Every year the NCAA tournament selection committee leaves fans of March Madness scratching their heads at a selection of one team or an admission of another. 2017 is no different. Let’s go through and see what the committee got wrong this time around.
Teams who made the tournament:
Let me begin by apologizing to the fans, students, players and coaches involved with Wichita State basketball. The Shockers got absolutely screwed. They drew a No. 10 seed despite a BPI ranking of 15, an RPI ranking of 31 and a national AP poll ranking of 20. None of these ranks would suggest the Shockers be put on a line of anything lower than a No. 8 seed, but the committee still thought otherwise.
The 30-4 Shockers have a bolstered resume and are frequently grouped in with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s as the best mid-major teams in the country. Perhaps the craziest part of this equation is that the committee didn’t deem Wichita State the best mid-major … in their own matchup. Rather, that title has been gifted to No. 7 seed and Atlantic-10 product Dayton, who the Shockers are favored to beat in 72 percent of ESPN simulations. No matter how you slice it, the Shockers got the short end of the stick.
The Commodores are easily the most questionable selection made by the tournament committee this season. Not only are they the first team to ever to receive an at-large bid with 15 or more losses, they didn’t even receive a slap on the wrist as a last-four-in team. Rather than being one of the last four at-large teams selected and having to play their way into the field of 64, Vanderbilt was awarded a No. 9 seed and a first-round matchup with first-timer Northwestern.
This situation is utterly ridiculous when you consider the sheer number of Vanderbilt’s losses, combined with the fact that three of the Commodores’ four quality wins came against the same opponent, Florida. Apparently, matching up well with one top-25 team is enough for an at-large bid in 2017.
Michigan shouldn’t feel as though they got beaten down as badly as Wichita State. That said, the Wolverines didn’t exactly reap any rewards from winning the Big Ten tournament last week. When Michigan defeated Purdue early on in the Big Ten tournament, it was almost universally anticipated that no Big Ten team would be a four seed or higher.
Nevertheless, a four seed was awarded to Purdue. A five seed was awarded to Minnesota, and a six seed was awarded to Maryland. Most people thought Michigan would happen upon a five seed, but it simply didn’t happen. There was no real logical explanation behind why any Big Ten team was awarded the seed it received. Aside from Northwestern, it seems as if each Big Ten team was incorrectly seeded. Not only did Michigan get low-balled as a seven, they have a first round matchup with Oklahoma State, who is widely perceived as the second-best 10 seed in the bracket. Should Michigan advance, they would likely have to run through Louisville, Oregon and Kansas to get out of their region.
Teams who got snubbed:
Allow me to begin by stating that I did not think Syracuse deserved a spot in the NCAA tournament. 14 losses (including terrible losses to the likes of St. John’s, Boston College, UConn and Georgetown) was an obvious red flag for the Orange. They did a lot of shooting themselves in the foot this season, and that’s inarguable.
However, I do believe that by including a 15-loss Vanderbilt team in the bracket, the tournament committee has no leg to stand on in excluding Syracuse.
The Orange had a more diverse platform of good wins than Vanderbilt, having beat Virginia, Duke and Florida State. I guess my qualm here is that if you want to include teams that can beat anyone, why wouldn’t you include Syracuse rather than Vanderbilt? Vanderbilt has shown an ability to beat one good team: Florida. Syracuse has shown the ability to win against anyone, albeit they have shown an equally uncanny ability to lose to anyone. While I certainly understand excluding Syracuse, I can’t understand excluding them in favor of a team like Vanderbilt.
Too often, the tournament selection committee favors mediocrity from a big school over excellence from a small one. Which is why it’s often frustrating to see 15-loss teams like Vanderbilt and underwhelming teams like Providence and Wake Forest receive bids to the tournament in lieu of smaller schools. Both Monmouth and Illinois State should be in this year’s field. Both went 17-1 in their respective conferences and lost in their conference tournaments, resulting in their exclusion from the field.
For the life of me, I can’t understand what the issue would be in including a Monmouth or an Illinois State, each accounted for 27 wins. Would it really be too terrible to throw each of them into a play-in game as a part of the last four in? It would do wonders to validate the existence of schools outside of the power six conferences, and it would further the pool of potential Cinderellas in the bracket pool. How is any of this bad for the tournament? For the love of humanity, give the little guy a chance.