NCAA committee makes few puzzling decisions
It’s a strange year for the NCAA selection committee. There are only a few things to be critical about when it comes to this year’s NCAA tournament field.
That’s a good development.
Last year, the committee, specifically chairman Tim Weiser, was roasted over hot coals after giving the Big 12 a record number of bids, making Oklahoma a national seed and somehow finding a way to get Oklahoma State and Baylor in the postseason.
Much to our pleasing, there was no funny business when it comes to the Big 12 this year. The conference received only five bids and one national seed.
The power conferences as a whole, though, were big winners on Monday.
The SEC earned eight bids with Florida as a national seed, the ACC earned eight bids with Virginia and Georgia Tech earning national seeds and the Pac-10 earned eight bids with Arizona State and UCLA earning national seeds.
The committee also did an excellent job with the at-large bids, selecting 63 of 64 teams we had in our final NCAA projections. We opted to put Kentucky in our last field of 64. The committee, though, did not grant Kentucky an at-large bid. It did, however, give Arizona one.
That decision was one of few controversial questions posed on Monday.
The argument to exclude Arizona from the field was just as good as the one to include it in the field. Arizona finished the regular season with six straight series losses, including a horrendous home series loss to Cal State Bakersfield. Meanwhile, Kentucky finished the season with 16 wins against RPI top-50 teams. However, it failed to reach the SEC tournament and ended the regular season with a dismal series loss to Georgia.
“In Arizona’s case, I think there was some debate about the fact they took a series from Cal State Fullerton and swept Washington State,” Weiser said. “For me, how teams play down the stretch certainly matters. It’s an important piece, but it’s not the only piece.”
North Carolina’s making the field also was a hot topic.
The Tar Heels, like Kentucky, did not reach their conference tournament. However, they finished the season 7-3 in their last ten games, compiled an overall record of 36-20 and had an impressive RPI of 21. By comparison, UK entered Selection Monday with an RPI of 33 and an inferior record.
“We’ve not suggested that a team has to make its conference’s tournament [to earn a postseason berth]. Different conferences have different qualifications,” Weiser said. “As a committee, we really haven’t discussed that as a criteria for a team to make a regional. In the case of North Carolina, an argument could be made they had as good a season as one of the better 34 teams available to us.”
From an NCAA regional seeding standpoint, California was one of the biggest surprises. The Golden Bears, who enter the tournament with a 29-22 record, are the No. 2 seed in the Norman, Okla., Regional with Oklahoma, Oral Roberts and North Carolina.
Cal’s inclusion to the tournament was a surprise to some. The Golden Bears finished the season with an unimpressive overall record and lost two of their last three series in Pac-10 play. Cal did, however, take two of three from Oregon to end the regular season and swept a series from Arizona earlier this season. A huge strike against them was their 18-18 record against top-100 teams, but that figure didn’t seem to matter.
The Bears should’ve been a bubble team. Instead, they clearly were in the field.
“I would tell you that as much as anything else, Cal’s finish in the Pac-10 and the conference as a whole [helped its case],” Weiser said. “The Bears also had winning records against regional teams Oregon and Oregon State. Those things were factored in, and a majority of the committee agreed [with the decision].”
The race for national seeds also raised some eyebrows on Monday.
For the past few weeks, it seemed like a no-brainer that Arizona State, Texas and Virginia would earn the top three national seeds. The NCAA gave the top two national seeds to ASU and UT, but dropped the Cavaliers to the No. 5 slot behind No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Coastal Carolina.
That decision by the committee was puzzling. Florida being the better national seed at least makes some sense, considering the Gators won the regular-season title in the best RPI conference. However, Coastal had no business being a better seed than Virginia.
Not only did the Cavaliers beat the Chanticleers head-to-head this season but also they compiled a 13-5 record against RPI top-25 teams and a 20-8 record against RPI top-50 teams. By comparison, the Chants recorded just a 2-1 record against RPI top-25 teams and a 13-6 record against RPI top-50 teams.
“At this point things are decided on the field. It’s not to say we don’t care about where teams are as national seeds. But the more important topics are who will be the No. 2 or No. 3 seeds in regionals and who will be the final at-large teams,” Weiser said. “I don’t recall any of us having disagreements about the way the top few national seeds were ranked. I guess we’ll find out if we were right or wrong in the order we had them in, but 70 percent of the vote on national seeds went that way.”
Equally interesting as Virginia’s sudden drop were Georgia Tech’s inclusion as the No. 8 national seed and South Carolina’s omission from the national seeds.
Georgia Tech entered Selection Monday with a fantastic RPI, but that is where its advantages over South Carolina end. The Yellow Jackets compiled a 9-4 record against RPI top-25 teams and a 14-10 mark against RPI top-50 teams. By comparison, the Gamecocks, which also had a solid RPI, were 11-8 against RPI top-25 teams and 20-12 against RPI top-50 teams.
South Carolina’s 0-2 record at the SEC tournament certainly hurt them on Selection Monday, but it also must be noted the Gamecocks finished the regular season just a game back of No. 3 national seed Florida in the SEC standings.
“When you’re seeding the No. 7 and No. 8 national seeds, those historically are the toughest to seed because you usually have several teams vying for those spots,” Weiser said. “There are plenty of factors that went into the decision on Georgia Tech over South Carolina, including RPI, strength of schedule in and out of conference and the ability to compare common opponents.”
Though the committee did a few things we consider to be mistakes, they did a fantastic job overall and made no decisions leaving us scratching our heads.
For that, they deserve at least a grade of B+.
Odds and ends
Weiser said some committee members value the RPI and other factors more than their colleagues. He said it sometimes is difficult to balance everything once you put all the resumes together. … Weiser discussed Arkansas as a regional host. He said the Razorbacks’ RPI and overall body of work was a huge factor in their earning a host site and that there wasn’t much debate about Arkansas hosting. However, there was plenty of debate about Florida State or Connecticut hosting. Connecticut is hosting FSU, and Weiser said that when an opportunity presents itself from an RPI and resume standpoint, the committee would like to put a regional in the northern half of the country to generate interest and get some exposure in the region without sacrificing the integrity of the postseason selections. … Weiser discussed the possibility of TCU as a national seed. He said that TCU was in a different place than Georgia Tech and South Carolina because it had what the committee considered to be some very bad losses. Weiser obviously is referring to iffy play against Air Force a few weeks ago. The committee’s penalizing TCU for that series is no surprise. It’s something we predicted a long time ago. … Weiser said each year is different when it comes to teams from non-Big Six conferences having to win their conference tournaments after winning the regular-season title to make a postseason appearance. In the case of Texas State, the Bobcats went 4-2 in the SLC tournament but lacked impressive wins against RPI top-50 teams.