March 13, 2005

Live Blogging the NCAA Tournament Selection

The best three weeks in sport are about to begin. The bracket.

I told a friend earlier this week that the one team I didn't want to see in Illinois' bracket was Oklahoma State. But didn't the Oklahoma State players look a little less than enthused about being in the same region as Illinois? Oh well.

Do Arizona and Illinois always have to be in the same region? At least Kansas wasn't joining them yet again this year.

Chicago is very tough at the top, but a little softer down the middle, as it should be. I know I'll sound like a homer, but Illinois always seems to end up in the toughest bracket. Nonetheless, that doesn't look like it will be true this year. Alabama/BC looks like a good second round game.

There aren't any ACC teams in the Chicago region. That's unusual, especially since the ACC got 5 teams in the tournament.

Wake Forest did not deserve a #1 seed. I heard one ACC shill say that their loss against NC State didn't count against them since Chris Paul didn't play. Ok, then the win doesn't count for NC State either, and so NC State doesn't belong in the tournament. You can't have it both ways.

Georgia Tech made it as a 5. I said they'd get in easy earlier this week. But Maryland probably won't.

Louisville is a legitimate 4, and no higher. They didn't beat anybody this year. Seth needs to lighten up.

The Albuquerque bracket looks tough, with Washington, Louisville, GA Tech, Gonzaga, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, and Texas Tech. Damn.

Obviously, Syracuse must now go to Austin.

Some "bubble" team are getting seeded higher than a lot of folks expected. So far, Syracuse is looking kind of easy for UNC, although Wisconsin or Kansas might give them a game. Then again, Jim Putz, uh, I mean, Nantz just called it the best bracket he's ever seen in the NCAA Tournament. No East Coast bias there. And for the record, Kansas might as well be on the East Coast. Otherwise losing to Oklahoma State wouldn't have taken them from a 1 to a 3.

Oklahome State interfered with my prediction that the committee would put Kansas in Illinois' region just to see Bill Self go up against Illinois. I was wrong. That's twice so this year.

Austin starts with Duke, but watch out for Michigan State. And Syracuse. And Kentucky. But don't worry about Oklahoma. This one's pretty tough with Mississippi State and Utah thrown in there. Of couse, Seth just said it was set up for Oklahoma. Ha!

I still don't think NC State belongs in the tournament. But now the crying will begin from Maryland, Notre Dame, and maybe even Indiana.

Last three in: UAB, Northern Iowa and UCLA. Good for all of them. I am especially happy for Northern Iowa and UAB.

Oh yeah, I'm still waiting for someone to come forward with Final Four tickets for me.

If Ohio State hadn't self-disqualified themselves, would the under-hyped Big 10 have had six teams in the big dance?

My sleeper picks (must be lower than a 4): Texas Tech, Michigan State and Iowa State. Sorry, no sleepers in Chicago.

Clark Kellogg's sleepers: Alabama, LA-Lafayette, Florida (4?) and Utah.

Seth Davis' sleepers: LSU, Georgia Tech, Villanova and Oklahoma (3?).

Do these guys know what sleeper means?

My first round upsets: UAB over LSU, New Mexico over Villanova, Iowa over Cincinnati, and Creighton over West Virginia.

Final Four picks: Illinois, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Michigan State.

Clark Kellogg's Final Four: Illinois, WF, Kansas and Syracuse.

Seth Davis' Final Four: Illinois, WF, North Carolina, Syracuse.

National Champion: Oh please, Illinois. But I do hope UNC makes it that far to play Illinois.

Isn't it grand?

Footnote: Is there anything more obnoxious than Digger Phelps wearing green, holding a green pen, and whining about Notre Dame not getting in, despite playing nobody out of conference nor winning anything away from home? Oh yeah, he's been predicting Illinois was going to lose for two months. And now he's got Texas beating them. How about a slight pretense of objectivity? Take a look at Jay Bilas. He's a true pro.

Somewhat later, oh please, stop with the Notre Dame whining. Here's Notre Dame's non-conference road schedule: Indiana, Michigan. That's it. And they were 1-1 in those games. The rest of their non-conference schedule (Harvard, IPFW, Charlotte Southern, DePaul, Army, Marist, Western Illinois, Samford and UCLA) were all at home. In other words, Notre Dame only played one team out of conference that made the tournament and they lost that game. The Big East was tough and they had some good wins, but far too many losses to less than stellar teams. And yes, for the record, I do have something against Notre Dame basketball and Digger Phelps that dates from 1978 when I was attending Illinois State Uiversity and we didn't get an at large bid to the tournament despite a 27-4 record, IIRC, while Notre Dame got a bid with 10 losses, again IIRC, because Digger Phelps kept yelling, "we beat UCLA twice!", and those were the only losses UCLA had. And in those days, the tournament still only had 32 teams, so there weren't many bids to go around.

In conclusion, I object to the attempts to make the selection process ever more subjective. It will necessarily be impossible to make it completely objective, but intentionally trying to go the other way is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Make the process as open and transparent as possible. Make it possible for teams to know they have to schedule good opponents and that they will be rewarded for doing so -- as long as they win some of them. Otherwise, Longwood might deserve a bid.

