For some folks, it's just your average Sunday. For college basketball fans, it might as well be Christmas.
The annual CBS presentation of Selection Sunday makes already giddy college basketball fanatics go crazy and for good measure. Thousands of people mill around the television, paper brackets in hand, ready to fill out the placement of their most loved and hated teams, hoping to find the next George Mason or the next Butler. There are always a few surprises, but naturally some are left disappointed. It's a day with unbelievable magnetism and the start of one of America's greatest sporting traditions: March Madness.
With Seton Hall clearly out of the running this year, this doesn't mean we shouldn't be watching the tournament. The way some conference tournaments have been shaping up, all signs point toward a big dance we won't soon forget. With this year having one of the weaker bubbles we have seen in a long time, I think it makes this Selection Sunday a bit more interesting, so let's get right down it. Here are my musings about this weekend's holy day of sporting obligation.
The #1 Seeds
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
In a tournament where a 1 seed has never been knocked off by a lowly 16, the seeding at the very top is vital. Any team would love to have that top placement in the bracket but unfortunately only four teams will be given the honor.
I think to be given a 1 seed, you have to have two key characteristics: an impressive resume and consistency. All four teams above have shown both this year in a number of ways. That final 1 seed is up in the air at this point, especially given the fact that Pittsburgh lost their first and only Big East tournament game to Connecticut. The committee is very 'what have you done for me lately' oriented so it will be interesting to see if Pittsburgh will be punished for their poor conference tournament showing, regardless of their impressive regular season performance.
Ohio State is the clear cut top seed having eclipsed the 30 win mark after a 22-0 showing to start the season. Their only losses on the season have come against a solid (Robbie Hummel-less) Purdue squad and a perhaps overachieving Wisconsin team.
Kansas will lock up a 1 seed as well after a typical Jayhawk season, finishing with only two losses, and playing some of the year's best team basketball. Their two losses were at the hands of a surging Kansas State bunch and a Texas team who might be able to sneak in over Pittsburgh for the final 1 seed if they manage to defeat Kansas in today's Big 12 tournament final.
Notre Dame, despite bowing out to Louisville in last night's Big East semifinals, also looks to be well on their way to a 1 seed, which would be their first since 1979. Despite six losses, all of which came to teams who were ranked at some point during the season, the Irish have been neck and neck with Pittsburgh as the Big East's most consistent team. Their schedule was no walk in the park either, having played 16 tournament bound teams between the non-conference and Big East schedule.
After the jump, I'll tell you which bubble teams are in, which are out, who deserves to be where they are, and some mid-majors to keep on your radar come tournament time.
Selection Sunday Quick Hits
- Which team deserving of an at-large birth will be left out?
Harvard. I have no problem allowing two Ivy League teams in the tournament this year especially given how tough the competition was this year in the conference. They have never had an at-large bid, but there is a first for everything and I think Harvard deserves a bid over some major conference bottom feeders that might be allowed it.
- Which team will undeservedly have their NCAA Tournament ticket punched?
St. Mary's. The way the bubble looks this year, several will be undeserving. However I think the one team that might be allowed in even though they really shouldn't be is St. Mary's. They have defeated nobody of merit this year and were beaten by Gonzaga twice this season. I think people are too wrapped up in the St. Mary's Gaels of old and aren't paying attention to the current team. They're going to be in, but they really shouldn't be.
- Which team will benefit the most from their seeding?
Connecticut. Winning the Big East Tournament is a wonderful achievement, however when you play five games in five days before the big dance, you're bound to tire out just a little bit. Even with the Huskies' young legs, they should be exhausted by now and in the next few days rest will be key. I think winning the Big East title moves them up to a 2 seed which is much better than the 4 seed they were looking at beforehand. It places them in a more winnable game rather than having them grind out another tough matchup. The difference between a 2 seed and a 4 seed? As a 2, they play the likes of St. Peter's and Northern Colorado. As a 4 seed, they would play someone like Oakland, Belmont, or Indiana St. The major difference: avoiding the always present 13/4 upset and an early first round exit.
