Jim Sez for Monday, March 16 …

IT’S TIME TO START DANCING
AS THE NCAA TOURNAMENT’S 68-TEAM FIELD
IS ANNOUNCED –
AND WE WEIGH IN
ON THE COMMITTEE’S PROS & CONS
WHILE JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK GETS READY
TO ROCK-N-ROLL WITH A BUNCH OF TOURNEY
WINNERS

What’s that old saying … you’re never going to make everyone happy!
Well, the truth of the matter is the NCAA Tournament Committee was not savagely attacked for its errors/omissions when it comes to this year’s 68-team field – we’ve been saying all along that a batch of mediocre teams have no leg to stand on when it comes to getting an at-large bid to this year’s “Big Dance” -- and thus the criticism was rather mild when media discussion took place on Sunday night regarding a handful of “bubble teams”.

Oh sure, there were folks babbling about the fact UCLA got a bid (#11 seed in the South region) while a 27-win Colorado State didn’t make the grade but dig a little more deeply into the NCAA Committee’s decisions and you will see they didn’t show great respect for the Mountain West nor the Atlantic-10 nor the American Athletic Conference.
Until further notice, those leagues are still considered somewhere between mid-major and majors – kind of like Triple-A teams in Major-League Baseball.

Hey, if that’s how the committee folks feel, then that’s how they feel.
But overall the committee gets high marks:

There are 37 teams from power conferences in the field; there are 31 teams from non-power conferences in the field.
P.S., that’s exactly what the breakdown was a year ago and so a round of applause for the committee for its “consistency” but the bottom line here is that we’re still not gonna hand out an “A+” grade simply because we didn’t think Texas (20-13) deserved a bid and neither did we think Oklahoma State (18-13) deserved an invite but obviously the committee “drank the kool-aid” when it came to the overrated Big 12 and so seven squads from that 10-team league made it into the field of 68 while we would have just included Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia.

We know you’re not asking, but we would have excluded Texas and Oklahoma State – they are fine teams but their “body of work” was not enough to grant ‘em a bid this 2014-15 season – and instead included Tulsa and Rhode Island but what’s done is done.

And while we’re at it – doesn’t it appear to you that the Big 10 received a whack across the knuckles when you consider that among the deserving seven teams from this 12-team league to get into this year’s NCAA Tournament the only ones with a #1-thru-#4 seed were Wisconsin (31-3) which copped the numero uno seed in the West and Maryland (27-6) which garnered the #4 seed in the Midwest.
Consider that Michigan State’s a #7 in the East; Iowa’s a #7 in the South; Purdue’s a #9 in the Midwest; Ohio State’s a #10 in the West; and Indiana’s a #10 in the Midwest.

Does the NCAA Tournament committee generally disrespect the Big 10 this much or is there some other agenda at work here (maybe they feel the Big 10’s been “over-seeded” in years past and this would change all that, who knows!).

Years ago there was an NCAA Tournament committee that totally botched the seeding process and – in truth – those errors basically sabotaged the whole tourney and gotta say that the “lowish” seeds handed to that handful of Big 10 teams plus lower-than-expected seeds given to Northern Iowa (a #5 seed in the East); SMU (a #6 seed in the South); and Wichita State (a #10 seed in the Midwest) could wind up raising a little heck in these brackets and so keep that all in mind when you’re busy filling out your brackets.
Ahh, the brackets.

If you watched the show-no-imagination gang at ESPN on Sunday night, you know they have not really been paying attention all these years as #1 and #2 seeds were clicked in all over the joint in Bristol but can we just take you back to last year’s NCAA Tournament for a moment?

You might recall that UConn was a #7 seed last year and Kentucky was a #8 seed and they made it to the championship game with UConn winning the whole shebang – the funny thing is in last year’s Jim Sez day-after-Selection Sunday column we posted the “win-it-all” odds for the top 20 “favorites” and neither UConn (at 80-to-1) nor Kentucky (at 40-to-1) even made our list.
Meanwhile, it’s also funny that last year’s favorite – Florida at 4.5-to-1 and lost in the Final Four – and last year’s champion/aforementioned UConn -- are not part of this year’s field at all!
How the mighty have fallen!

So, if last year’s UConn and Kentucky teams turned out to be “sleepers” that electrified the tourney field, what’s the chances that we’ll see some sleeper(s) make some noise here?

