NCAA Bracket 2022: Who Got Screwed in the Men's NCAA Tournament?
The field for the 2022 men's NCAA tournament is set, and no amount of whining will change that.
But we're still going to try.
Every single year the tournament selection committee makes in/out or seeding decisions that make no sense, or it gives a handful of teams an absolutely brutal draw. And every single year, we get fired up over some of the most egregious screwjobs.
With the way Texas A&M and Tennessee were treated by the selection committee, why even hold the SEC tournament at all?
Congratulations to Baylor on earning a No. 1 seed this year and winning it all last year, but here's the most brutal draw ever given to a team on the top line.
Iowa State won nine Quadrant 1 games but didn't even get a No. 10 seed?
Has any single-digit seed ever been placed at as much of a geographical disadvantage as the draw that Michigan State was given?
And did any committee members watch the Mountain West this year to realize Boise State won two titles?
It's almost like the selection committee wants me to keep writing this article.
Texas A&M Aggies Left Out
As always, it must be pointed out that every team on the bubble had some fatal flaws. It's hard to feel too badly for any team that gets left out, because it either had too many losses, too many bad losses, a pathetic nonconference schedule, not enough quality wins, or a combination of all those things.
With so much to consider and so little to separate the teams, you could swap out one committee member and just about come up with an entirely new Last Four In.
But what the heck was the point of the SEC tournament if Texas A&M didn't get into the dance for reaching the finals?
The Aggies went through Florida (Q2 win), Auburn (Q1 win) and Arkansas (Q1 win) before losing to Tennessee (Q1 loss). Save for Virginia Tech winning the entire ACC tournament as the No. 7 seed, it was the most impressive Championship Week run by any team on the bubble, by far.
As far as the metrics are concerned, that brought the Aggies to a final resting place at No. 42 in the NET with average resume and quality rankings of 41.5 and 44.3, respectively. All you really need to know about those numbers is you're most likely getting in if you finish top-45 in all three.
And yet, Texas A&M got left out while Notre Dame—which finished at 53 in the NET, 51.0 in resume and 52.7 in quality—was inexplicably deemed either the third-to-last or fourth-to-last team in.
When all was said and done, Texas A&M had three wins against the top half of Quadrant 1, four total wins against Quadrant 1 and a 9-10 record against the top two quadrants.
Notre Dame? One marquee win (vs. Kentucky), two Q1 wins and a miserable 4-9 record against the top two quadrants that I'm going to guess is the worst we've ever seen from an at-large team.
But do you want to know why the Fighting Irish got in? Because they finished second in the ACC with a 15-5 record. That's the only possible excuse. And it's total nonsense, because they had the most favorable, unbalanced schedule of all-time, getting to play their double dips against Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Louisville, NC State and Clemson. And they even lost the game at Boston College!
Texas A&M had an incredible run, but it didn't matter because evidently going 17-1 against Quadrants 3 and 4 made Notre Dame the more deserving team. Terrible. Just terrible.
Tennessee Lands Behind Duke and Kentucky
So, not only did Texas A&M get screwed, but the team it lost to in the SEC championship got a raw deal, too.
Some will complain about Tennessee getting a No. 3 seed and Kentucky getting a No. 2 seed even though the Volunteers went 2-1 against the Wildcats and bounced them in the SEC semifinals. That much I'm actually OK with. Heading into the week, I had Kentucky at No. 5 overall and Tennessee at No. 12, and the Wildcats were very much in the mix for a No. 1 seed prior to losing that game. Dropping them all the way to a No. 3 seed wouldn't have made sense.
But Tennessee ahead of Duke should have happened.
There are six metrics on the selection committee's team sheets: NET, KPI, SOR, BPI, KP and SAG. What do they stand for and how are they calculated? Not important and who the heck knows. But Tennessee finished eighth or better in all six of those metrics while Duke finished in 10th or worse in all six metrics.
