- Jason King
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Members of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee made a crucial mistake before allowing its 2012 bracket to be released on national television Sunday.
They didn’t run it by me first.
Given a chance to analyze the 68-team field, I could’ve easily pointed out the flaws and poor decisions that have already caused a stir throughout college basketball circles. Players have coaches, writers have editors, blackjack dealers have pit bosses.
If only the committee would’ve realized it needed someone like me. A supervisor, a don to make sure everything went smoothly.
Here are some things I would’ve changed about this year’s bracket if I were “King of the Committee.”
I hate that Wichita State and Virginia Commonwealth are playing in the opening round. The fifth-seeded Shockers are the best mid-major team in the tournament and VCU is a fan favorite after reaching the Final Four last season. It’s a shame one of these schools will be out after just one game. No offense Shaka Smart and the No. 12 seed Rams, but I’m picking Wichita State in this one. I think Gregg Marshall’s squad will advance all the way to the Sweet 16.
Does West Virginia really deserve a No. 10 seed? The Mountaineers have lost eight of their last 12 games, and their only wins during that stretch were against DePaul, Providence, Pittsburgh and South Florida. I’m not saying Bob Huggins’ squad didn’t earn its bid. But this seemed a bit generous.
I’ve got to think that a more than a handful of people choked on their cheese puffs when committee chair Jeff Hathaway said during a live interview that Missouri was the fourth No. 2 seed behind Kansas, Duke and Ohio State. Seriously, at what point does the “eyeball factor” come into play? The Tigers are 30-4 and completely dominated a strong Baylor team in the championship game of the Big 12 tournament Saturday. Sure, Missouri’s non-conference strength of schedule was poor. But to imply Frank Haith’s squad would’ve been a No. 3 seed had it lost on Saturday is concerning.
Speaking of the eyeball factor, did no one on the committee watch Detroit annihilate Horizon League regular-season champion Valparaiso on its home court last week? This is a team with a McDonald’s All-American at point guard and a center (Eli Holman) who will make a living playing pro ball somewhere. The only reason Detroit has 13 losses is because Holman missed the first semester while on suspension. In terms of pure talent and potential, Detroit could be the best No. 15 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament. If No. 2 seed Kansas plays tight — remember Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa and VCU? — an upset isn’t out of the question. If I’m Bill Self, I’m ticked right now.
I’m not sure I agree with the committee’s decisions regarding a few SEC teams. Alabama finished fifth in the league with a 9-7 record and has suspended its second-best player (Tony Mitchell) for the remainder of the season. The Crimson Tide lost all of their marquee conference games against Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. I’m not sure they deserve a No. 9 seed. Florida has lost four of its last five games, but three of them were to Vanderbilt and Kentucky (twice). The Gators played an excellent non-conference schedule that included road games against Ohio State and Syracuse. A No. 7 seed seems too low.
Not many teams were as disappointed Sunday as Creighton, which received a No. 8 seed despite going 28-5 and winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. If they get by Alabama in the first round, a matchup with North Carolina awaits. And while it would be neat to see Doug McDermott face off against his former high school teammate (Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes), Creighton is not athletic enough or good enough defensively to challenge Roy Williams’ squad.
I probably would’ve found a way to include Drexel in the field, although I can’t really argue with the committee’s “last four teams in.” Iona is the one that evokes some question marks, but its strength of schedule was much better and, selfishly, I’m looking forward to seeing Michael Glover, Scott Machado and MoMo Jones do their thing on a national stage.
The last thing I’d do if I were the “King of the Committee” is clock out early and take my underlings out for an adult beverage or four. Despite a few minor head-scratchers, the group did an excellent job with this season’s bracket. The committee members’ task is never easy, but this season things were likely even more difficult. There was so much parity in college basketball this season, so many teams outside of the top 10 with similar resumes and strengths and weaknesses. Producing a bracket that left little room for debate was a tough chore, but this year, the committee managed to pull it off. Maybe this group didn’t need a king after all.