The field is set.
People across the nation now have permission to create any bracket combination they desire, many of which will be total disasters and will be busted by the Thursday night. But that’s the beauty of this time of year. Make 10 brackets. 20 brackets. Spend every minute of the next 48 hours making brackets (test on Wednesday? Presentation at work? Bah, this is Opening Round week). If you made a bracket a minute, you could get almost get 3,000 completed. Congratulations, you now have a 3.33e-16 chance at a perfect bracket. Take those odds.
But what did we learn from the unveiling of the bracket?
We learned what we already knew. There was heartbreak from the teams who just missed the cut, jubilation from first-time participants, and that just about zero people agree with the committee. All inevitable results, let’s take a look at some hits and misses of Selection Sunday.
Hit: Teams in the field
The committee did a fantastic job of selecting the teams in the field–every team was deserving, and perhaps the only misstep was the exclusion of Illinois State. We’re in for a couple of great match-ups in the first four, with Kansas State taking on Wake Forest, and a rematch of last year’s 8-9 match-up between USC and Providence. To the committee: well done on the bubble teams. A majority of the analysts are up in arms about leaving out Syracuse–it was the correct move. Syracuse only won TWO games away from home, and they killed their chances by losing their first ACC tournament game.
Miss: Big Ten
The committee stepped up to the plate, wound up, and struck out swinging when it came to seeding the Big Ten. It was almost as if they pulled pieces of paper with names out of a hat.
First, hopefully it will motivate the Wisconsin seniors to come out fired up after they were sunk to the 8-seed. But that was certainly not the only mishap while seeding the Big Ten. Purdue won the Big Ten outright, and though they lost their first tournament game, the 4-seed is an appropriate position. After that, the committee dropped the ball right on their metaphorical foot. Minnesota at the five spot is one of the biggest mistakes of this year. It’s not the 5th seed, either, so much as the fact that it is two seeds above Michigan and three seeds above Wisconsin. To have Maryland and Minnesota over Wisconsin and Michigan is a travesty, given Wisconsin’s success against both teams in the regular season and Michigan’s fantastic run through the Big Ten tournament. And to add insult to injury, Northwestern is the same seed as Wisconsin, and one seed below Michigan.
Hit: One Seeds
The committee got it right in terms of the one seeds. Villanova was the clear overall number one, finishing the year 31-3 with a Big East regular season and tournament title. Kansas didn’t end the year well, falling to TCU in their first Big 12 tournament match-up, but one can’t deny the consistency of the Jayhawks. They will be a tough out. Though Gonzaga may not be considered the strongest team, they won both regular season and tournament titles, and they’re 32-1. That spells one seed. Lastly we come to North Carolina–arguably the most controversial one seed, many expected it to be between UNC and Duke. Arizona should have been considered, but there was no chance the committee intended to leave out an ACC team in the number one seed conversation.
Miss: Consistency in placing weight on conference tournaments.
We may never know how the committee values conference tournaments. Based on Sunday’s seedings, it’s all over the place. Teams such as Duke and Iowa State were rewarded for their conference tournament success. Other teams that made runs in the tournament–Wisconsin, Notre Dame, SMU–somehow went down after their conference tournaments, while teams that lost before the final–Louisville, Florida State, Minnesota, Baylor, Maryland–stayed put. If the committee is going to disregard the value of reaching the conference tournament final/winning the conference tournament, these teams that played on Saturday and Sunday would be better off throwing in the towel and getting more rest if they’re going to go down for winning (this is, of course, absurd–players love playing for conference pride–but it’s intended to make a point). Note to teams next year: want a better seed? Finish high in the regular season.