The Miracle on Hardwood Award
This award goes to the No. 16 seed that could become the first one ever to defeat a No. 1 seed. To quote Al Michaels, “Do you believe in miracles?”
This award goes to: East Tennessee State (vs. Kentucky).
They really didn’t do very well against ranked opponents this year, losing to Louisville and Tennessee. They were in this situation last year, playing Pitt hard for 36 minutes before finally losing by 10. If their defense can stop superstars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins from systematically picking them apart, they should be able to hold their own, if not pull off a miracle.
The Dentist’s Chair Award
This award goes to the No. 1 seed that has the toughest road to the Final Four. This doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t make it to the Final Four, but it won’t be easy to get there, like...well, like pulling teeth.
This award goes to: Kentucky.
They’ll have to play tough teams all the way through. They’d most likely have to play a very underrated Texas team in the second round and a very good Temple team in the Sweet 16. To top it all off, if they get through all that, they’d most likely have to play a New Mexico team that has flown under the radar all season.
If they get to the Final Four (which, in my personal bracket, they don’t), it will be well deserved.
This award goes to the team with the easiest road to the Final Four. Like riding in the Concorde, it will be an easy, fast, and comfortable ride to where you’re going, in this case, the national championship. Like most planes, it is possible to crash and burn, but in this case, it is highly unlikely.
This award goes to: Syracuse.
The only team that could conceivably give the Orange a hard time is their Elite Eight matchup, which could be, if we were playing chalk, Pittsburgh or Kansas State. Either one could give coach Jim Boeheim fits, but the Orange are dominant on both sides of the ball (although they haven’t shown it lately).
If center Arinze Onuaku gets healthy before their first round game in Buffalo, the Orange should breeze through the East en route to the Final Four.
House of Cards award
This award goes to a high seed, deserved or not, that could be up for a big fall if the cards don’t fall their way. In a way, you might say that their hopes of making a Final Four are as flimsy as...well, as a house of cards.
This award goes to: No. 4 seed Purdue.
The Boilermakers will be making a big mistake if they look past 13th-seeded Siena. The Saints are a very dangerous team that are better than their record shows. They have one of the best players that you’ve never heard of in Edwin Ubiles. With Siena boasting a starting five where each member averages almost 14 points per game, Purdue would behoove themselves not to look past the Loudonville (NY) Miracle.
One Shining Moment Award
This award is named after the theme song to the NCAA Tournament, played by Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and now Jennifer Hudson (Why? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!...But that’s another article). This award goes to the first-round game that I think will be the most exciting in the tournament and therefore defines the tournament, just like the song.
This award goes to: No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Siena.
This matchup pits two teams that like to grind it out and pull it out in the last few minutes, as they proved in their respective conference tournaments. They are two pretty good defensive teams, with the talent to make a relatively long tournament run (possibly getting through the first weekend).
When it all goes down, I like the Saints to move on to the second round and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
George Mason Award
This award goes to a team (no matter what seed) that no one thinks will win the tournament but has the talent to make a long tournament run. Just like the 2005-06 Patriots, if you look past this team, you will be sorry and, more importantly, making an early exit from the tournament.
This award goes to: No. 5 Temple.
The Owls play in the same bracket as Dentist’s Chair winner Kentucky, and now you see the reasoning behind it. They have a good amount of talent, led by three-point bomber Juan Fernandez. They have a pretty effective defense, which should become even stronger later in the game and lock down their opponents once they get desperate (and start shooting threes).
If their defense locks down, they should make a big run in the tournament and possibly even make a run to the Elite Eight.
The Snake in the Grass Award
You might have seen this award from my predictions last year. This award goes to a team that snuck into the tournament without much explanation or much of a résumé. Like a snake in the grass, they’ve, for some reason, made their way into the tournament on...nothing at all.
This award goes to: Florida.
What was the selection committee drinking when they picked Florida over Mississippi State? They went 2-5 against ranked opponents, they lost to Mississippi State in the SEC tournament, and otherwise they don’t have a single win against another quality opponent! Mississippi State made it into the finals and took Kentucky to overtime (!!!) but got snubbed (more on that later).
There is absolutely no reason for Florida to be there, and they’ll most likely be beaten by 20 points against BYU. The committee should be ashamed, and committee head Dan Guerrero should be fired for this pick.
Biggest Snub: Mississippi State
Dan Guerrero could not have made a worse selection than keeping the Bulldogs out of the tournament. They didn’t do anything but go out there and win, but the selection committee apparently doesn’t like people who win. They obviously had the talent to get in but didn’t, and here's Guerrero’s explanation for the whole thing:
“The possibilities are intriguing when you think about regular-season champions getting into the field, in addition to postseason. That wouldn’t cheapen the regular season, it would make it more exciting. There’s an opportunity to evaluate all those kind of things and see what the impacts might be.”—from Yahoo! Sports, in response to Dick Vitale’s complaint about the field.
Who says the Bulldogs wouldn’t give us an exciting NCAA tournament? They certainly gave us an exciting SEC final, taking Kentucky to overtime! To snub them is nothing short of deplorable, and Dan Guerrero should just retire in shame now.
Worst Seeding: No. 6 Marquette
The Golden Eagles had almost nothing in their non-conference schedule that should jump out at anyone, and their conference schedule shouldn’t impress anyone either. They barely squeaked out a win against Villanova and then got crushed (by 23!) by Georgetown, who is a No. 3 seed. This is not the résumé for a No. 6 seed.
At best, Marquette should be a No. 10 seed and a No. 13 seed at worst, because more than likely they’ll be crushed by Washington in the first round. On top of that, 11 losses overall and seven losses in the Big East should not get you a ticket even to the NIT.
The award for Best Seed in the Tournament goes to: No. 5 Temple
The Owls blew through a very strong Atlantic-10 (three ranked teams, including Richmond and Xavier) and finished the A-10 Tournament on a 10-game winning streak. They have a massive amount of talent and sneaked up on a lot of analysts.
The only thing against the Owls is their record against the top 25 (1-2, with losses to Georgetown and Kansas and a win against Villanova). However, that record is pretty deceiving because they did keep Georgetown close before losing by one. Expect the Owls to make a huge run at the championship, even upsetting super-team Kentucky.
As an added bonus, I will give you my prediction for this year’s championship game:
Syracuse over Duke, 89-72
While Duke is obviously loaded with talent, Syracuse is equally loaded with talent. They have the defense to wear down the Blue Devils and the scoring to pull away once Duke is tired. Syracuse pulls away in the second half and celebrates a national championship, Orange-style.
There you have it...the first annual Selection Sunday Awards. Will the Orange come up with the trophy? Will Temple make a big run? Will a Cinderella win a glass slipper? You’ll just have to watch to find out!