Breaking down NCAA's annual media mock bracket; more notes
The media mock has Kansas, Purdue, Syracuse and Kentucky in Final Four
Coaches should learn from Bruce Pearl, Jim Boeheim and play more zone D
Big East upsets, continued success of Atlantic 10 teams shaped my ballot
Last week, the NCAA held its annual mock selection exercise for members of the media at its headquarters in Indianapolis. I had planned on attending, but the bad weather knocked out my flights. My absence, however, gives me the chance to practice the part I traditionally play on CBS' Selection Show when the official bracket is revealed -- namely, that of professional second-guesser.
Why don't you play along as well? You can view the media's bracket here. Put it on your screen beside this column, and follow my analysis region by region. And be sure to let me know where you agree or disagree by sending me an e-mail. (Not that you need much encouragement to do that.)
You should know, by the way, that this committee only considered games through last Tuesday night. In addition, the NCAA staff gave the committee make-believe results coming out of make-believe conference tournaments in order to simulate what happens during the actual selection weekend. This year, the NCAA tapped the following teams as conference tournament champions: Arizona (Pac-10), Wichita State (Missouri Valley), Tulsa (C-USA) and Iona (MAAC).
I'll start with the most important decisions the "committee" had to make: Who's in and who's out. As you can see from the bracket, the media's last few teams in were: Missouri, Maryland, Xavier, Saint Mary's, South Florida, Charlotte and Florida. Among the teams left out were: Cal, Siena, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, UAB, Arizona State, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
To me the biggest whiff here is Saint Mary's. Even though this bracket was put together before the Gaels lost at Portland on Thursday night, their best wins to that point were at home over San Diego State and on the road at Utah State. Those will not hold up (though the SDSU win is getting better as the Aztecs keep winning). Nor should South Florida have been voted into the field. The Bulls have too many losses, including a sweep by Notre Dame, so at the very least the Irish should be ahead of them.
It also amazed me that the committee not only put Marquette in (which I wouldn't have done as of last Wednesday), but made the Golden Eagles a No. 8 seed in the East. That's way too high for a school with just two wins over top 50 teams, plus losses to N.C. State at home and to DePaul on the road.
The three teams I would have placed into the tournament instead are UAB (which ranks 33rd in the RPI and claims wins over Butler and Cincinnati), South Carolina (which bolstered its case by beating Florida on Wednesday night) and Siena (especially since the Saints had not yet lost at Niagara). However, given how subjective all this is, and given how closely bunched these bubble teams are, the committee didn't do anything that would cause me to wax indignant on the Selection Show like I did following last year's decision to include Arizona over Saint Mary's.
Now on to my region-by-region breakdown:
Overseeded: Temple (4), Marquette (8).
Underseeded: Wichita State (12).
Home cookin': If BYU played Temple in the second round, the fifth-seeded Cougars would draw many more fans to San Jose.
Upset special: Cornell over Georgia Tech, second round.
Regional final: Kentucky over Ohio State.
Overseeded: Texas (4), Dayton (8), Ole Miss (9). A lot of the mock brackets floating around don't even have Dayton and Ole Miss in the tournament, much less seeded this high.
Underseeded: Tennessee (6), Baylor (7). The Vols might be the best No. 6 seed of all time.
Home cookin': Texas would obviously love to make it to the regionals in Houston, but first the Longhorns would have to beat Gonzaga in Spokane. The Bulldogs are eligible to be sent to Spokane Arena because they have played fewer than three games there. (Syracuse, on the other hand, plays all its home games in the Carrier Dome, so the Orange cannot be sent to the East region.)
Upset special: Baylor over Duke, second round. The Bears would be a horrible matchup for the Blue Devils because they're super athletic and they're one of the few teams in the country that is taller than Duke.
Regional final: Syracuse over Tennessee.
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