The NCAA selection committee favors power conferences over mid-majors


Let’s start by congratulating the NCAA Men’s Tournament Selection Committee: It’s closer than ever to its goal of eliminating general bids for everyone outside of the power conferences and moving the “league with one bid” label from offensive to damning. Sure, the Mountain West got four bids and the West Coast Conference got two, but these have traditionally been leagues with multiple bids. With the invention of the four “quadrants,” the committee completely absolved itself of any responsibility, you know, regard Basketball.

The best example of this has nothing to do with the one-bid leagues; it has to do with the great and powerful ACC. Clemson finished two games ahead of North Carolina State in the regular season, beating the wolfpack three double digits, including an 80-54 win in Thursday’s ACC tournament.

Still, NC State will compete in the NCAA tournament this week while Clemson is relegated to the NIT. I’m sure the committee has his “Quad” notes to cite, but you don’t need an advanced degree to realize that this makes no sense.

This should be the year for Purdue’s Matt Painter to make the Final Four. The Boilermakers were there, did that in the tournament – except they made it to the finals weekend. That last happened in 1980 when Lee Rose was coach.

Purdue has the best player in the country in Zach Edey, but the Boilermakers almost lost a 17-point lead in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament finals. Purdue needs to beat Memphis or Florida Atlantic — a 31-win team — in the second round and then likely Duke or Tennessee in the Sweet 16. The Volunteers have struggled since losing point guard Zakai Zeigler and the Blue Devils are as hot as anyone with nine straight wins but faced a difficult first-round opponent in Oral Roberts.

2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Kentucky is in the bottom half of the group, along with Michigan State (without Tom Izzo in March), USC from the resurgent Pac-12 and Marquette, who have become a dominant team in the Big East over the past month. As usual, the committee did a one-bid league champion a disservice by pinning Vermont with a 15th seed and a first-round game against the Golden Eagles. The catamounts should have been a number 12 or 13. Why not? Because the committee just doesn’t care.

Eventually it will learn. Actually it won’t. Sigh.

Everyone loves first-round surprises, but when the dust clears after the first weekend, TV execs want the power teams to increase their ratings. But this year there’s a Power Conference champion — even a No. 1 seed — that many NCAA stakeholders might not want to see.

This is SEC Champion Alabama, the front runner in the South. Why? Because Crimson Tide star Brandon Miller has been accused by police of providing a gun that was used in a deadly shooting last month. Miller was not charged and has continued to play. Coach Nate Oates said Miller was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and the school insists Miller shouldn’t be suspended because he wasn’t prosecuted.

It was fascinating to hear television commentators calling Miller “off-court troubles” as if he’d missed a few classes. That will no doubt remain the case when Alabama opens against Texas A&M Corpus Christi or Southeast Missouri State on Thursday.

Nate Oats always stands behind his players. Did he go too far in Alabama?

Meanwhile, the committee was not doing Maryland any favors. An 8 is perfectly fair, but a first-round game against West Virginia is no picnic. Bob Huggins’ team always plays better late, and this season was no exception. If the Terrapins manage to advance, their reward is a game against the Crimson Tide in Birmingham, Ala.

Seeded No. 12 are often popular picks to pull upsets, and that region’s Charleston has won 31 games but would be playing at the NIT if he hadn’t won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The Cougars are another shorthanded team from a one-bid conference and will be a tough game for San Diego State. The winner of this game will face either Virginia or another undermanned team, Furman. Many people will see this as an upset possibility, but the defense wins in March. The Cavaliers don’t score much, but they protect.

Even so, beating Alabama in the Sweet 16 would be difficult because the Tide has so many scorers.

In the lower half, the Creighton-NC State game will be in double figures; I’m just not sure in which direction. State has been a feast-or-hunger team all season. The wolf pack could bury Creighton or be buried. My buddy at CBS, Seth Davis, picked UC Santa Barbara to do the Sweet 16. I do not see it. Baylor has been under the radar all season and is still dangerous. The Bears’ focus should be sharp after last season’s surprise second-round loss to North Carolina.

15th-seeded Princeton are another understaffed league team with a bid, but probably not athletic enough to compete with Arizona unless the Tigers form a pack of threes. The same goes for Utah State versus Missouri. The Aggies can really shoot. Live by threes, die by threes.