Well, first off, it’s duly noted that Kentucky (34-0) is the even-money betting favorite to win it all while Wisconsin and Duke are listed at 6-to-1; Villanova is 8-to-1; Arizona and Virginia are each 15-to-1; and North Carolina is 25-to-1 with everyone else at 40-to-1 or higher – so are there any “sleepers” out there that might win this championship trophy?

If there are, then you might think Baylor at 40-to-1 or perhaps SMU at 60-to-1 but count us among the folks that’ll be surprised if Kentucky falls short of the school’s ninth national championship though we won’t at all be shocked if there’s a couple of #5-or-lower seeds making it to this year’s Final Four in Indianapolis … we’ll be keeping close eyes on Northern Iowa, SMU and Arkansas in the brackets not inhabited by the Kentucky Wildcats!

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Now back to the NCAA Tournament …
What we also would have liked from the committee folks were more jazzed-up potential Saturday/Sunday matchups – okay, so we “get it” with a possible #7 Wichita State vs. #2 Kansas showdown in Omaha this weekend but why have a potential Duke vs. St. John’s rematch on Sunday?

If we worked the brackets and the all-important Saturday/Sunday matchups than we would’ve liked to see Kentucky vs. St. John’s for old-time tradition and maybe even tasty matchups like Duke vs. Oregon (a real run-run affair) or possibly a Gonzaga vs. San Diego State or Gonzaga vs. UCLA matchup that would’ve really turned on the West.

Meanwhile, when you begin to examine the “strongest” and “weakest” regions, consider this:
It’s not all about the top four seeds in every region. No doubt the East appears the softest when you consider Villanova, Virginia, Oklahoma (too high as a #3) and Louisville are the #1-thru-#4 seeds here but keep in mind the #9-thru-#11 seeds in the East are LSU, Georgia and the Boise State/Dayton “First Four” winner and none of these teams should be considered “cupcakes”.

Okay, two other quickie topics to tackle here and then we’ll get you folks comments from the “First Four” games in this year’s NCAA Tournament come Tuesday/Wednesday night:

Number one, be wary of teams that just had to play four games in four days or three really tough games in three days in these just-completed conference tournaments – more often than not these teams don’t have their “legs” in their first NCAA Tournament and so we’ll be a bit leery if trusting the likes of VCU, Michigan State, Xavier and North Carolina in their first tourney game this week.
Secondly, always check out the travel itinerary:

For example, Davidson has a major “schlep” to Seattle for a game against Iowa; San Diego State’s going cross-country to Charlotte for its game against St. John’s; Georgetown has a gazillion-mile trip to Portland for a game against dangerous Eastern Washington; and it’s not exactly ‘round the block for VCU to trek to Portland for a game against Ohio State.

Finally, keep in mind there are xxx head coaches in this year’s NCAA Tournament that already have won at least one national championship:
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo (2000); Louisville’s Rick Pitino (at Kentucky in 1996); SMU’s Larry Brown (at Kansas in 1988); Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (four of ‘em; 1991; ’92, 2001 and 2010); San Diego State’s Steve Fisher (at Michigan in 1989); Kentucky’s John Calipari (2012); Kansas’ Bill Self (2008); and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (2005 and ’09) … so there!

NCAA TOURNAMENT –
“THE FIRST FOUR”
The 68-team field NCAA Tournament swings into action on Tuesday/Wednesday nights in Dayton and here’s our quick-hitter looks at what’s on the early-bird menu with the Tuesday tilts in Dayton (we’ll get to the Wednesday games in the next Jim Sez):

MIDWEST REGION
#16 HAMPTON (16-17) vs. #16 MANHATTAN (19-13) – 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV
The committee folks ranked these dudes as the bottom two teams in this year’s field – we heard Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello tell interviewers last week believe his club was probably a #13 seed but guess they weren’t listening – but the Jaspers are a solid 7-point favorite here in this “First Four” game and F Emmy Andujar (16.5 ppg) and F Ashton Pankey (13.5 ppg) hopes they have the goods here with a “showdown” against Kentucky on deck.

WEST REGIONAL
#11 OLE MISS (20-12) vs. #11 BYU (25-9) – approximately 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV
The Ole Miss Rebels are a power conference underdog side here even though the SEC team beat the likes of Cincinnati and Oregon in non-league affairs this season but the key to victory here is whether or not Ole Miss can “check” BYU scoring leader G Tyler Haws (21. Ppg) at crunch time.

Note: Get more NCAA Tournament Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.

 

 

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