teams providing better match-ups for the higher seeded team waiting to play them. One positive I could see about the new format is that mid-majors could benefit.  With the last four at-large teams playing, perhaps a few mid-majors might sneak into the tournament by winning the play-in games.

While, on the surface this might seem like a perfect compromise, I think the NCAA chickened out with this decision. While the early indication is that coaches seem to like the compromise, I think the play-in games (or as the NCAA has now dubbed them, the First Four) should have been between the last 8 at-large teams. This would have produced the most compelling basketball, and would have ensured the best television ratings for the NCAA. Since it is all about money, and television rights are the largest source of that money, why wouldn’t you want to make the best match-ups in the play-in games? I also think that the NCAA penalizes the small schools with this decision, assuring that one more school from a small conference will not see the full-fledged tournament. If the NCAA doesn’t want to include the smaller conferences, then there should be some restructuring of the divisions. Perhaps the smallest Division I conferences should be a new Division I-AA, similar to football. Given that there are over 300 teams that play Division I basketball, this could be a workable solution. Nobody seems to be unhappy with the current division of NCAA football (I’m not saying football is perfect, there should be a playoff).

Short of a landscape changing new order, I say let in the small schools. If they win their conference championship, why not allow them to compete against the other conference champions for the overall NCAA title? We don’t relegate the weakest division or conference champions in professional sports to play-in status. If we did that, the NBA Eastern conference would almost never make it to the NBA Finals and the 82-80 San Diego Padres from 2005 would not have made the playoffs. Instead of penalizing the small schools, I say make the bubble teams work for it. As I mentioned before, this would produce more compelling games and would mean that the small teams still get their one moment in the limelight. The middling teams from power conferences bound for the play-in games had all season to show they were worthy of making the tournament and weren’t quite up to that task. While these teams are undoubtedly better than the conference winners from the smaller conferences, they are just as unlikely to win the NCAA title. As Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said to ESPN, “I always thought it should be the last four in. I think if you’re one of those teams, you ought to just be happy to be in.’’  I wholeheartedly agree with this comment.

As for the bracket ramifications, it will make running the office pool infinitely more difficult. With teams being selected late Sunday and the First Four games taking place on Tuesday or Wednesday, the amount of time to fill out the bracket is cut in half. It will also make the bracket much more complicated visually and will lead the casual fan into utter confusion. I can already see my co-workers missing picks and scratching their heads as they try to fill out their bracket. Many of my co-workers had a difficult time filling out the bracket in its previous format, I can only imagine the chaos that will ensue.