With the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament bracket, we can begin to envision potential upsets, Cinderella teams and busts, but before we get to that (and believe me, we’ll touch on just about everything between now and tip-off of the opening games), let’s take a look at tournament teams that were snubbed with seeding, bubble teams that were snubbed outright, teams that were generously rewarded by the selection committee and the group of four No. 1 seeded teams.
Let’s dig in…
Let’s begin with the No. 1′s.
Louisville locked down a No. 1 seed by beating Syracuse in the Big East tournament championship game, but few expected that Big East title to vault them all the way to No. 1 overall.
Here’s how the four No. 1 seeds stack up in terms of their overall record, their record versus AP Top-25 ranked teams and their own RPI ranking.
Midwest Region No. 1 (No. 1 overall): Louisville – 29-5 overall, 6-3 vs. ranked teams, 3rd in RPI rankings, won Big East tournament
South Region No. 1: Kansas – 29-5 overall, 5-1 against ranked teams, 5th in RPI rankings, won Big 12 tournament
East Region No. 1: Indiana – 27-6 overall, 7-2 against ranked teams, 8th in RPI rankings
West Region No. 1: Gonzaga - 31-2 overall, 1-2 against ranked teams, 7th in RPI rankings won WCC tournament
Gonzaga has the No. 97 strength of schedule, the worst SOS of any No. 1 seed in the last 20 years.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 17, 2013
Gonzaga was fortunate to grab that final No. 1 seed considering their soft schedule, but they aren’t the only ones that will likely be thanking the selection committee tonight, as California was given a bit of a gift themselves. You don’t usually see teams who’ve already played each other during the season facing off in the opening round of the bracket, but not only did the 12-seed Golden Bears already already face 5-seed UNLV back in December (UNLV held on for a 76-75 win), they’ll also have virtual home court advantage in their matchup against the Runnin Rebels with the game set to be played in San Jose. UNLV was likely thrilled to hear their names announced as a No. 5 seed in the East region…until they saw what that entailed. Tough break for Canadian NBA prospect Anthony Bennett and his Runnin Rebels squad, but I still think they’ll prevail.
Gonzaga and Cal may have received some generosity from the selection committee, but there are plenty of teams in the tournament that probably feel they were disrespected by the seed they were assigned. Here’s a few of them:
Duke – Despite their hiccup in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils finished the season atop the RPI rankings and their 27-5 record is slightly better than Indiana’s 27-6 mark, so I’m a little curious as to why Indiana’s shortcomings in the Big Ten tournament were overlooked while Duke had to settle for a No. 2 seed.
New Mexico – As I wrote on Saturday, you can easily make the argument for New Mexico as a No. 1 seed. The Lobos finished with the second best RPI ranking, went 4-0 against ranked teams and won both the regular season and tournament championship in the Mountain West, which finished the season as the top-rated conference in the RPI rankings and sent five teams to the NCAA tournament. The most puzzling part about it wasn’t even that New Mexico was snubbed out of a No. 1 seed, it’s that the Lobos somehow missed out on a 2-seed and ended up No. 3 in the West region.
Oregon – No one expected the Ducks to be a very high seed, but considering their 26-8 overall record, a 4-1 record against ranked teams and their Saturday night triumph over 21st-ranked UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game, I’d say a 12-seed in the Midwest region and an opening round matchup with Oklahoma State was a harsh decision by the selection committee.
Saint Mary’s – The Gaels fell short in the WCC tournament, losing to Gonzaga in the final, and they did go 0-3 in their only matchups against ranked teams this season (all three games were against the Bulldogs), but an RPI ranking just outside of the top-30 suggests Saint Mary’s should not have been one of the four lowest seeded at-large teams. By being placed against Middle Tennessee in a Midwest region play-in game however, the selection committee obviously begs to differ.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the teams that qualify as true “snubs” – 10 bubble teams that won’t be dancing in the tournament.
Southern Mississippi: 25-9 overall, 0-3 vs. ranked teams, 34th in RPI rankings
Connecticut: 20-10 overall, 3-3 vs. ranked teams, 48th in RPI rankings
Massachusetts: 21-11 overall, 0-2 vs. ranked teams, 55th in RPI rankings
Kentucky: 21-11 overall, 2-3 vs. ranked teams, 56th in RPI rankings
Anyone who’s been watching college basketball this season knows this isn’t really much of a surprise. The defending champion Wildcats never looked capable of living up to expectations, faded as the season wore on, lost star freshman Nerlens Noel to injury for the home stretch of the season and then were upset by Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
Tennessee: 20-12 overall, 3-2 vs. ranked teams, 58th in RPI rankings
Alabama: 21-12 overall, 0-4 vs. ranked teams, 60th in RPI rankings
Maryland: 22-12 overall, 3-2 vs. ranked teams, 69th in RPI rankings
Virginia: 21-11 overall, 2-1 vs. ranked teams, 74th in RPI rankings
Stanford: 18-14 overall, 1-4 vs. ranked teams, 75th in RPI rankings
Iowa: 21-12 overall, 0-7 vs. ranked teams, 79th in RPI rankings