Three things the selection committee got right and three it got wrong
What they got right: The No. 1 seeds
In a season in which at least six teams had reasonable cases to receive No. 1 seeds, the committee did as well as could be expected deciding which four were most deserving. Rewarding Louisville and Indiana with No. 1 seeds was the easy part, which left Gonzaga, Kansas, Duke and Miami as the remaining contenders for two open spots.
Relegating Miami and Duke to No. 2 seeds was the fairest decision possible. Miami could not be seeded ahead of Duke because the Devils had a stronger profile featuring more quality wins, fewer losses to bad teams and only one loss with Ryan Kelly healthy. At the same time, Duke could not be seeded ahead of Miami since the Hurricanes swept both the ACC regular season and tournament titles.
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Some will surely complain Gonzaga didn't play a strong enough schedule to merit a No. 1 seed in the West, but the Zags did everything they could do to earn that spot. They beat five Big 12 teams including Oklahoma State and Kansas State, they compiled the nation's best record at 31-2 and they went unbeaten in WCC play with the victories coming by an average of 18 or more points.
What they got wrong: The strength of the Midwest Region
Louisville is the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Cardinals may wish they could trade regions with one of the other top seeds.
Their No. 2 seed is Duke, which won all but one game this season when Ryan Kelly was healthy enough to play. Their No. 3 seed is Michigan State, which is loaded with talent and has a coach who has been to six Final Fours. And their No. 4 seed is Saint Louis, a trendy sleeper Final Four pick before the brackets came out. Heck, even their No. 6 and 7 seeds, Memphis and Creighton, swept the regular season and tournament titles in their respective leagues.
The biggest surprise was that Louisville and Duke are in the same region. Oddsmakers have anointed the Cardinals the favorite to win the national title and Duke the third favorite, yet if they both win their first three games – no easy task in either case – they'll meet in a regional final in Indianapolis.
What they got right: The last teams in the field
Two years ago, Colorado missed the NCAA tournament despite having five more RPI Top 50 victories than Clemson. Last year, Drexel was left out despite 19 wins in its last 20 games and the outright CAA title in a year when that still meant something. This year, none of the at-large hopefuls who were snubbed have much right to complain.
It's always been my stance that I'd rather see a highly successful mid-major in the field than a middle-of-the-pack power-conference team, and this year's committee members seemed to share that opinion. They left Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee at home and took Saint Mary's, La Salle and Middle Tennessee instead.
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You can point to the superior quality wins some of the power-conference snubs had if you like, but each of those teams had chances and squandered them. You want in next year, Maryland? Play a tougher non-league schedule. You too, Virginia? Don't lose to half the CAA in November and December. And you, Kentucky? Gagging in a must-win SEC quarterfinal against Vanderbilt probably isn't a good last impression.
What they got wrong: Oregon's seeding
After Oregon defeated UCLA in Saturday night's Pac-12 title game, reporters asked Dana Altman where he expected his team to be seeded. Altman played coy and didn't directly respond to the question, but you can bet he wasn't expecting the reward for finishing a game out of first place in the league and winning the Pac-12 tournament to be a No. 12 seed.
This is an Oregon team that started 18-2 and won at UNLV, at UCLA and at home against Arizona before starting point guard Dominic Artis got hurt and missed a month of action. Artis still hasn't recaptured his past form, but the Ducks were good enough to emerge from a late-season skid and win the Pac-12 tournament title by vanquishing UCLA for a second time in the championship game.
Selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said Oregon would have been one seed line higher were it not for scheduling issues that forced the Ducks to drop from a No. 11 seed to a No. 12. Fine, but that solves nothing here. Oregon should have been four or five seed lines higher, and it's a disservice to the Ducks and to Oklahoma State that they're a No. 12 seed instead.
What they got right: Less mid-major on mid-major crime
One of the best parts of the NCAA tournament is watching small-conference programs try to topple a giant, so it's always frustrating when the mid-majors are matched against one-another in the early rounds. Thankfully, more often than not, this year's committee managed to avoid those pitfalls.
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We get Belmont taking a crack at sixth-seeded Arizona. We get South Dakota State taking aim at fourth-seeded Michigan. We get either Saint Mary's or Middle Tennessee trying to topple sixth-seeded Memphis. Those are each terrific matchups, exactly the kinds of games that make March fun.
What they got wrong: Seeding in the Mountain West
Even though none of these errors are anywhere near as egregious as Oregon being a No. 12 seed, the seeds the top four Mountain West teams got were still surprising.
New Mexico won the regular season and conference tournament titles in the No. 2 RPI league in the nation in convincing fashion. That should have been enough for the Lobos to receive a No. 2 seed over Ohio State or Georgetown, but they're stuck with a No. 3 as they take aim at their first Sweet 16 since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams.
UNLV's No. 5 seed was weird too but for the opposite reason. Although the Rebels have the talent to make a deep run, their modest non-league success and inconsistency away from home make that seeding seem a line or two too generous. Even having San Diego State as a No. 7 and Colorado State as a No. 8 was a bit wonky. The Rams finished two games ahead of the Aztecs in the double round robin Mountain West and closed the season playing at a higher level, yet they were seeded a line behind San Diego State.
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