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The Mega, All-Everything 2016 NCAA Tournament Preview

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

 

But first a word on the Selection Committee.

They blew it.

In spectacular fashion.

Joe Lunardi can tell you exactly how here. All I’ll say is that I’ve watched about a week’s worth of college basketball this year and the inclusion of Tulsa is offensive even to me.

In picking the likes of Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Michigan off a bubble that contained a number of highly likable and well-positioned mid-majors, the committee served to only heighten frustrations with its bias towards reputations and power conferences – and to what end? So we can watch the Commodores put up 37 points against Wichita State?

The bracket is littered with decisions that make no sense. Texas A&M being seeded higher than Kentucky even though the teams had the same conference record and Kentucky beat A&M in the SEC Championship game?

Forget Vanderbilt getting in at all, how about Vanderbilt getting in over South Carolina even though the Gamecocks finished ahead of the Commodores in the SEC standings, overall record, and SEC tournament finish?

A true measure of the idiocy at play here is that Syracuse was selected the likes of Monmouth, St. Bonaventure, Valparaiso, San Diego State, and St. Mary’s partially because the committee decided not to count the games Jim Boeheim was suspended for against the Orange.

We also had Virginia getting a one-seed over Michigan State, even though the Spartans are ranked #2 in the country, won the B1G Tournament, had has knocked Virginia out of the tournament like seven years in a row.  

This was a historically bad performance by the Selection Committee. History shows that rewarding mid-majors – like VCU in 2011 – almost always pays off in every way.

And, finally, a word for our friends at CBS, who destroyed the surest thing in television: The Selection Show.

The great thing about the Selection Show in years past was its speed and lack of circumstance. After weeks of hand ringing, speculation, big games, and predictions, the bracket would come rolling out Sunday afternoon in a single, uncompromising hour.

There was hardly time to breathe. Everyone’s questions were answered at once. Introduction, number one seeds, South, East, Midwest, West, done. It was a can’t-miss formula.

Not this year. This year the show was bloated to two hours, and we waited 1:17 for the bracket to be revealed as CBS interviewed Bill Self and giggled as Charles Barkley struggled with a touchscreen.

The NCAA is getting on the bracket leak – thank God – as CBS picks up the pieces from their worst rated Selection Show in years.

If it’s smart, the network will restore the show to its former glory next year, or, at a minimum, release the full bracket in the first hour of the show and reserve the second hour for analysis.

With that out of the way, let’s turn to the field.

Teams We Like

1. Michigan State. Tom Izzo could get to the Final Four in his sleep.
2. West Virginia. Bob Huggins’ quarter-zip windbreaker look is the greatest thing not named Bill Raftery in this tournament.
3. Texas A&M. Coach Billy Kennedy led the Aggies to the SEC regular season title while battling Parkinson’s. This team is well-rounded and loaded with seniors.
4. St. Joe’s. Phil Martelli looks like Frank Sobotka, has a team that can score at will.
5. Oregon. Don’t sleep on the Ducks. They absolutely pulverized Utah in the Pac-12 tournament championship, and won’t be beat as long as they’re on their game.
6. Kentucky. Tyler Ulis is nails, and, to John Calipari’s credit, the Wildcats are almost always up for the tournament.
7. Miami. Jim Laranaga is the coolest coach going – go to the :48 second mark of this – and he’s got plenty of seniors as well.
8. Kansas. All the metrics say they’re the best team in the country, and they won the best conference at a canter. They’re balanced and deep.
9. Stephan F. Austin. Ludicrously under-seeded as a 14 and playing a tough game against West Virginia, but this team is really damn good, just like they have been the last three years.
10. Butler. They’ve made winning 55-50 in the first round an art form. Long live Butler.
11. Texas. They’re punching above their weight this year, but give me Shaka and a great point guard in the first round. Plus, the Rick Barnes Bounce should give them at least one tournament win.
12. Seton Hall. Tough, hungry team that’s playing really well right now. Plus Kevin Willard fell down during the Big East championship in a moment reminiscent of Ron Hunter falling off his stool last year. Good sign.
13. Stony Brook. They might not beat Kentucky, but they’ll put up a fight. This is a very good team.
14. Northern Iowa. I like Texas, but Northern Iowa has more tournament experience and is led by a player named Wes Washpun. It doesn’t get any better than that.
15. Providence. Steady Eddy Cooley is as good a guy as any to have in your corner, and this team has a lot of pop.
16. Connecticut. Doesn’t seem like a real good time to bet against UConn, does it?
17. Oregon State. Tough as nails.
18. VCU. But so are the Rams. This game could be a classic.
19. Wichita State. I don’t love the Arizona matchup, but because of their early loss in their conference tournament, people are sleeping on the Shockers.

Teams We Don’t Like

1. Tulsa. Anyone who fought for their inclusion in the field should be fired. They’re so under-qualified they weren’t even appearing on the bubble! (Upside: The reappearance of Frank Heath and his wild sense lapel-pin style.)
2. Syracuse. Their inclusion is just disgusting.
3. Wisconsin. Eck.
4. Cincinnati. Double eck. The very definition of mediocrity, year after year.
5. Kansas. But would it really shock anyone if they lost to UConn in the second round?
6. Iowa. Yikes.
7. Temple. If you threw out their record, there’s no way they’d make it into the field. And that’s the terrible thing about this bracket – we have a ton of matchups like Dayton-Syracuse and Iowa-Temple where there are just no good options.
8. Dayton. Speaking of the Flyers, they’ve won a ton of close games this year and I’m a little worried about the physical well being of Archie Miller. Not good.
9. Duke. I actually like Duke a lot, but let’s face it: It’s tough to win with like three players.
10. Indiana. The question is not if they’ll choke, but when.
11. Villanova. Speaking of choking… This team can’t really shoot, and they’re not healthy. Look out.
12. Maryland. They’ve kind of been on a mini-Iowa slide since early February. It’s 50-50 whether they beat South Dakota State.
13. Fresno State. Pretty bad by all metrics. They’re going to need Utah to fall apart in order to have any chance in that game.
14. Texas Tech. They’re riding that Big XII pedigree for all its worth, but the Red Raiders aren’t quite of the caliber as their brethren in the tournament.
15. Vanderbilt. Kevin Stallings is a train-wreck and his team is barely fit for the NIT.

Remember…

- Two (2) number one seeds will make the Final Four. Pick more than that, and you’re not fun. Pick less than that, and you’re courting disaster.

- Don’t fall in love with great defense. Everyone plays passable defense this time of year; the teams who win are the teams who can shoot.

- Betting good coaching is good (Izzo) but betting against bad coaching is often a surer thing.

- Look for the Cinderellas that have won a ton of games. Four and five-loss teams – like Stephan F. Austin – rarely fall apart when the bright lights come on.

That’s all I’ve got. Godspeed, and enjoy the dance!

 

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