Updated: Mar 15
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With Selection Sunday in the books, it’s always great to share some thoughts on the job the committee did with the final bracket. Debating whether they did a good or bad job overall, or teams getting screwed, there are always talking points and things that stand out within the bracket.
Here are my Top 10 Takeaways from the Final Bracket Reveal.
1. Tennessee got Screwed After Winning the SEC Tournament
Rick Barnes’ squad had a final resume that included wins over Arizona, Auburn, Kentucky twice, and more importantly 11 Quadrant 1 victories. That is the same as Baylor who got a No. 1 seed, and Tennessee was a combined 15-0 in games outside Quadrant 1. The committee did not reward the SEC for being arguably the best conference in the country, while rewarding the Big Ten due to their inflated metrics.
In addition, there is no argument for Duke being ahead of Tennessee when they only have six Quadrant 1 wins, along with three Quadrant 2 losses. Rick Barnes' team now may have to beat an Arizona team for the second time, while also having to go through Villanova.
After winning the SEC Tournament, and having one of the best resumes on paper, the committee screwed Tennessee by putting them on the 3-line. The Vols will face the winner of Michigan/ Colorado State in Indianapolis, which will not be an easy matchup. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, might seriously want to consider moving his championship game away from Sunday, so the committee will actually reward the winner. This is not the first time something like that has happened.
2. Arizona didn’t get rewarded either
There is zero reason why the committee gave Arizona a ridiculously harder path to get to the Final 4, opposed to Kansas who is seeded below them. The Wildcats could have had a legitimate argument for the No. 1 overall seed, and the reason why that is important is because now Arizona would be shipped to San Antonio for their second weekend games. In addition, Arizona got stuck with both Villanova and Tennessee in their region, after both teams won their respective conference tournaments in impressive fashion. And that's after Arizona would have a potential rematch with Illinois in the Sweet 16, a team that won the Big Ten co-regular season championship and nearly played the Wildcats tough in December in Champaign.
More importantly, this all comes after an impressive Pac-12 Tournament run, when Arizona beat UCLA without starting point guard Kerr Krissa.
Again, just looking at Kansas' path - with Auburn and Wisconsin as the No. 2 seeds - you can't argue who has the easier path, a frustrating reality for a team that again, had a legitimate argument for the No. 1 overall seed in the tourney.
3. Kansas got as good of a draw, as any No. 1 seed
The Selection Committee did not do a good job in terms of seeding and properly rewarding teams based on their seed. That is a prime example here, as Kansas has by far has the easiest road of any No. 1 seed to get to the Final Four.
Look at their draw! First off, the No. 2 seed in their region is Auburn. Yes, Auburn did win the SEC regular season title, they also have not been playing very good basketball lately. Overall, the Tigers are just 6-4 in their last 10 games.
In addition, Wisconsin will be the No. 3 seed in the Midwest with the status of the Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis unknown. Wisconsin could struggle as early as Round 2 with LSU, which has its own problems, you know, with no head coach currently with the team after Will Wade's firing.
Ironically, Kansas' toughest matchup could come in the Sweet 16 against a red-hot Iowa team, but even as the five seed in that region, they don't have it easy with Richmond and then the Providence-South Dakota State winner.
Put simply, Kansas could not have asked for a better possible path to the Final Four. Gonzaga, Arizona, and Baylor all got significantly tougher paths to get to the Final 4 than Kansas.
4. Kentucky got the best draw of any No. 2 seed
John Calipari might be upset that his team did not end up on the No. 1 seed line, especially after the disappointing loss in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals against Tennessee. With that being said each of the last two National Champions Baylor and Virginia, also lost in the semifinals of their conference tournament, so it's not as though there isn't a path for a deep March Kentucky run.
Beyond that, looking at their bracket, the No. 1 seed in Kentucky’s East Region, will be Baylor. As terrifying as the defending National Champions are, injuries have ravished a Baylor team that at one point looked too good to repeat as national champions. However, they have lost Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua for the season and leading scorer LJ Cryer has been out since February 16th with a foot injury. With both guys out, Baylor has been playing Division II transfer Dale Bonner about 20 minutes a game, which makes it unclear if this Baylor team has enough in the tank for another deep run. Purdue will be the No. 3 seed in the East, after what felt like a disappointing end to the regular season. The Boilers are only 6-4 in their last 10 games, which included a disappointing effort in Sunday’s Big Ten Title game against Iowa. For a team that has so many Seniors and experienced, it was surprising to see them play so average in the most important time of year.
UCLA as the No. 4 seed will be Kentucky’s biggest threat of getting back to the Final Four, and with that the Wildcats should be very happy with their tournament draw.
5. Texas Tech got as good of a draw, as any No. 3 seed
The under the radar winner of Selection Sunday should be Mark Adams and the Red Raiders. Texas Tech got as good of a draw, as any other No. 3 seed considering their path to an Elite Eight is through Duke and Alabama. Neither has been playing great over the last few weeks, with Duke losing several questionable games (including the ACC title game to Virginia Tech) and Alabama flailing late.
Also, while Tech did end up in the same region as Gonzaga, it is not inconceivable Gonzaga could be knocked out early. The Bulldogs will have a possible matchup with a red-hot Memphis team waiting if they can beat Boise State. In addition, UConn or Arkansas will likely be waiting for them in the Sweet 16, and there won’t be a more difficult path for a No. 1 seed to get to the Final 4 than that.
Texas Tech has gone a little bit under the radar, in the past few weeks while many will doubt them due to offensive struggles. With that being said, Mark Adams' team did play a very solid three days of basketball during the Big 12 Tournament and Kevin McCullar looked as healthy as he’s been in a while.
