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Analyzing the Selecion Committee/Opening Round game
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 18, 2008
MY SCORES

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

-I was 13-17 in picking the conference tournament winners. This is the first time since Iíve been doing this that I ever finished below .500. Some of them were as improbable as anything thatís ever happened during Championship week. I never get them all right, but generally there are only one or two results that really surprise me. This year there were five.

Mississippi Valley State was second in the SWAC standings, so it isnít too shocking that they won the conference tournament, but they were four games behind first place Alabama State. They split during the season, so a Mississippi Valley State win over Alabama State wouldnít have been too surprising, but a Jackson State win over Alabama State sure was. Thatís what happened and my pick was eliminated. They also nearly pulled another upset over MVSU in the championship game.

Mount Saint Maryís and Coppin State will face off in the opening round game, and I didnít have either one winning their conference tournament. Mount Saint Maryís upset both Robert Morris and Sacred Heart on the road to win the Northeast Conference. Robert Morris won 27 games, which is the most ever for a team to not make the NCAA Tournament. Coppin State did finish the season with quite a bit of momentum so I guess I shouldnít have been too surprised, but it was still shocking to see them win the MEAC. On February 4th they were 2-19 against div1 teams, and they are the first 20 loss team to ever make the NCAA Tournament.

Texas Arlington finished the season by losing five of their last seven games and earned the #7 seed in the Southland Tournament. I thought Stephen F. Austin would run away with it, but somehow Texas Arlington went on a run and won the automatic bid.

Of course, the most improbable result of all was Georgia winning the SEC Tournament. Had I picked them to win prior to that tournament starting I may have been fired right on the spot. They won four games in four days, and three games in two days to win the SEC. Their win total in the conference tournament matched their regular season win total in conference play.


CRITIQUING THE SELECTION COMMITTEE

-As for the NCAA Tournament field, I ended up with 64 out of 65 teams, and had 57 within one of the actual seed if I counted correctly. I had Illinois State in instead of Oregon, but Oregon was my next team to make it, and I actually had them in the bracket until Georgia won the SEC Tournament. Iím not surprised at all by that selection, but I was sort of surprised that they got a #9 seed. The top three teams from a given conference cannot be put into the same region, so when the first three regions were revealed and Drakeís name hadnít been called yet, I knew that Illinois State wasnít getting in.

The biggest misses I had in terms of seeding were Vanderbilt, who I had as a #7 and they were given a #4. They did beat Tennessee and were undefeated at home, so I could make a case that they deserved a #4 if I had to, but I just thought the committee would hold their road record against them more than they did.

I had Villanova as a #10, but moved them up to a #9 to make the bracket fit. They ended up receiving a #12. Given the way they finished the season and how none of their losses were all that damaging I thought theyíd be seeded a little better, but Iím not too shocked by that.

Indiana as a #8 was much lower than I expected, but I can see the logic behind it. They havenít been the same team since Kelvin Sampson left. I had them as a #5 matched up against Western Kentucky in the first round. If both of those teams were to actually play each other now, Iíd pick Western Kentucky to win that game, so Iím not going to say that they donít belong on the #8 line.

I only got two of the #1 seeds right, which is my most noticeable inaccuracy, but I wouldnít be surprised to learn that the four #1s were not unanimous #1s. For the second year in a row, the four #1 seeds were all conference tournament winners. In 2006 there were two #1 seeds that lost in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. The year before that North Carolina lost in their conference tournament quarterfinals to what appeared to be a rather poor Clemson team, but still ended up as the top #1 seed. Iíve been told by multiple committee members that they look at the conference tournaments as just one more game and donít really put any special emphasis on them. The last time I was told that, though, was two years ago, so I intend on asking about that again. The committee members change from year to year, so naturally the points of emphasis and points of view are going to change as well. Kansas and UCLA definitely had a case, especially if theyíre taking an extra close look at the conference tournaments, so I had no problems with either of those teams being seeded #1. Itís just that I thought the committee would factor in head to head competition. Tennessee beat Memphis, and Texas beat both UCLA and Kansas. That impressed me. I thought it would impress them, but evidently it didnít impress them enough.

Neither team can be all that disappointed, though. Texas is still in Houston and Tennessee is still somewhat close to home in Charlotte, although North Carolina is there as well. If anything, I think Texas is happier with their #2 than Memphis is with their #1. If Memphis and Texas wind up facing each other, itís the third year in a row Memphis has had to play a regional as the better seeded team against an opponent with a huge geographic advantage. They faced Texas A&M in San Antonio last year, and UCLA in Oakland the year before that. Memphis really needs to get on the horn with Vanderbilt, Belmont or Lipscomb and try and convince them to put in a bid to host a regional in Nashville.


-In 2002, which was before the days of Draft Express, Kansas and Oklahoma faced each other in the Big Twelve Championship game, which as you know is always on a Sunday. Both teams were top five teams, and it seemed to be the consensus that the winner of that game would end up as the final #1 seed. Oklahoma won the game, but Kansas still got the #1 seed. When the chairman was asked about it he stated that it was just one more game and that they felt they already had enough information on all the teams playing that Sunday and didnít need to factor in any of the championship games taking place that day.

I must commend this yearís committee. It was stated that they had eight different contingency plans in place to take into account all of Sundayís games. That is more work than most people realize. Just moving a team up one seed, especially if itís from a #2 to a #1, means restructuring the whole pod and reassigning some of the locations. Iím sorry, but Iím not coming up with eight contingency plans just for the sake of projections. The NCAA has software that helps them make the adjustments easier. I have a pencil and a piece of paper, and have to write all the teams in one line at a time. For the sake of projections, it generally isnít all that important anyway. Iím projecting the field, not putting the actual tournament together.


OPENING ROUND GAME

-#17. COPPIN STATE VS #16. MOUNT SAINT MARYíS (pick Ė Mount Saint Maryís). If the NIT had an opening round game both of these teams would be in it if they were playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA. In fact, these two teams have the weakest credentials out of any of the three postseason tournaments, and I donít think there have ever been two teams that had such poor seasons playing in this game since it was implemented. Both finished the season on a high note, though, and won their conference tournaments which made them the conference champions. I like Mount Saint Maryís. They won decisively on the road against a good Robert Morris team, and then beat Sacred Heart on the road. They struggled during the season, but they were CLEARLY the best team in their tournament. Coppin State has won 12 of their last 13, though, so they definitely have more momentum. The winner will face North Carolina in Raleigh.

I say this every year, but this is not a play-in game. Itís an NCAA Championship Tournament game thatís being treated by the NCAA league office as a championship event. Both teams get a full share of NCAA Tournament money for having made it this far, and to be technically correct, Coppin State is a #17 seed. The fans and media donít treat this like an NCAA Tournament game so itís not quite the same experience, but as far as the NCAA is concerned it is.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com .

 

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