March Madness 2013: Snubs and Surprises of NCAA Bracket
Can you smell it in the air?
March Madness is officially here as the NCAA tournament field was announced on Selection Sunday.
Of course, as is the case every year, there are plenty of questions surrounding the field of 68 teams that will be competing for the 2013 national championship.
How did the 2012 defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats not make the field?
Did Oregon, the winner of the Pac-12 tournament, get a raw deal by receiving a No.12 seed?
Let's break down this field and point out some snubs and surprises in this year's March Madness bracket.
Surprise: Boise State
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If this were college football, then by all means, Boise State better be included in the postseason.
But Boise State and college basketball have never gone hand-in-hand, which leaves many questioning how and why the Broncos were selected in this year's field.
Boise State was certainly a bubble team in every sense of the word. The Broncos finished fifth in the Mountain West with a 9-7 mark and a 21-10 overall record. Of course, you can make the argument that the Mountain West was very strong this season, but is it really strong enough to give the fifth-place team an at-large bid?
Outside of conference play, the only impressive win on this team's resume was back in late-Novemeber against a Creighton team that also plays in a "non-BCS" conference.
Again, it's tough not to give credit to the Mountain West Conference, but this should leave plenty of people shaking their heads in disbelief.
Snub: Southern Miss
photo from blog.gulfive.com
Did anyone else happen to watch Saturday's Conference USA championship game between Memphis and Southern Miss?
Memphis edged out the Golden Eagles in double overtime by the score of 91-79. It was arguably one of the most entertaining games of the 2012-13 college basketball season, and certainly one featuring two teams that are well deserving of a spot in this year's tournament.
However, when the field of 68 was announced, Memphis found themselves with a No. 6 seed, and Southern Miss found themselves on the outside looking in.
Will someone please explain how Boise State—again, the fifth-place team from the Mountain West Conference—gets in the field over Southern Miss, a team that finished 12-4 and in second in Conference USA?
This one just simply doesn't add up, no matter how you try to look at it.
Surprise: La Salle
Photo from philly.com
The majority of La Salle's men's basketball team weren't even born the last time the Explorers made the NCAA tournament 21 years ago.
In that sense, it is a great story to see John Giannini's club in this year's field of 68. But whether or not this team really deserved to be in this field is perhaps another story.
La Salle finished the regular season with a 21-9 record and an 11-5 mark in the Atlantic 10, good for fifth place in the final conference standings. Their best non-conference win this season came in overtime against a Villanova team that also just barely snuck into the tournament field this year.
The Explorers have an RPI of 40, which is respectable, but not great by any means, and when looking down its schedule, it's just tough to point out any real signature wins. Winning at VCU back in late January was a big win, but that was sandwiched between a loss to conference foes Charlotte (8-8) and UMass (9-7), which aren't exactly respectable losses.
Like the Mountain West, the Atlantic 10 is another very good non-BCS conference, but if you really want to get the best teams playing in this field of 68, I'm just not sure that La Salle falls in that category.
End of story.
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It would be tough to find anyone who is going to argue against the fact that the Big Ten was the tops in college basketball this season.
With that said, how do you leave a team with nine wins in conference play and 21 total wins out of the tourney?
Iowa was a team that was square on the bubble heading into the Big Ten tournament, but after a blowout win over Northwestern, followed by a three-point loss to a Michigan State team that could very well be a Final Four team this season, you had to believe that Iowa proved to be worthy of a spot in the Big Dance, right?
The Hawkeyes beat their in-state foe Iowa State earlier this year, but the Cyclones marched into the tournament field with one more win than the Hawkeyes, despite playing in a far less superior conference.
Also, if you look up and down Iowa's schedule, this is a team that doesn't have a single bad loss throughout conference play this season. In fact, it finished 8-2 at home this season in Big Ten play, with those two losses coming against Indiana and Michigan State.
There is no doubt that Iowa should be near the top of the unjustifiably snubbed list this year.
In this case, it's the tournament seed that remains a huge question mark.
Will someone please explain to me how in the world Oregon finishes 12-6 in conference play, 26-8 overall, wins the Pac-12 tournament and finishes with a No. 12 seed?
How is that possible?
This is a team that beat UCLA—the Pac-12 regular-season champion—both times they played them. But don't think the impressive wins stop there.
Oregon also beat Arizona and UNLV, two teams with top-six seeds.
The two losses to Cal and Colorado hurt, along with the No. 46 RPI ranking, but nonetheless, this is a team that is certainly worthy of at least a top-eight seed in the tournament.
The Oregon Ducks being a No. 12 seed is by far the biggest head-scratcher of all on Selection Sunday.
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Let's start by getting one thing straight here—the SEC is certainly not a basketball powerhouse conference, by any means.
But how is it that five teams from both the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 were selected, but only three from the SEC—one of the six power conferences—get in?
The one team that really deserved to be included is Kentucky.
The defending national champions finished tied for second in the conference standings with a 12-6 mark and a 21-11 overall record.
John Calipari's team notched key wins late in the season over Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss, this year's three SEC representatives.
Of course, just being talented doesn't always get you far, which Kentucky found out first-hand this season. But nonetheless, this is a tournament-worthy team with a tournament-worthy resume to prove it.
This is another team that is listed as a "surprise" not because it got into the tournament, but because of the seed it received.
Now, in Oregon's case, getting a No. 12 seed seemed unreasonable because all signs pointed to the Ducks being seeded higher.
In Illinois' case, all signs pointed to the Fighting Illini receiving a lower seed.
Somehow, despite finishing tied for seventh in the Big Ten standings with a 7-9 conference record, Illinois received a No. 7 seed and a favorable matchup against Colorado in the first round.
As mentioned earlier, the Big Ten was the nation's top conference this season, which could have played into this. But how is the seventh-best team in a conference worthy of a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament?
Iowa had a better conference record than Illinois, the same amount of losses overall, yet was left out of the field altogether.
Illinois is a good basketball team, but a No. 7 seed just doesn't seem to add up.
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Remember back on Feb. 28 when Virginia took down Duke and shook up the ACC standings?
Many believed that was the signature win that this Virginia team needed in order to punch its ticket into this year's Big Dance.
Apparently, we were all fooled.
Despite posting an 11-7 mark in conference play, which included wins over Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State, the Virginia Cavaliers were one of several bubble teams left on the outside looking in.
But again, if these small, non-BCS conferences are getting five teams in the field, why isn't the ACC getting just as many, if not more?
In addition to those impressive conference wins, Virginia also added a win over a very good Wisconsin team early on in the season.
If this tournament is about getting the top 68 teams in the nation in the field, then there is no doubt that this Virginia basketball team should rightfully be included in that mix.