The selection honored a Sunday tradition as Seth Davis picked three 14 seeds to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA men’s tournament.
Firstly the selection committee reveals its bracket, Then the nitpicking begins.
This year’s committee did a solid job for the most part, but there were some glaring seeding errors and a questionable bubble decision. Below is a look at what the committee got right and wrong:
What did the committee do wrong: Houston Ahead of Kansas number 1 seed on the line
It probably didn’t bother Kansas that much to see Alabama get the No. 1 overall seed. Undoubtedly the biggest disappointment was Houston leapfrogging the Jayhawks onto the top seed line.
Since Houston received the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, Kansas’ national title defense would not pass through the geographically favorable Kansas City Regional. The Jayhawks will instead play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in the West Regional in Las Vegas if they advance that far.
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Sliding Kansas behind Houston was a surprising decision considering the Jayhawks entered Selection Sunday with a national-best 17 Quadrant 1 wins, three more than any other team in the country. The Jayhawks (27–7) swept Duke, Indiana and Kentucky in non-league play to win the outright regular-season title in the nation’s toughest conference.
Houston (31-3), in contrast, had six Quadrant 1 wins this season, a pair against Memphis and then single wins over Virginia, St. Mary’s, Oregon and Cincinnati. Kansas also has no losses outside the top quadrant, while Houston picked up an ugly Quadrant 3 home loss against middling Temple.
About the only area where Houston has an edge over Kansas is in predictive metrics. The Cougars entered Sunday No. 1 in all of them, while Kansas was ranked ninth in the NCAA’s net rankings, No. 9 in KenPom and No. 12 in Bart Torvik’s T-rankings.
The selection committee can’t even pretend that it was punishing Kansas for losing to Texas in Saturday night’s Big 12 title game. Eventually, Houston lost their one-sided conference tournament title game against Memphis the next day.
What the committee got right: Rest of the number 1 and 2 seed lines
When UCLA lost a tense, fiery Pac-12 title game to Arizona late Saturday night, it made the selection committee’s choice for the ultimate No. 1 seed very clear. The committee made the obvious choice and slotted Purdue (29-5) alongside Alabama, Houston and Kansas.
The Boilermakers opened the door for another No. 1 seed contender to overcome a four-loss February before rebounding to win both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles. They had a more impressive collection of marquee wins than UCLA and three fewer losses than eight-loss Texas.
The committee also secured the right to award UCLA the prized No. 2 seed in the West and eliminate Arizona from the South Region. While the Wildcats (28–6) beat the Bruins two of the three they played and had more impressive non-league wins, UCLA (29–5) had the better season-long resume. The Bruins won the Pac-12 by four complete games and zero losses outside Quadrant 1, compared to three for the Wildcats.
The committee had to make the final decision on which team would join UCLA, Texas and Arizona on the No. 2 seed line. It was fitting to reward Marquette (28-6) for impressively sweeping the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. Gonzaga and Baylor were the other two realistic candidates.
What did the committee do wrong: Texas A&M number 7 as seed
Maybe the committee hasn’t forgotten about Buzz Williams’ angry soliloquy after Texas A&M was voted out of the NCAA tournament last March. Maybe the committee wanted to send a message to the Aggies to improve their pathetic non-conference schedule.
Whatever the reason, the committee screwed up badly by giving Texas A&M a No. 7 seed, while the Aggies should have been No. 5 at worst.
After wobbling through a non-league schedule in which it lost to any team with a pulse and two teams without one, Texas A&M has been a juggernaut. The Aggies stormed to a 15–3 SEC record, one game behind first-place Alabama. They have defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas at home. They live in Auburn and Missouri. They have performed like a number 6 team Nation As of January 1, according to Bart Torvik’s T-ranking.
You can’t ignore an entire body of work. Texas A&M would have to answer for losses to Murray State, Wofford and Colorado in non-league play. But this is a team with an elite point guard, a proven head coach and a formidable defense. No one wanted to attract the Aggies as the No. 5 seed, let alone 7. Giving them the 7 seed is not only doing them a disservice. It’s also unfair to Penn State, their first-round opponent, and Texas, which could see them through to the Round of 32.
What the committee got wrong: Lack of regional balance
Here are the top four seeds in the West Region (and where they rank on the committee’s seed list):
1. Kansas (3)
2. UCLA (5)
3. Gonzaga (10)
4. Yukon (13)
Here are the top four seeds in the East Region:
1. Purdue (4)
2. Marquette (8)
3. Kansas State (11)
4. Tennessee (14)
The West Region features a Kansas team that, by Saturday, many thought would be the No. 1 overall seed, a UCLA team that almost played its way over the top seed line, and Gonzaga and UConn teams that are top in virtually every metric. There are 10. The East Region has a Purdue team that was the committee’s lowest ranked No. 1, a Marquette team that was the committee’s lowest ranked No. 2, a Kansas State team that peaked in January and a Tennessee team that is not the same Its without starting point guard.
How did the committee see these two areas and walk away thinking they are remotely comparable?
It helps a little that Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Memphis and Florida are all dangerous lower-seeded teams in the Atlantic East, but also some scary sleepers in the West. Anyone want to face an eighth-seeded Arkansas team that has two NBA lottery picks in its backcourt? What about a season-tested TCU team that played better than its No. 6 seed when star guard Mike Miles Jr. is healthy?
What the Committee Got Right: From Pittsburgh to the First Four
While Pittsburgh was projected to avoid the first four in many mock brackets, the committee sending the Panthers to Dayton is not the miscarriage of justice some would claim it is. Pittsburgh’s resume was always weaker than its 14–6 ACC record suggested.
Pittsburgh defeated NCAA tournament-bound Miami, Virginia, NC State and Northwestern this season, but 15 of its 22 wins were Quadrant 3 or 4 games. The Panthers were 3–5 in Quadrant 2 games and suffered bad losses at home to Florida State and Notre Dame.
It still could have been enough to keep Pittsburgh out of the first four if it had only lost to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals, rather than been annihilated. The 27-point loss dropped the Panthers outside the top 60 in net, outside the top 70 in KenPom and the top 80 in Bart Torvik’s T-Rankings.
A first-four matchup with Mississippi State gives Pittsburgh a chance to prove that the metrics are wrong, that this is an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. This isn’t where the Panthers wanted to be, but it didn’t go unheard when their name was called.
What the committee got wrong: In the Nevada field
Only two weeks earlier, Nevada was well positioned to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Eric Musselman era. Then the Wolf Pack lost to struggling Wyoming … and rival UNLV at home … and lost to San Jose State in the Mountain West quarterfinals.
Those three losses should have doomed Nevada (22-10) to the NIT. The season-long work of the Wolf Pack was not strong enough to overcome such a poor finish.
Aside from beating Kansas State in overtime, Nevada did nothing notable in non-conference play. Its best non-league win was over … Akron? Sam Houston State?
The Wolf Pack split with NCAA tournament-bound Mountain West teams San Diego State, Boise State and Utah State during the regular season, but all of those wins came at home. His best win away from Reno came in early February at New Mexico.
Between Nevada’s mediocre resume and the Mountain West’s recent NCAA tournament history, the Wolf Pack shouldn’t have been given the benefit of the doubt as the last team in the field. It’s a spot that could easily have gone to Rutgers, Vanderbilt or even a small-conference team that needed an opportunity like 26-win North Texas.