Random Rumblings: NCAA Tourney Edition

It's the day after Selection Sunday and I've finally looked at the bracket enough times to realize that it didn't help me at all in trying to figure out a crazy year in college basketball. I've filled out my bracket, which I'll post below, and it's got a lot less chalk than my first impressions bracket I did last night, but a whole lot after the Sweet 16. For as much parity as there is this year, I still think there are about a dozen teams that are better than the rest. Will it play out that way? Probably not. It never does, but I feel more comfortable picking that way and living with the results than kicking myself for an upset bid that dies in the round of 64.

Who's In? Who's Out

On the selection shows, everyone was seemingly happy with the 68 teams selected to participate in this year's tournament. Even more surprisingly Twitter didn't explode with people who were mad and people noticed.
Allow me.

I'm very uncomfortable with the message the committee is sending. The last group of teams out was largely major conference teams with a higher number of quality wins than the mid-majors that got in. I'm thrilled for Kermit Davis and MTSU and at 28-5 they probably deserved to be in but the explanation of "they won on the road" as opposed to Kentucky who "didn't" isn't going to cut it for me.

Beating every team on the road in conference but Arkansas State is impressive in the realm of the Sun Belt, however there is no shining road victory on MTSU's resume. The Blue Raiders don't have anything close to Big Blue Nation's win over Ole Miss or even the 3 point loss to #1 overall seed Louisville (albeit without Nerlens Noel). The much more accurate argument is Kentucky consistently lost on the road (Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, etc) while MTSU just didn't lose.

While MTSU should've gotten in over Kentucky and in looking at all the major "snubs" I can't really complain about anybody in particular, I'm nervous about the path we're headed down. When we talk about scheduling, it works both ways. If Middle schedules Kentucky, UK has to agree to the game and it's on their schedule, but then we whine about them playing a team from the Sun Belt. I'm all for those games and they should happen and Kentucky should supplement that game with some from the Big 10, ACC, etc. However if a major team's non-conference schedule isn't chalked full of juggernauts we shouldn't freak out. They're gonna play a major conference opponent every night of their conference season because they're in a major conference. That said, the major conferences are down and some of the mid-majors are up so that accounts for some of the difference.

In the end you have to play somebody and some of these teams didn't. More importantly the last teams out consistently loss to not so great teams in their league and didn't prove they could go on the road and win. Yes MTSU was beating South Alabama, but they beat them in the conference on the road. If the committee proved anything it's that you just have to win. As long as we don't lose site of the conference schedules and wins and over-obsess on the non-conference scheduling no matter win or lose, than I'm cool. I can see that path coming though and I don't want to go down it.

The Actual Snubs

There are legitimate gripes about seeding and no one's is louder than Oregon. The Ducks were leading the Pac-12 when their starting point guard Dominic Arits went out with an injury. He came back and they won the conference tournament. So they get a 12? I know the Pac-12 isn't the Big 10 but holy shnikes that's a terrible job by the committee.

North Carolina also has a gripe as an 8, especially since they get Kansas in the 2nd round if they beat Villanova. The Heels finished strong and how you're playing is supposed to matter, especially since the uptick came after a lineup change. The Heels didn't really beat anybody this year, especially on the road but they deserve better than an 8 based on their RPI. Interestingly enough their BPI is 32 which would put them as the top #8 seed so I don't think it's a travesty, but they should be higher. In other words, they shouldn't be a #4 seed but the Heels deserve a #6 or 7 when you account for the solid play to end the year. For more on RPI go here. For BPI (which I prefer cause it's better), go here.

Other seeding snubs: Pittsburgh is the most under-seeded per their KenPom.com ranking which uses efficiency stats amongst other things to rank the teams (great tidbit from Gary Parrish). The Panthers are really staunch defensively but at times have a lot of trouble scoring (at others they score at will...like when they play DePaul who the hung 90+ on this year). If Pitt makes it to the Sweet 16 and faces Wisconsin there's potential for a game in the 30's that those who opposed the shot clock would be proud of.