My wish would be to see Utah State play Virginia in the regional finals: Ryan Odom vs. Tony Bennett. The last time the two men met was when Odom coached UMBC in 2018. do you remember this game

If Marcus Sasser’s health wasn’t a question mark, Houston would have to be the favorite here. But the Cougars’ best player suffered a groin injury in Saturday’s semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament and did not play in the finals, resulting in a lopsided loss to Memphis. Kelvin Sampson’s team knew it was almost certainly going to be a top spot anyway and looked flat.

Houston is going to have a tough game in the second round – assuming it doesn’t stumble in the first round against a very solid Northern Kentucky team – either Auburn or Iowa. Both have intense coaches, to say the least, and Auburn would have the advantage of playing close to home in Birmingham. Seriously, how did this happen?

The five best bets to win the 2023 NCAA men’s tournament

The dark horse could be Miami. The Hurricanes lost to a very hot Duke team in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, but they have very good guards and a coach, Jim Larrañaga, who knows how to win at this time of year. However, they will play a very good Drake team in Albany, coached by Darian DeVries and led by his son Tucker, Missouri Valley Player of the Year. This is going to be a hot story going into the first round and Drake is an underdog that TV would love to see.

The Miami-Drake winner receives the Indiana-Kent State winner. As usual, the committee loved the Big Ten and gave it the Eight Commandments. There’s going to be some whining about the league dying, but here’s a question: when was the last time the Big Ten won the national title? Answer: 2000 when Michigan State won. The ACC, which received five applications this season and last, has since had four schools win eight titles.

Meanwhile, Kent State is the sole representative of the Mid-American Conference. Toledo won the regular-season title, going 27-7, but lost the tournament finals to Kent State. Enjoy the NIT, Rockets.

Colgate won 28 games and a third straight Patriot League title, earning a 15th-place finish and a first-round game against Texas. Some reward. However, the least seeded team in the region is Texas A&M, who finished second in the Big 12 but are relegated to 7th seed, meaning they need to play Xavier to get out of the first weekend.

This might be the most open region of them all.

The best story in this region is Howard, who is back in the tournament for the first time in 31 years. But the committee didn’t really bother to match the bison with Kansas with top seed in Des Moines, which is much closer to Kansas than DC

Heck, Howard might have been better off playing at Dayton where he had a realistic chance of winning a game. Against the Jayhawks, the Bison are likely to be overwhelmed. UMBC’s win over Virginia five years ago is the only time a No. 16 has defeated a No. 1 in 148 games. Then again, you never know.

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Kansas coach Bill Self was due back on the bench for the Howard game after spending last weekend in the hospital where he had two stents placed in his heart for blocked arteries. Its reigning champions have had their ups and downs all season, including some surprise defeats, but they have enough talent to make a serious run.

The best first round game in this region is undoubtedly St Mary’s vs VCU. Rams coach Mike Rhoades was nervous his team wouldn’t get an offer if they didn’t win the Atlantic 10 tournament. He was right. VCU won the tournament and was still stuck with a No. 12 seed. The Rams are tough to play because they’re deep, play great defense, and have a great point guard in Ace Baldwin.

Connecticut-Iona will get the most attention in the first round because the Huskies are four-time past champions and because 70-year-old Rick Pitino is preparing to skip town on the Gaels, likely for St. John’s. Two things are certain about Pitino: he really knows how to train, and he craves the limelight. Iona has revitalized his career, but he will say goodbye immediately when his season ends.

That should be against U-Conn. Danny Hurley’s team is mixed but talented and could make the Final Four. By the way, did you notice that Arizona State, which has a play-in game at Dayton, could face the Huskies in the Elite Eight? The Sun Devils coach: Hurley’s brother Bobby.

If UCLA’s all-time defensive end Jaylen Clark wasn’t injured, the Bruins would be my pick of the group. By the looks of it, the Bruins could still get there, although the road won’t be easy, with second-round winner Northwestern-Boise State and Gonzaga, who’s been under the radar all season, likely in the Sweet 16 UCLA-Gonzaga: This is a duel that will bring back memories for tournament fans. The NCAA selection committee favors power conferences over mid-majors

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