Sunday, March 17, 2013
Joe Lunardi's first bracket impressions
By Joe Lunardi
The art and science of the NCAA tournament selection and seeding process were on full display this year. Those looking for a consistent standard applied to all teams were again disappointed. The rest of us accept that there are many ways to skin this cat and applaud the men's basketball committee for making systematic sense of one of the most chaotic seasons ever.
There is one obvious error in the bracket -- a rematch of the UNLV-Cal regular-season game -- but that was linked to the committee's only significantly missed seed. Oregon is way under-seeded as a No. 12, which put two Pac-12 teams in play for slots in San Jose. I'm all for minimizing travel and giving a school's fans the best chance to see games in person, but not when it creates a competitive disadvantage.
The committee missed on Oregon by four to six lines, which is a major blunder, and a disservice to both the Ducks and their opponent, Oklahoma State. Cal should be in Oregon's spot, avoiding the UNLV rematch and bumping Oregon up where it belongs.
The rest of the hand-wringing is coming from predictable places. In particular, Virginia, Maryland and Iowa are bragging about their big wins and bemoaning the inclusion of Middle Tennessee and La Salle. But here's the thing: Every year, and I mean every year, the committee excludes bubble teams with awful nonconference schedules. Agree or disagree, but the practice is clear (and correct).
It's one thing to "buy" games and wins, and another to buy your way into the tournament. When you schedule to not lose, nobody wins. Unless teams are required to meet certain scheduling standards -- including road games -- the committee has no choice but to do its best with unequal comparisons. And, while I would like to have seen MTSU win another "up" game or two, I'll take that over what amounts to avoiding any chance of losing six or eight or 10 times a year.
Now, the dreaded picks ...
My preseason Final Four was Louisville, Florida, Gonzaga and Michigan. That can't happen with Florida and Michigan both playing in the South Region. So I'll keep the first three and add Miami as my East Region pick. Take it one step further, and I'll keep the same national championship game -- Louisville over Florida -- that I had in November.