With McCullar leading the way for a confident Red Raiders team, don’t be shocked to see them in New Orleans.
6. Tough Draws for Mid Major Programs having Good Years
Part of what has made this season so fun, is the number of really good teams in the mid-major ranks. Murray State, Boise State and San Francisco all had historically great seasons - and yet all could not have gotten tougher draws.
Boise State just won the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles, yet will face off against a Memphis team filled with NBA talent in Round 1, then if they win, will face head coach Leon Rice's former boss Mark Few and Gonzaga with a win.
In addition, Murray State and San Francisco will be facing off in the 7/10 game of the East Region. Considering they are both from the mid major ranks, the committee could have given each team a chance at a Power 6 team, instead of guaranteeing that one of them will be out in the first round.
The winner of the game will face off against Kentucky, and while that could be a cool storyline for the state of Kentucky, it is not an ideal draw. If either of these teams ended up in a pod featuring a weaker 2 seed like Duke or Auburn, a run would be much more likely.
7. The Committee will Always Loves the Big Ten
For the second year in a row, the Big Ten received nine bids into the NCAA Tournament which was higher than any other league in both years. This year, there was some doubt around how many teams the league would be getting into the field, due to the fact that Michigan, Indiana and Rutgers all were sweating and not 100 percent sure they were getting in. All three teams did deserve to get in, especially based on Indiana’s late surge in the Big Ten Tournament.
With that being said, Michigan deserved to be in Dayton based on their overall 17-13 record and there was a legitimate argument to leave Rutgers out of the field based on their low metrics, which the committee values. The Big Ten recently added 20 league games, which really inflates the conference's overall strength in metrics and perception.
This is going to be a huge year for the Big Ten after last year’s disappointment, and overall, the league will do much better in March. The fact that this league has not seen a National Champion since Michigan State the Year 2000 has to be hovering over Kevin Warren’s head, especially with so many teams in the field.
How well this league does in March will be one of the more under the radar storylines, going forward.
8. South Dakota State over Providence will be everyone’s upset pick… that won’t happen
There has been a legitimate debate about Providence for the entire season, considering they finished 25-5 overall, but also a staggering 13-2 in games decided by five points or less. In addition, the Friars have been on the top of KenPom’s “Luck” rankings for the entire season, which has been used against them the entire season. Many people felt vindicated for those opinions during this past week's Big East Tournament, when Providence was run off the floor by Creighton, which at one point included a 31-2 run.
Looking ahead, the Friars will draw a red hot South Dakota State team, who has won 18 games in a row and is currently No. 1 in the country in 3 point shooting percentage. Vegas opened the line for this No. 13 vs. No. 4 matchup in the Midwest, at Providence -2.5 and the line has already moved down to -1. Every year in the tournament, there is an upset pick that everyone will pick, that just seems too easy. Last year, it involved another Big East team who was playing shorthanded in Villanova against Winthrop, but instead they ended up making it to the Sweet 16.
As great of a run as Ed Cooley has had as Providence Head Coach, the one thing that he is missing is an NCAA Tournament victory. After the special season that Providence just had, they won’t be upset in the first round, before a possible future matchup with Iowa comes into play.
9. The Committee will Always Find Storylines within the Bracket
Every year when the bracket is revealed, there are certain matchups that will happen in the first round or possibly down the road, with some sort of connection or storyline having to do with the teams playing. For example, Creighton’s Arthur Kaulma will be facing off against his brother Adam Seiko of San Diego State. The committee also placed Duke in the same pod as Michigan State and Davidson. The reason why these are relevant is Duke has refused to schedule Davidson as an in-state rivalry game over the years, similar to how in 2015 Kansas drew Wichita State, after years of refusing to schedule them. The Shockers were able to take their anger out on Kansas, with some clear motivation from the storyline in play.
There is also a first round play in game, between Texas Southern and Texas A & M Corpus Christi, creating a contest between two schools in the same state. With geography being a factor, a lot of times we will see teams from similar areas of the country play, simply because they are forced to. That happened this year with Murray State seeing a potential second round matchup with Kentucky as well.
10. The pod of Arkansas, Vermont, UConn and New Mexico State will be the best cite, of the Opening Weekend
The city of Buffalo is lucky to host four really good teams playing in the No. 4/No. 5 pod West Region. Although Arkansas is a No. 4 seed, that's not really reflective of how they've been playing late. Since January 8th, Arkansas has an overall record of 15-3 including wins over Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee. The Hogs didn’t get an ideal first round matchup, as they will be taking on Vermont. John Becker’s Catamounts finished the season winning eight games in a row, including both of their conference tournament games by over 30 points. Becker has been to the NCAA Tournament four times, but has yet to get out of the Round of 64.
In addition, the matchup of New Mexico State vs UConn should be a battle. Chris Jans has been to the NCAA Tournament twice but like Becker, has yet to make it out of the first round. The last time New Mexico State was in the NCAA Tournament, they gave the same Auburn team that made the Final 4 in 2019 a legitimate game. The Aggies are led by transfer Teddy Allen, who has experience playing at the Power 5 level with West Virginia and Nebraska.
The question of UConn's scoring will be what ultimately decides the fate of this pod. The Huskies have great size and length that could give other teams fits, however the offense failed to get going at times in the Big East Tournament. The Huskies need Adama Sanogo to take over the paint in the absolute worst way. With all four teams going to Buffalo from the West region being really good, it is reasonable to expect any of them to get out of this pod. There will be plenty of chaos, sweat, possible heart attacks and more between these 4 teams.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter @ZacKrull_
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