- Which team hurt itself and will receive a poor seed?
Brigham Young. A team once being discussed as a possible 1 seed is now hanging on to a 3 seed for dear life. Don't get me wrong, a 3 seed is nothing to scoff at; but having lost their top rebounder Brandon Davies after a University honor code violation, the Cougars will have to rely heavily on Jimmer Fredette (even more so than usual). The Jimmer's 52 point barrage sure looked great on the highlight reel, but in the end it just proves that without him, BYU would be in a world of trouble. The team won by 11 points and scored 87 total points in the game. That means with Jimmer's 52, he scored almost 60% of his team's points. Yikes. That's a heavy load for one person to handle. Their Mountain West final loss to San Diego State set them back one full seed which begs the question: are the Cougars even as good as we thought they were?
The Bubble: Who's In?
Virginia Tech is in.
Nobody is happier for head coach Seth Greenberg than I am right now assuming his team's ticket is punched, which I think it will be. A team who is perhaps the biggest benefactor of a weak bubble, the Hokies have very few signature wins to hang their hats on, including a victory over Duke and a conference defeat of Florida State. The story with this team also comes in their losses. Three point losses to both Purdue and North Carolina are hard to handle when you're fighting for your tournament life, however in a year where no bubble team has been overly impressive, the Hokies will more than likely be assured a spot in the field after winning two conference tournament games. Their victory over tournament bound Florida State (even without top scorer Chris Singleton) last night was one to remember, as Greenberg literally cried tears of sadness when he thought Derwin Kitchen of the Seminoles had buried Tech with a buzzer beating jumper; tears which soon became happy tears after the shot was waved off. After a rough couple of years sitting on the bubble, the Hokies finally look to be set for the 12 seed play-in game to start the tournament.
Michigan State is in.
I don't know how Tom Izzo does it, but it happens every year. This March proved to be the Spartans at their finest once again as Izzo's underachieving Michigan State squad finally burst through the bubble surrounding them and stepped back on to the scene. The Spartans were in a bad way not too long ago, going 8-9 combined in the months of January and February, including two losses to Michigan and a beatdown at the hands of Iowa. With a fairly sound resume, built perfectly for a weak bubble, they solidified their ticket to the big dance with a convincing 18 point drubbing of Purdue in the Big Ten conference tournament quarterfinals. You have to think the Spartans will be in come Sunday.
Georgia is in.
Georgia is a team I enjoyed watching over the course of the season and is one of the more qualified bubble teams, having no bad losses to its credit with a couple of solid wins. The Bulldogs fell victim to a bit of poor coaching yesterday when coach Mark Fox committed a cardinal coaching sin, calling a timeout with the game tied and under three seconds to go. After Alabama tied the game with just four ticks on the clock, the Bulldogs decided to run while Alabama's defense was in disarray and scored what would have been the game winning bucket if it had not been for coach Fox calling an unnecessary timeout with 0.8 seconds to go. Georgia lost the game in overtime, but that won't put a damper on what they have done over the long haul of the season. They posted a solid 21-11 record with a 9-7 conference record in the SEC East, the tougher of the two divisions, with quality wins over Kentucky, Colorado, and Tennessee. Having played a rather tough out of conference schedule, the Bulldogs put themselves in a good position to go dancing and I think they have done enough to warrant it.
The Bubble: Who's Out?
UAB is out.
Conference-USA proved to be one of the worst upper tier mid major conferences in the country this season and as a result, I think the UAB Blazers will be on the outside looking in. The 22-8 record may fool some people, but I'm not buying into it. With zero impressive wins to their name, the Blazers really haven't done much to warrant an at-large bid to the tournament. I appreciate consistency and it's always great to win your regular season conference title, but having lost to fellow Pirates, Eastern Carolina, in the first round of the Conference-USA tournament, I'm finally giving up on UAB. The talent may be there, but the resume certainly isn't, and that's why the Blazers will be very disappointed this weekend.