Ohmigosh, Digger just picked Illinois to win it all. I may have to take back everything I've just written. Nyah.

Posted by Charles Austin at March 13, 2005 06:18 PM

Go ahead and get your tickets for Chicago (if you haven't already). Illinois is a lock to make it to the Regional Finals against, probably Oklahoma State, and I like their chances against the Cowboys.

Assuming Jarrett Jack's ankle is ok from yesterday's game against Duke, Georgia Tech may be fully healthy for the first time since January, and just in time for the tournament. If Elder can find his early season stroke again, and if Schenscher plays like he did in last year's tournament, Tech could make another run.

Posted by: Jon at 10:51 AM

Jon, you've got to be happy with GT as a 5. Ont he other hand, this particular class of 4s is as tough as I remember for a while.

I'm not as optimistic yet about Illinois moving on. Some of it is an innate pessimism, some based upon history, and finally the unknown effects of Bruce Weber's situation. He''ll be burying his mother this week and that has to have an effect on him, the coaches and the players. Ont he other hand, just imagine how good Illinois will be once they tart shooting around 50% again. Their defense has carried them all year and if they do well in the tournament it will be because of their defense yet again.

As it happens I will be in Chicago next weekend, so I guess I do need to start looking for tickets. No one has come through with any Final Four tickets yet though.

Posted by: charles austin at 11:02 AM

Sunday before the selection show, I was predicting Tech to get a #6 seed. I think their performance in the ACC Tournament probably bumped them up. I'm excited about the tourney but Tech's road even to the Sweet-16 will be tough. Geo.Washington should be tough, and Louisville is ranked #4 in the USAToday poll and #7 in Sagarin's rankings; pretty tough for a #4 seed.

IMO, Illinois has a fortunate position to make the Regional Finals. Nevada may give them fits with their talented frontline. OTOH, Alabama is ripe for a first round upset and Boston College is not playing as well as they were in January.

Posted by: Jon at 12:15 PM

Hmmmm, still no love for the Wolfpack? I'm tempted to make some type of sidebet for them making Sweet 16. I'll have to cogitate over this. Maybe it could involve drinking something from the Fox River ...

The selection process will always come down to a group of "knowledgeable" men sitting around a table making some last-minute estimates, and making sure that the big conferences get sufficient representation. TV money talks the loudest for tournament time.

And you just knew that Kansas would be put on a collision course with UNC. CBS will be all over that story if they happen to be matched up next week. While the Bill Self-Illini angle is interesting, you're talking about the two of the greatest "storied" programs (besides Kentucky) in college basketball possibly meeting, with Roy Williams in the middle. Yeah, I think that'd sell a few Buds (and Cialis).

Posted by: MarcV at 01:29 PM

Definitely no love for the Wolfpack. My distaste for NS State goes back to their last national championship, when they shouldn't have even been in the tournament -- and they wouldn't have been if they hadn't managed to win three games at the right time in the ACC tournament. Like Bobby Knight, I still don't like the idea of awarding a conference tournament champion the automatic bid. And then, of course, there's Lorenzo Charles' lucky, right place, right time, layup of an air ball to beat Houston.

Oh well.

Posted by: charles austin at 04:27 PM

Wow, that was over 20 years ago! I can't remember the players I saw in college to make that top 5 list from the post above, but I can remember where I was when Charles hit that shot and what an incredible ending that was.

I like the idea of conference tournament champs getting in. It makes the tournaments a little more meaningful and every once-in-awhile you get a Cinderella story. That's one of the things that separates the college game from the NBA - one game vs. playoff series. One bad game and a heavy favorite like UNC goes back home.

If you see this in time and you're up for a wager:

If NC State makes it to Sweet 16, you can post an apology to Wolfpack fans along with a picture of you holding a GO PACK! poster.
If NC State loses to Charlotte, I'll post saying that I was wrong, extolling your prognostication prowess along with a picture of me holding a poster proclaiming the greatness of your hometown.
If NC State beats Charlotte but loses the next game, then it's a tie and we can kiss our sisters.

Posted by: MarcV at 09:20 AM

There is no sports between the Super Bowl and Opening Day.

Posted by: Cameron King at 01:07 PM

Marc, I am old enough to remember when the tournament only had 32 teams which is where my dislike of the automatic bids going to tournament champions started. The ACC seemed to abuse this concept every year to get an extra team in and shut some other deserving team out.

As to your proposed bet, I am generally willing to wager tangible assets, but I decline to wager my honor or integrity. Even if NC State makes the Final Four my point hasn't been invalidated. Maryland was more deserving of a bid than NC State this year. But that's just my opinion.

Hmm..., You must have attended Illinois and NC State.

Posted by: charles austin at 02:30 PM

Actually Illinois and Rutgers. My wife graduated NC State, thus the conjugal loyalty. She also had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Jim Valvano for one of her classes. He was one of the special people that you appreciate for not long enough.

Maryland had too many bad losses and ended the season poorly. The committee seems to take into account how a team ends the season.

Oh well on the bet. I would be tangible assets if I could afford them!

Posted by: MarcV at 05:52 PM