The 68 teams have been selected for the NCAA mens basketball tournament, and the analysts have already begun questioning the sanity of the Selection Committee. From now until the first jump ball, the sports world will be hovering over brackets and over analyzing them until they're sick of looking at them.
But before we start looking towards Houston and the Final Four, we take a look at the best and worst of the selections. That’s right, it’s time for the Second Annual Selection Sunday Awards! Let’s not delay any longer…
The Miracle on Hardwood Award:
This award goes to the 16 seed who has the best chance of—for the first time in the history of the tournament—defeating a top seed in the tournament. Just like the 1980 USA hockey team, this team will make you believe in miracles.
The award goes to: Boston University (vs. Kansas).
Unfortunately, this award goes to the Terriers by default. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think any other team has the capabilities to knock off any of the top seeds, and even Boston University doesn’t look good to knock off the Jayhawks.
In Boston's two games against ranked opponents (No. 6 Villanova and No. 10 Kentucky) this year, it lost by 16 and 34, respectively. It barely made the tournament as it was, needing a nail-biting America East Championship game against Stony Brook to even get there.
If Boston pulls off the most miraculous victory in sports history, it will go down as the biggest upset or the biggest collapse in the history of the tournament.
The Dentist’s Chair Award:
This award goes to the top seed who has the toughest road to Houston, assuming all games are played “chalk,” meaning all the higher seeds win their games. Getting to the Final Four for this team will be like a trip to the dentist: long and painful.
This award goes to: Ohio State.
The overall number one seed has a tough road to Houston, and that’s to be expected. Obviously, Ohio's all but assured to win its first-round matchup, but then, if it goes chalk, it will have to play George Mason, who is always a threat to pull off a big upset.
Then, the Buckeyes would be up against a pretty powerful Kentucky team, followed by a North Carolina team who can surprise some people in the Elite Eight. The top-ranked Buckeyes are a pretty powerful team, but all the batterings they will take will probably torpedo their chances to get to the Final Four.
The Concorde Award:
This award goes to the top-seeded team who has the easiest road to the Final Four. Like the supersonic jet of the same name, the road to Houston will be smooth sailing for this team. It won’t face many challenges on the road to the national championship and possibly won't be challenged until it gets to the Final Four.
This award goes to: Duke.
It’s not going to be as easy as all that for the Blue Devils. However, it does seem like if it all plays chalk, the only conceivable challenge for the Blue Devils would be second-seeded San Diego State, and that wouldn’t be until the Elite Eight.
Duke, if the bracket goes chalk, would play Michigan in the second round, followed by number four seeded Texas, who might pose a slight problem, but not much of one. The Blue Devils should have a pretty easy run to Houston if they don’t get too complacent with their smooth road.
Messin’ With Sasquatch Award (formerly House of Cards Award):
This award goes to the high seeded team that’s setting itself up for a big fall. Just like the humans in the Jack Link’s commercials, it may feel comfortable with the high seed. One false move, and it could wind up getting punted like a football.
This award goes to: Florida.
Yes, the Gators did make the SEC finals, losing to a very tough Kentucky team. However, I don’t really think they’re a very strong No. 2 seed. They got blown away by the Wildcats, and have had very tough times with ranked teams in general this year (going 4-2, but had to earn those victories).
They also lost some games that they should have won (such as a fairly bad loss to Jacksonville), and that really doesn’t look good on a No. 2 seed’s resume. They’ll make it past the first round, but after that, it does look a little spotty. They should be primed to defend against the upset.
One Shining Moment Award:
This award, named after the song that officially ends the tournament, goes to the first-round game that embodies the true meaning of that song. This is the one shining moment of the tournament, where there could be an exciting finish, there could be a nail-biting few moments…but all in all, its one of the greatest, if not the greatest, matchup of the first round.
This award goes to: Richmond/Vanderbilt.
I like this game for the award because, while Vanderbilt did fall short of the SEC title (losing in the semi-finals), they are a very tough team. They have gone only .500 (four out of eight) against ranked teams but have played tough, losing to those teams by no more than 10 points. When the lights are on bright, I do think the Commodores will step up and put on a show for the fans.