5 Observations from March

Conference tournaments allow us to see teams we hear about a ton but don't really get to watch especially when we have plug into the wall cable that doesn't even get ESPN2. So as I watched some of these teams here are some things I noticed:

  1. If you have a kid who wants to play basketball, watch Creighton and teach him how to play like Doug McDermott. The way he moves without the ball is perfect. He makes every cut like he's demanding the basketball but doesn't get upset with his teammates if he doesn't get it. That amount of urgency makes his defender constantly on edge as well as all the help because you think he's always getting the ball. Once he gets the ball he's the whole package - inside and outside - which isn't surprising from a coach's son.
  2. Tony Snell can really go. The wing from New Mexico was spectacular in the Mountain West title game. Every time the Lobos needed a big shot, he took it and made it. I want to watch him again in the big dance and I think we'll get to for multiple games.
  3. Bill Self owns Bruce Weber. I wrote about this after Kansas and Kansas State played in Manhattan but the strategic advantage KU has over K-State is astonishing. It helps that the Jayhawks have the athletes to pull it off but everything I wrote about in January proved true again in the Big 12 championship game.
  4. I have zero clue what to make of the Big 10. The best player is Trey Burke but can he carry a team who's other key players are all not only freshman but often still play like freshman? I don't know. A close 2nd is Victor Oladipo and 3rd is Cody Zeller and they play together and I don't know how they ever lose but they lost 3 of their last 6 so there's that. Wisconsin is a KenPom.com top 10 team and on Parrish's list to possibly win it all. They play such a unique style but have zero star power. Michigan State is always good in March. I know this is the best conference but after an entire regular season I still can't figure it out.
  5. Confession: I love Otto Porter. And by love I mean I never ever want to see him play Syracuse again. The guy's just good. I'm supposed to hate him because he goes to Georgetown but I like basketball too much and now that I'm pretty sure Cuse won't play the Hoyas again, I'm allowed to like him. It took everything Cuse had to beat him and no matter how they tried to shut him down he controlled the game. Syracuse won because James Southerland was hotter than Phoenix in July but if I've got the #1 pick in the draft I take a serious look at Porter if I need a wing depending on what other pieces I have. A team like Cleveland who has a star already in Kyrie Irving would be a perfect fit for Porter.

My Bracket:

No further introduction. In case you want to know...here's what I got as of now. Which is Monday night.

Hoping to do a podcast tomorrow explaining my picks. For now just let them wash over you.

Survive and Advance

Last night ESPN debuted their newest 30 for 30 documentary and it was spectacular for so many reasons. First and foremost the story telling was tremendous as guys like Dereck Whittenburg and Terry Gannon retold the storybook 1983 run by their NC State team to a title. I never knew that Jim Valvano was the creator of the fouling in late games to extend the game strategy. I never knew that the NCAA let conferences pick their own 3 point line distance. I don't think I realized just how good that Phi Slamma Jamma Houston team was. I learned a ton.

However more important than what I learned is what I had reenforced and that is that Jim Valvano was just a different human being and the world would be a better place if there were more of us like him. So many of us often say the things that Jim would but how many of us live them like he did?

I could write forever on Jimmy V because inspired doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about him and this isn't anything new. I'll simply say this - last night I was reminded about Valvano's most important message: to dream. Jimmy V wasn't afraid to dream and then had the drive, love and passion to work towards making those dreams a reality. I've been unemployed for over 3 months now and yet I'm unchanged in my dreams. Some days are harder than others, but I know I've surrounded myself with people who believe in me and on those rough days they won't let me give up on my dreams. As Jimmy V said, "don't give up, don't ever give up." After a weekend where I found out some of the opportunities I thought I had the best chances at were going other directions, it was reenforcement I was happy to hear.

What's Next?

As I said, some things I had in the works are unfortunately no longer in the works so life in Lawrence continues. I have picked up a temporary reporting gig for the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City covering Wisconsin's Scout.com site so expect to see Badger stories the rest of the week on Twitter. Some will be free and some will be premium and thus require a Scout.com subscription. Other than that, I'm still looking for my next radio gig so if you know anyone looking for a more than capable host willing to move anywhere, please send them here and have them contact me here.

On this site this week I'm really excited about the article I'm planning for Wednesday. I'm going to go through every 1st round game and give one nugget on it. This could be some random thing I find/heard or more likely a player to watch. It's somewhat of a challenge for me to see if I know something about at least one of the teams in each game but it's the ultimate tourney primer if you need something around the water cooler or wherever you're hiding watching in the office watching games Thursday and Friday instead of working. I'm going to start it tomorrow and might post the first half so stay tuned.

Bonus because it's awesome:

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber dated for a while. Now they're not. Bieber's kinda going off the rails. Selena is still trucking on, very comfortable with where she is in life. She also has a new movie out which has her on the promo trail and on Letterman tonight she fired a zinger that I didn't know she had in her and it was spectacular.

There is no follow up. That's all I got.