The Tuesday before the NCAA Tournament probably constitutes one of the quietest days of the college basketball season. This is the peace after the screaming diatribes of snubbed teams and bad seeds as well as the calm before the massive storm of anticipation culminating in that first tip off on Thursday. I have surveyed the bracket and made the cursory "gut instinct" run through before I get into real contemplation of which teams I should pick. And since everyone finds it humorous when people do phony awards for various subjects I thought I would do the same.
The "Please Pay More Attention to the Non-Conference Teams We Played and Not Our Poor Excuse for a Conference" Award goes to: Memphis and Gonzaga
Has there ever been two higher seeded teams to come from worse conferences? Probably so, but Memphis did not even make the NCAA a year ago(but won the NIT) and Gonzaga had better tournaments when they were a #10 seed. Conference USA and the WCC are horrible conferences. Well Conference USA used to be good until the Big East stripped them of their quality teams. The fact of the matter is both these teams are good but conference play against lesser opponents on a nightly basis can take the edge off. Gonzaga should have blown every team they played out in their conference tournament considering it was on their HOME FLOOR!!! They won because 12-18 Loyola Marymount big man Chris Ayer somehow missed a layup that would have beaten the Zags. Memphis had a much better showing than that and in both cases they played some honest to good team early in the season. Having gone so long without playing at an elite level could come back to bite them and early in the Dance.
The "Wow We Got More Teams in Than Any Other Conference in History Because We Have Too Many Teams To Count" Award goes to: The Big East Conference
I am really humored when the media makes a big deal about someone breaking some worthless record even though it would have been impossible for them no to break it given certain circumstances. The Big East became the first conference to place eight teams in the NCAA Tournament which might have been impressive if the conference did not have sixteen teams in it! I mean this is ludicrous to act like 8 teams from a conference which is big enough to be two conferences getting into the NCAA Tournament is some kind of grand accomplishment. The Big East got 50% of its teams into the Tournament. The Big Ten got 6 of its 11 teams into the Dance which is a 54% of its teams. There have been years where the ACC has gotten six out of nine into the tournament which is 66% of that conference at the time. And considering the Big East essentially stole most of their new teams from Conference USA it would have been a major embrassament not to get at least eight in. Except that only one of the former C-USA schools got into the tournament out of the Big East, so yes it is a huge embarassment anyway. Congratulations to the Big East, they accomplished very little by bringing all those teams in.
The "I Cannot Believe We Got Seeded Second" Award goes to: Bruce Pearl, Tennessee
Did you see the look on Bruce Pearl's face when they announced that despite finishing the season 7-4 in their last eleven games and losing to NIT bound South Carolina in the SEC Tournament? Tennessee was awarded--scratch that--that were endowed with the #2 seed in the East. How does that happen? Was the RPI that good and important? Did the committee only watch game tapes from the first half of the season? Who knows, but it is important to remember that when the committee hauls off and shows this kind of magnanimous favor to one team, the inevitably shaft someone else in the process which leads us to....
The "Nice End of Season Run and Great Play in Your Conference Tournament, But You Still are Going to be Underseeded" Award goes to: Boston College
Now I complained at first about UNC being sent to Dayton instead of being allowed to go to Greensboro. Boston College got it far worse than that. BC has won 15 of their last 17 games. They beat UNC which is seeded above them, they almost beat Duke which is the overall #1 seed in the whole tournament and how do you think the committee might treat them? Close subregional site? #2 seed at best or a high #3 at worse? Friday-Sunday games to give them some extra rest? No, nada, zip, zero. Instead of doing at least one of those things, if not two to reward a team which is playing well, the selection committee decided to slate them as #4 seed and put them on a plane to Salt Lake City for two potential games against west coast teams in the Thursday-Saturday draw after they played Duke on Sunday. On top of that, as the #4 seed they will draw the #1 seed in the Sweet 16 assuming both get that far. If I am Boston College I would be asking what I had to do to get a better seed? Would beating Duke had been enough or would it require an undefeated record? In this case the committee seemed stuck on BC's 0-3 ACC start and did not account for the last 17 games as evidence of their actual abilities. In other cases they seemed to focus on a few games on the resume and made decisions based on that like....
The "It is Amazing What Winning Four Straight Games in Your Conference Tournament Can Do To Make People Forget How Crappy You Were All Season" Award goes to: Syracuse
In Syracuse's next to last regular season game they lost to 12-15 Depaul by 39 points! And then lost to Villanova by 10 to finish 7-9 in the vaunted Big East and an overall record of 19-11. The only quality win the Orange had was beating West Virginia at home. They played almost every cupcake they could find with the exception of Florida. So what happens? They squeaked out a win over Cinncinati in the 1st round, they beat UConn in overtime by two, Georgetown by one, and Pittsburgh by four. Four wins by a total of eight points and they receive an automatic bid. In fact it is such a stunning accomplishment the selection committee decided it was the only four games Syracuse played all year long and handed them a five seed! How can the committee substitute a four game winning streak for a season's worth of mediocrity and place them on such a high line? I have no idea but I hope Texas A&M makes their own Orange crush.
The "George W. Bush Hard Work" Award goes to: The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee
The first qualifying remark people always use before proceeding to bash the seedings is what a difficult job the committee has in placing the field. And do not misunderstand me, I think it is probably complicated work and there are issues which may not be publicly acknowledged which make it even more complicated than it seems to be. On the other hand every media outlet in the known world publishes mock brackets every week for the last six weeks of the season, so in reality how difficult can it be. Yes, it is unlikely you can make everyone happy, but there is no excuse for some of the nonsense we got this year. How does Air Force get in without beating an RPI top 50? Why do you simply hand the Missouri Valley Conference four bids just because they use non-conference scheduling to vault five teams into an great RPI position which in turn created a self sustaining cycle of RPI viability? How is it, in UNC's case, you ignore two rules in your handbook, one concerning the location of a higher seed and the other prohibiting rematches of previous year's tournament games in the first two rounds?(UNC played Michigan St in last season's Final Four and could play them again in the second round.) And how is it that you can completely mis-seed so many teams as though you had never seen them play or if you did it was either their worst or best games of the season? Yes, I know it is hard to arrange 65 teams on a bracket which I why you will never see such a thing on this blog, I just do not have the time to sort that out. However, if all these other guys can do it, surely 10 men with years of experience in intercollegiate athletics can figure out something better than the bracket before us today.
Check back tommorrow for my Final Four picks and other musings on what I think is going to happen this weekend.
Copyright 2006, BCB