With two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament in the books, it’s safe to say that this tournament has lived up to the madness. The Michigan State Spartans, a team picked by 22.3% of ESPN Tournament Challenge contestants to win the whole thing, went down in the first round to the 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders; Bronson Koenig rose over Xavier’s Remy Abell to hit a three pointer at the buzzer and kill the Musketeers’ season; Texas A&M overcame a 12-point deficit in the last 44 seconds of regulation, stunning Northern Iowa in double overtime. Based on these highlights, one thing is for sure: there is a lot more madness to come.
In anticipation of the tip-off of the Sweet 16 Thursday night, let’s break down how each of the major conferences have faired so far in the tournament.
Leading the way for the major basketball conferences was the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-12, each sending 7 teams to the 68-team field. The remainder of the field was characterized by 23 teams from smaller conferences who received bids by winning their conference tournament, and and additional 17 teams coming from the Big East, AAC, SEC, A10, and the Missouri Valley Conference.
Sweet 16 Conference Break Down
|ACC (6)||1. North Carolina, 1. Virginia, 3. Miami, 4. Duke, 6. Notre Dame, 10. Syracuse|
|Big 12 (3)||1. Kansas, 2. Oklahoma, 4. Iowa State|
|Big 10 (3)||5. Maryland, 5. Indiana, 7. Wisconsin|
|AAC (1)||2. Villanova|
|Pac 12 (1)||1. Oregon|
|SEC (1)||3. Texas A&M|
|WCC (1)||11. Gonzaga|
Immediately jumping off the page is the dominance of the ACC: All but one (Pittsburgh, who lost to Wisconsin in the first round) are playing in the Sweet 16 this Thursday and Friday. The ACC originally accounted for just over 10% of the field, but in going (13-1) thus far in the tournament they now make up six out of the remaining 16 teams. This marks the second straight year that the ACC has sent the most teams to the Sweet 16, and with 6 teams from the ACC vying to be the national champion this year – the odds are definitely in their favor to reclaim the title.
Average Big 12
Widely considered the best conference in basketball this season, the Big 12 sends a lowly three teams to the Sweet 16. The real disappointment here has to be Bob Huggins’ West Virginia squad that was in great form coming into March Madness, but got absolutely annihilated by the 14th seeded lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin in the opening round. Between that and Texas’ heartbreaking loss to Northern Iowa, the Big 12 lost a lot of the dominance they once held during the regular season. The good news for the Big 12 is that it is sending its two most dominant teams in Kansas and Oklahoma, along with an Iowa State team who won both of its games by double digits. All three of these teams are under senior leadership and should be considered serious contenders for the national championship.
Mayhem from the Big 10
As was the custom during the regular season, the teams of the Big 10 conference were truly unpredictable during March Madness. Last year, the Big 10 sent both Michigan State and Wisconsin to the Final 4 after they faced off against each other in the Big 10 Championship. This year, however, both teams that played in the finals of the Big 10 Championship were eliminated in the first round, as #5 Purdue fell to #12 Little Rock and #2 Michigan State folded to #15 Middle Tennessee State. Only the #5 Maryland Terrapins, #5 Indiana Hoosiers, #7 Wisconsin Badgers remain in the tournament. As the 7-seed, the Badgers might have the most favorable Sweet 16 matchup of the bunch as they face off against the 6-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish, while Maryland and Indiana drew tough bids against seemingly the two best teams left in the field: #1 Kansas and #1 UNC.
It’s looking like the selection committee really got this one wrong. After sending seven teams to the big dance, only two teams made it past the first round and now only Oregon remains. The Pac-12 was hurt by #4 California’s loss of their star players so the selection committee gets a break on that one, but the rest of the quantity of teams that made it from the Pac-12 is quite simply incomprehensible. The selection committee sent 7 teams from a league that only has 4 combined wins against top 25 teams outside of their conference (none of which came on the road) relative to their 12 losses against top 25 teams outside of their conference. This is comparable to the SEC, who only sent 3 teams and managed a 6-19 record according to the same standards.
In addition to the alarming amount of teams that qualified for the big dance from March Madness, there’s also an issue with the seeding of these teams. Many had a problem with the selection committee seeding Oregon as a #1, but the most troublesome was by far the 7-seed that it handed to Oregon State. This is a team that finished in 7th in the Pac-12, was 4-8 against teams ranked in the RPI top 50, and is credited with their best out of conference win against Tulsa. Who knows what the selection committee was thinking, but it’s disappointing that teams like this take chances away from mid-major teams such as Monmouth and Valparaiso who had great seasons, but lost their conference championships.
The Sweet 16 kicks off tonight as #2 Villanova and #3 Miami will face off at 6:10 p.m. CT for the first of eight bids to the next round.
Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report