Richmond, the Atlantic-10 champion, is extremely tough as well. Against ranked teams, they have beaten some pretty big competition (Purdue, who got seeded third, and splitting two games with Temple, who also was seeded higher). Richmond has proven that it can run with the big boys, and Vanderbilt has too. When these two get together in Denver, sparks are sure to fly.
George Mason Award:
This award goes to a team that might fly under the radar of most bracketologists and, like the Patriots of recent history, make a surprising run towards the Final Four. This team has the potential to pull off some really huge upsets in the tournament.
This award goes to: Old Dominion.
Right off the bat, Old Dominion has to face last year’s National runner-up, Butler. That has the potential to be a huge game in and of itself. Right after that, if they make it, the Monarchs will face top-seeded Pittsburgh.
While they have lost both of their games against ranked opponents (Georgetown and Missouri), they played both teams with toughness, losing by only two and three points, respectively. All the teams in the Southeastern bracket should be on the lookout for the Monarchs, because they will be one team that might fly under the radar.
Snake in the Grass Award:
Most of my readers might remember this from when I predicted every single game in the tournament in the blog’s infancy. This award goes to the team that, for all intents and purposes, should not be in the tournament, but has wormed its way into the tournament somehow (by sheer luck, most likely).
This award goes to: USC.
What was the selection committee thinking? To even put them into the tournament flies in the face of parity. First off, they are only five games above .500 (19-14). Second, they have two—count them, two—quality wins (against Texas and Tennessee, both in December).
The rest is just a mess. Third, there were about five other teams much more deserving than USC (Virginia Tech or Alabama, anyone?), and to deny them and put the Trojans in is just a big mistake on the Committee’s part. Expect a one-and-done from them, because they don’t deserve to be here—at all.
This award goes to the team that should have made the tournament but was passed over for some reason or another (not enough quality wins, bad RPI, the Committee had a brain fart…take your pick). This team certainly was good enough to make the postseason, but fell just short. However, it could certainly be a contender in any bracket.
This award goes to: Alabama.
The Crimson Tide beat Georgia twice (once in the regular season finale and once in the SEC tournament), but yet that apparently wasn't good enough for the committee. Not a single SEC West team made the tournament, and Alabama finished with an identical overall record to the Bulldogs (and a better conference record, 12-4 to Georgia’s 9-7).
It’s a travesty that the Crimson Tide didn’t get in, while USC did. I think the committee will immediately regret this decision (apologies to Anchorman) and be kicking themselves as Alabama (hopefully) dominates in the NIT.
This award goes to the seeding decision that will draw the most ire of all of them. This is the seeding that will have bracketologists scratching their heads and analysts screaming for the committee’s ouster.
This award goes to: USC even being seeded in this tournament.
For all the reasons above, and conceivably even more, this was the absolute worst decision the committee has ever made, bar none. The Trojans have absolutely no business being in this tournament, and the worst part of it is that they shoved out some other more deserving team to be there.
To have USC just sneak into the tournament is totally unfair to the teams that had to work really hard to stay afloat.
This goes to the best seeding decision by the committee—one they should be sincerely proud of. This is a seed that is well-deserved, one that the analysts should be able to accept without much of a problem.
This award goes to: No. 2 Notre Dame.
To be perfectly honest, I never really saw Notre Dame as a top seed, and never really thought they would drop as low as a three seed. They've been pretty consistent, losing to only teams that are worthy to call victors (only teams that are in the tournament) and winning the ones it should win easily.
Notre Dame wasn’t really on par with the top seeds, but I honestly think it will make a big run without the "One" in front of its name. If it doesn't at least make a decent run at the National Championship, you’ll know the Fighting Irish went down swinging.
And now, for my national championship pick:
North Carolina over Notre Dame, 91-88 in overtime.
I honestly think at least one No. 1 seed will make it to the Final Four, and I think that will be Duke. However, when the Blue Devils get to Houston, they will face off against a Carolina team determined to avenge its loss in the ACC championship game.
We’ve already discussed Notre Dame in depth, but its consistent play will make it a force to be reckoned with in the Southwest. If Harrison Barnes and the rest of the young Tar Heels just play their game like they’ve played all season, they will be hard to beat in the Championship game.
So there you have it: all the awards have been handed out, the speeches have been made…now all that’s left to do is toss the ball for the opening tip. Enjoy the tournament!