Missouri State is out.
Shocking, I know, but all signs point to the Missouri State Bears missing the last train to the dance, and deservedly so. The fact that Missouri State was even in the bubble conversation at all is a testament to how poor this year's fringe teams actually were. With a 25-8 mark in the fledgling Missouri Valley Conference, the Bears have zero impressive wins and a bad loss to Evansville. Their only shot at avoiding obscurity was defeating Tennessee back in November, but the four point loss to the Volunteers does them no favors. The only shot Missouri State had at dancing was by winning their conference tournament, but losing to tournament bound Indiana St. in the title game was the final straw in what looks to be nothing more than a solid regular season for Missouri State.
USC is out.
Yet another weak bubble team, the USC Trojans had a chance to put themselves back into the mix yesterday but ultimately came up a little too short in a loss to Arizona in the Pac 10 conference tournament. Finishing 19-14 overall and 10-8 in a down Pac-10, the Trojans hold three impressive wins to their name: Texas, UCLA, and Arizona. While the wins were impressive, the losses were not. They suffered non conference defeats at the hands of Rider and abysmal teams such as Bradley and TCU. Poor conference losses to Oregon and Oregon State didn't really help much either. The bubble is weak, but not weak enough to let USC into the tournament.
Remaining Bubble Teams
I predict the following teams will be IN:
- Penn State
I think Colorado is an easy choice to be in here compared to the rest of the bubble. They should be able to solidify an 11 or 12 seed with a hot finish to the season. Alabama's resume may just be impressive enough to sneak them in, but that's a close one. I wouldn't be shocked if they didn't make it either, so I'm putting my credibility on the line there. Penn State, regardless of how badly they get demolished by Ohio State in today's Big Ten title game, should be in one of the first round play-in games so count them as in for now.
I predict the following teams will be OUT:
- Boston College
Clemson is being predicted by ESPN as in the tournament right now, but when push comes to shove it doesn't look like their resume holds up. Only one good win and a couple of silly losses place them on the same side of the bubble as Boston College. Speaking of Boston College, there is no doubt in my mind they will miss out this time around. Again...no good wins and several bad losses. Boston College has to be on the outside looking in. Harvard is a really interesting case. Their RPI is 32 and they have zero bad losses, but losing to Princeton in the Ivy League play-in game really kind of popped their bubble. The sad part about them not being in is that I personally think they deserve to be in over some of the ridiculously weak bubble teams, but I don't know if the selection committee will feel the same way, so for now they are out too.
Mid-Majors to Watch
Predicted Seed: 13
I really like this Golden Grizzlies squad going into the tournament. They played a bunch of tough non-conference opponents, many of which were ranked, en route to a 25-9 overall record and a dominant 17-1 conference mark. A team that boasts several outside shooters with good range who shoot for a high percentage, mixed with NBA bound big man Keith Benson inside make Oakland a tough out this year. They will most likely be placed in a 13 seed this Sunday which means they very well could face a Big East squad like Louisville or Syracuse in the first round, putting bracket predicters around the country in a debacle for the ages.
Predicted Seed: 12
Another team who likes to spread the ball out and can score at will, the Bruins walked away with the Atlantic Sun conference title this year, finishing 30-4 overall with a conference record of 19-1. Belmont's strong suit isn't just winning, but winning convincingly as they routinely toppled opponents by 20 points or more this season. The Bruins play 12 guys regularly which means teams with thin benches must be prepared to out hustled, out muscled, and out worked all night long. They also boast pretty above average size for a small conference team. The Bruins are no slouches and could very well earn a 12 seed this Selection Sunday. Depending on the seeding, they could face teams like Arizona, Cincinnati, Kansas State, or Xavier in the first round.
Big East Seeding
Since we are a Big East team blog, it's pertinent to note the probably Big East seeds for this Sunday. As of right now, here is what it looks like: