Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/16/2008 11:38:00 AM
Day 5: Welcome To Selection Sunday
If they beat Kansas today, A.J. Abrams and Texas have a solid case for a No. 1 seed.
Douglas Jones/Icon SMI
NEW YORK -- When I finally packed up from Madison Square Garden at around 2 a.m., the press room was nearly deserted and the house crew had already dismantled much of the court where Pittsburgh won its Big East tourney title a few hours earlier. 'Twas time to head home, get some rest and turn the focus to Bracket Day.
Here are 10 things I'm thinking on the morning of Section Sunday, with T-minus seven hours until the great unveiling:
1. This weekend has taken on an almost Biblical tone. Disaster struck in Atlanta during the SEC tournament, as an F2 tornado hit the Georgia Dome, sending debris falling from the ceiling, and forcing an already crazy SEC tournament to move to Georgia Tech, where it got even stranger. Intense storms hit Charlotte, the site of the ACC tournament, and rain fell onto the court at Bobcats Arena during the Duke-Clemson semifinal, causing a delay and forcing the remainder of the game to be played with towels lining the floor. All of it lent an eerie feeling to the final days of college hoops' regular season.
2. One would like to think that there will be basketball miracles to balance out the natural and man-made disasters. We've already seen one -- Blake Hoffarber's Laettner-esque shot to lift Minnesota over Indiana on Friday at the Big Ten tournament -- and there are two more miracles waiting to happen on Sunday. Those would be 16-18 Illinois upsetting Wisconsin to earn the Big Ten's automatic bid, and 15-16 Georgia knocking off Arkansas to win the SEC's automatic bid. (The Bulldogs, mind you, would have to win their third game in two days to do this -- they beat both Kentucky and Mississippi State on Saturday.)
3. Wisconsin deserves a No. 2 seed over Duke. The Badgers lost -- by a lot -- to the Blue Devils at Cameron in November, but the selection committee simply cannot deny a team that won the Big Ten regular season title and (most likely) the Big Ten tourney a top-two seed. Especially when stacked up against a Duke team that won neither its conference or nor its postseason tourney.
4. If Kansas wins the Big 12 tournament today, I don't think the Jayhawks are a lock for a No. 1 seed. Tennessee, which is No. 1 in the RPI and has non-conference wins over Memphis, Xavier, Gonzaga, West Virginia and Western Kentucky, would still deserve that fourth No. 1 over the Jayhawks, who played a pretty lackluster slate outside of the Big 12.
5. If Texas wins the Big 12 tournament, on the other hand, the Longhorns should get the fourth No. 1 over Tennessee. Not only did they blow out the Vols in head-to-head competition, but the 'Horns would also have more wins over top-50 RPI teams (12) than anyone else in the country. Beating Tennessee, UCLA and Kansas (twice) has to count for something, right?
6. A few facts on 14-20 Coppin State, the never-say-die story of this NCAA tournament: The Eagles did not win a single game between Nov. 24 and Jan. 14. They started 0-8 in the MEAC, and 2-19 overall. They then went 12-1 to finish the season, upsetting top-seeded Morgan State in the MEAC tourney title game. In a quote that will go down as one of the Great Uses Of War Metaphors, CSU coach Fang Mitchell said after the win, "We were life and death. Last night we were in Afghanistan, and today we're in Iraq. We were in a battle. That's all we knew. So when we got out of there alive, we were happy."
7. For a team with eight losses and no chance of getting any higher than a No. 4 seed, Clemson can look pretty dangerous at times. When the Tigers' perimeter players -- namely K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby -- get hot, they're capable of outscoring anyone. Even North Carolina.
8. I really wish I would have covered the SEC tournament rather than the Big East. All the drama has been in the A-T-L.
9. The selection committee has saved the final two spots in its bracket for Illinois and Georgia, should they win their way in at the 11th hour. I think the last two teams in the committee's "working" bracket are Villanova and Oregon. They should both be huge Wisconsin and Arkansas fans today.
10. If you're looking for a better way to play the national anthem at a major basketball game, consider hiring this guy: Mark "The Loveman" Pender. Initially I laughed when I saw Pender, the trumpeter from the Max Weinberg 7 on the Conan O'Brien Show, step onto the court before the Big East tourney's finale. What happened after that -- a goosebump-inducing instrumental Banner which many of the Garden's fans began signing along with, organically -- was impressive. Pitt's DeJuan Blair raised his hands up in the air near the end of the song, almost as if he was summoning its power. And it worked: He had 10 points and 10 boards in the title game. Both DeJaun and I would prefer to see trumpet-only anthems for the rest of the month.
• Important Pool Business: The Bracket Challenge images in the right-hand rail are your three-step instructions for joining the third annual Tourney Blog Pool, now on Facebook. Or you can just click here to begin the process, and then find the invitation to the pool on the application's home page. Join up now!
As of Sunday at 11:45 a.m., we have 566 members of the Blog Pool. One hundred and twenty five of those folks have been kind enough to friend my SI profile on Facebook; the rest -- as well as any new entrants -- are invited to do the same.
• The tourney playlist, curated by the folks at Gorilla vs. Bear, rolls on, one free mp3 at a time:
Day 5's track is Del the Funkee Homosapien's Bubble Pop. In honor, perhaps, of the fates of Arizona State and Virginia Tech later tonight. Download and enjoy.
I am glad you mentioned Pender's anthem. The slow build of voices singing along was amazing. It was a great performance and a delightful alternative to the Aquileraization of the anthem by singers trying to hit notes way out of their range to show off attempted vocal acrobatics.
Wisconsin does NOT deserve a #2 seed over Duke. Simply ask this question. If Duke were to play Wisconsin on a neutral court, who would win? Unless you're a Badger homer, you're not picking Wisconsin. And the committee looks at that. Which is why teams ranked high in the polls (Drake, Butler) get lower seeds in the tournament. They're not as good. Wisconsin has one less loss, but got crushed by Duke and lost to Marquette, who Duke beat. And they play in an inferior conference. Wisconsin did get shafted by the possible 2nd round matchup of USC.
Wait you said Duke shouldnt get a two seed over Wisconsin just because of their win but then said that Texas should get a one seed over Tennessee if they win the Big 12 tournament because they beat Tennessee. Why is that so?
Just FYI, Luke, it's somewhat of a Pitt ritual by now during the anthem. The team puts their arms around each other's shoulders, and towards the end Blair breaks the chain, points up and leads the team in handshakes with the opponent. And just like in the Pitt-Georgetown game in January, Roy Hibbert snubbed Blair and went straight to the bench instead of shaking hands.