By Steve Kallas
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You have to wonder how the NCAA Selection Committee really operates when selecting a field and seeds and matchups. Despite the alleged modern-day transparency, some decisions boggle the mind. Also, you have to wonder whether things coaches say have any effect on seeds and matchups.
TAKE WICHITA STATE, FOR EXAMPLE
All credit to Wichita State for going 34-0 and getting a No. 1 seed in the tournament. But they are rightly being criticized because, frankly, the next ranked team they beat will be the first ranked team they beat the whole season. (Yes, they beat a good St. Louis team when they were unranked.)
Unfortunately coach Gregg Marshall took it upon himself — in his us-against- the-world attitude — to make this statement: “Wolves do not fret over the opinion of sheep.”
Funny as that may be, you have to wonder if it ever came up in the room when, after getting their No. 1 seed, it became abundantly clear that Wichita State would have the toughest road to the Final Four and virtually zero chance to go undefeated this year.
Why? Well, if things go as expected, Wichita State, after the traditional easy first game, may have to beat Kentucky (a four or five seed disguised as an eight seed), Louisville (a one or two seed disguised as a four seed) and then Michigan or Duke.
And that’s just to get to the Final Four.
So good luck to Wichita State. But you have to wonder if the dumb statements from their coach had a negative effect on them. They won’t make it to the Elite Eight.
TAKE LOUISVILLE, FOR EXAMPLE
Rick Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach and coaches the defending national champions. This year, in the new American Athletic Conference, Louisville went on a roll at the end of the year and won their regular season and conference championship. They were ranked in the top five in the nation.
But lo and behold, in arguably the dumbest seeding in years, the committee made them a No. 4 seed.
Why did this happen?
Well, again, even though the committee reps will maintain that what coaches say has nothing to do with seeding, let’s look at what Pitino said after his team won its conference championship.
Right after the game, Pitino said multiple times that he would not “politic” the committee for a high seed. He said he would “leave the politicking to the politicians.” In the middle of all of this, he did some politicking by saying he thinks that Louisville “should be a No. 1 seed.”
So much for leaving the politicking to the politicians.
Yet somehow, inexplicably, Louisville was seeded as a No. 4, a joke in everyone’s opinion except that of the selection committee, the only opinion that matters for the NCAA tournament.
Hard to believe that Marshall’s and Pitino’s statements did not have an effect on the committee, either consciously or subconsciously.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS?
We will just look at two. To add insult to injury, the committee gave Pitino a first-round matchup with Manhattan College. Manhattan is coached by Steve Masiello, an on-the-rise coaching star who was a ball boy for Pitino when he coached the Knicks. He was also a walk-on player at Kentucky when Pitino coached there and a Pitino assistant at Louisville for six years.
Both are unhappy about it, and rightfully so.
But, again, you have to wonder whether this is what the committee does to those who criticize it. After the Louisville-Manhattan game was announced, Pitino said that “maybe the committee is made up of football ADs,” later using the term “soccer ADs, I don’t know.”
Clearly he does know who is on the committee, and was just voicing his displeasure.
But to give some credit to the selection committee, the second matchup to look at is Dayton and Ohio State.
For years, Ohio State has ducked playing in-state rivals during the regular season. In fact, Ohio State has only played Dayton (campuses are an hour apart) six times in its history. The last time was in the 2008 NIT.
These are the kind of games that the selection committee should go out of its way to schedule. But, if they admitted that, then the negative matchups (Louisville-Manhattan) would clearly have been done on purpose.
You get the point.
NCAA FINAL FOUR
We’ll go Florida, Michigan State, Oklahoma State (forget their seed as well) and Louisville, with Michigan State beating Louisville in the National Championship game.
Finally, if you are looking for that No. 5-No. 12 upset that always seems to happen, we’ll go with North Carolina State over Saint Louis.
Good luck in your brackets.
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