-In picking the conference tournament champions, I ended up going 18-12, which isnt too bad considering I picked all the winners prior to the start of the tournaments. Of the 12 teams I missed, six played in their championship games.
I had some bad luck with last second shots. Both Delaware State and Akron lost on last second shots within about a minute of each other. Akron appeared to be putting the game away against Miami, OH in the MAC Championship, but missed a freethrow with a 52-50 lead, and Miami was able to move the ball down floor and bank in a last second three-pointer. Some other close calls were Vermont, had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to win against Albany, but couldnt get a shot off and ended up losing the America East Championship 60-59. Texas fell in overtime to Kansas, and Siena led Niagara for most of the game, but couldnt put them away in the end.
My conference tournament previews and picks are in the archives if for whatever reason anyone would like to go back and read them.
-In projecting the field, I ended up getting 63 of the 65 teams correct, and 51 of those were within one of the actual seed. Thats certainly not the best Ive ever done, but I wasnt too dissapointed or surprised with the selections made by the committee. I can see reasoning behind every thing that they did. Compared to other Tournament Projection Sites that I glanced around at, we did better than all the ones that I know of. CRITIQUING THE COMMITTEE
-The two teams I had in my projections that the committee didnt select were Syracuse and Drexel. I can look at each team and see why they werent taken, but I personally thought both teams did enough to prove that they were one of the 34 best non conference champions. Drexel had three big road wins against Syracuse, Creighton and Villanova. Granted, the committee didnt give Creighton as good of a seed as I did, and ended up not taking Syracuse either, so they obviously gave Drexel less credit for those wins than I did. As far as Syracuse goes, many are saying that they were punished for playing so many weak out of conference opponents at home. They say their looking for the 34 best non conference champions. I can see how a team can hold itself back by scheduling so many weak opponents at home because a team limits their chances of proving themselves when they do that, but I dont believe the committee would leave a team out for that reason alone. If the committee did decide they wanted to hold teams to a standard when it came to scheduling I wouldnt look at that as a bad policy, but so far as I know no policy exists. Theyre just looking for the 34 best. Personally I thought Syracuse proved themselves by winning on the road against a full strength Marquette team, and beating Villanova and Georgetown at home, but Arkansas and Stanford (the two teams I didnt have in) had impressive credentials on their resume as well.
-Arkansas was my first team out, so Im not surprised that they got a bid, although one of their best players was injured in the SEC Championship game, and I thought the fact that his status was questionable would factor into the committees decision and that they would probably be left out.
-Stanford had some big time wins as well, but really finished the season poorly. Nevertheless, their overall body of work warranted strong consideration so I cant say I feel the committee shouldnt have taken them. They just werent the team I selected for my bracket.
-Some of the seeding surprised me, particularly George Washington getting a #11 seed and Xavier getting a #9. Old Dominion strikes me as being a much better team than both Xavier and George Washington, and they barely got into the field at all with a #12 seed. It might actually be better for ODU because they have a very winnable first round game against Butler, whereas both Xavier and George Washington will really have their hands full in their first round games.
-Illinois also ended up a #12 seed. Apparently they were one of the last teams taken. I had them at #36 on my S Curve and believed them to be very safely in. Theyd struggled on the road in conference and had a somewhat rough start to the year, but they were 8-3 in their final 11 games, had beaten Indiana twice and Michigan State during that stretch, and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
-Whereas I overshot Illinois, I undershot Purdue. Purdue did beat Illinois, but they did so at home and only had two true road wins during the regular season vs five for Illinois. I felt the committee would hold that against them, especially since a few members told me that they were really emphasizing a teams road performance. Purdue is a very good team though. They were 7-3 in their final ten games, and two of those losses were competitive losses to Ohio State. I have no problems with the committee giving them that seed.
-Butler was given a #5 seed, which is very high, but I suspect that they were a #6 seed and needed to be moved to avoid a conference match-up for someone else prior to the Elite Eight. I had them as a #9 because I felt they really struggled down the stretch.
-Gonzaga received a #10 seed. The credentials for that are certainly there due to everything they accomplished early in the season, but I thought theyd take Josh Heytvelt
s abscense into consideration more than they did. In saying that, Gonzaga did look very good in their conference tournament.
-I believe Florida is the best team in the country right now and would have moved them up to a #1 seed if I felt I had time to put a new bracket together late on Sunday, but I didnt, and at the same time I could see why the committee wouldnt give them a #1 seed. It turns out they got the top #1 seed. They had stumbled down the stretch, but blowing through the SEC Tournament and winning it the way that they did was more than enough to offset.
-Location wise, Texas A&M was shipped to Lexington, KY where they could potentially face Louisville in the second round. They're probably pretty unhappy about that, and in my opinion the selection committee should protect the teams seeded #4th or better for two rounds instead of one, but Lexington is not a friendly place for Louisville to play. I grew up in Kentucky and know that many of the Kentucky fans are likely to show up at that game simply to root against Louisville.
Xavier is also in Lexington as a #9 seed and they really aren't any further away from the city than Louisville is, but if they end up facing Ohio State in the second round it will probably still be a pro-Ohio State crowd. Even though Buckeye fans are a little bit further away from Lexington, there are simply a lot more of them. OPENING ROUND GAME
-A constant criticism of the opening round game, or play-in game as it is often referred to, is that the last two at-large teams selected for the field should play in it rather than two teams who won their conference championships. The reason the NCAA does not do it that way is because this game is technically not a play-in game at all. It is an NCAA Championship Tournament game. This game tonight is every bit a part of the NCAA Tournament as the California vs Oregon State game was a part of the Pac Ten Tournament. The media and fans are the ones that dubbed it a play-in game, and maybe for all practical purposes it is a play-in game, but for technical purposes it is not.
The reason we have this game is because in 2001, the Mountain West Conference became eligible for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. All the teams currently in the Mountain West used to be part of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which was a 16 team league at the time. The league split in half, but because the Mountain West was a brand new conference, it would not get an automatic bid into championship play until its fourth year of existence. It wasnt that big of a deal because the champion of the MWC was always in a position to get an at-large and never needed an automatic bid to make the NCAA Tournament. Once it did become eligible, the NCAA simply didnt like the idea of reducing the number of at-large bids from 34 to 33, so they simply opted to expand the field by one team.
Personally, I thought it was just fine at 64, and I didnt feel that the Mountain West getting an automatic bid was taking an at-large bid away from anyone because the MWCs champion is always in a position to make the field anyway. Hoever, now that weve had it for a few years I must admit that I do enjoy watching the game. If they ever did away with it I wouldnt miss it, but there is a better chance that theyll expand the field again to either 66 or 68 teams before they reduce it back down to 64. NCAA bylaws state that more than half the teams in the field must be at-large teams, so if there is ever a conference shakeup where the Big East splits in half, or if the new United Conference becomes eligible for a bid, the field would likely expand by a team or two again.
-I will be analyzing each NCAA Tournament game round by round, as well as picking the winner
or attempting to anyways.
-FLORIDA A&M VS NIAGARA (pick-Niagara). To be honest, Im surprised that Niagara is even in this game. I felt that their credentials were better than the other teams who are seeded #16. They enter this game on an 11 game winning streak, and I believe that will continue today (although Id be shocked if it went any further than that). FAMU has won seven of eight, and won a big game to get here, but they play in the worst div1 conference and I simply dont believe their team is as good as Niagaras. Most teams arent happy to be in this game, but the winner of it gets a chance to say something that half the teams in the NCAA Tournament wont be able to say, and thats that they won an NCAA Tournament game.