Don't like computers telling you what to do? Alright, fine. After beating A&M on Sunday, Tennessee finished the season with 11 Quadrant 1 wins—second only to Kansas' 12—and did not suffer a single loss outside of the top half of Quadrant 1. Duke had just six wins against Q1 and ended up with five losses outside the top half of Q1.
Granted, Tennessee had more Q1 opportunities (18) than Duke (eight), but doesn't that intrinsically make the Vols' 26-7 record a whole heck of a lot more impressive than the Blue Devils' 28-6 record?
In the end, we all know why this happened. Duke has the four most powerful letters in college basketball at the top of its resume. It didn't matter that it lost to Virginia, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech. It's still Duke, and that's always worth a seed line. This year, it's at the expense of the SEC champion.
Dayton Misses Chance to Play a Home Game
The most surprising revelation during the selection show was that Dayton ended up as the first team out of the field.
As a little FYI on how the sausage gets made, I (and Joel Reuter) spent most of this past week working on the 68 team power rankings piece so it would be ready to publish as soon as we learned the entire field. We always write up a few extra teams just to make sure we don't miss anybody. This year, we prepared slides for nine teams that didn't make the dance: Florida, Wake Forest, Xavier, VCU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, SMU, Oregon and North Texas.
You'll notice Dayton wasn't on that list. If Richmond had not won the A-10 tournament on Sunday afternoon, the Flyers would have been the last team in, and I would've been the one getting screwed by the selection committee.
One bubble team falling out at the last minute happens just about every year, though. Oregon State and Georgetown stole a pair of bids less than 24 hours before the selection show last March. It sucks for the team that gets squeezed out, but such is life with only so many at-large spots available.
It's a real bummer for Dayton on multiple levels, though.
For one, the Flyers would have gotten to play a home game in the first round as part of the First Four. Suffice it to say, that would've been a nice little advantage. Getting that advantage at what is supposed to be a neutral site certainly worked out well for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams in the past two Super Bowls.
The second reason it's a bummer for Dayton is because they had a direct opportunity to stop it from happening. Louisville was the first team out last year, and it got pushed out by those Big East and Pac-12 champions. Not much it could do there. But Dayton was kicked to the curb by the team it faced in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament. And the Flyers were up by 14 midway through the second half before collapsing.
But you know what? Dayton was a year ahead of schedule anyway. The Flyers might be the youngest team in the entire country, and they'll be a problem next year.
Baylor's Path to a Repeat Is a Bear
Prior to getting ousted in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, Baylor was a strong candidate for the No. 1 overall seed. The Bears would've needed to win said tournament to get there, but they certainly would have had enough top-tier wins to justify leapfrogging Gonzaga for the top spot. The fact that they still got a No. 1 seed in spite of their loss to Oklahoma reinforces that notion.
But goodness gracious, the defending national champs need to walk a treacherous path just to get back to the Final Four.
Even in the first round, the Bears drew the toughest of the No. 16 seeds in Norfolk State. It's not the same team that it was 10 years ago, but you might recall that program pulling off a 15-over-2 upset of Missouri in the 2012 tournament. The Spartans are a physical team that will not be intimidated by Baylor.
After that, Baylor probably has to face North Carolina, who, outside of maybe Memphis, is clearly the best of the No. 8/9 seeds. The Tar Heels certainly earned that No. 8 seed with quite a few blowout losses, but a road win over Duke earlier this month should be all the proof you need of that team's potential.
Survive the Tar Heels and it's presumably on to either UCLA or Saint Mary's. While I had UCLA as a No. 4 seed in my final bracket, they were my top No. 4 and I contemplated moving them up to a No. 3 seed. And if you take the Gaels' exact resume and put "Louisville" at the top of it instead of "Saint Mary's," that might have been a No. 3 seed, too. Everyone on the No. 4/5 lines is solid, but these two feel extra tough.
And then there's either Kentucky or Purdue waiting in the Elite Eight, which means either Oscar Tshiebwe or the tandem of Zach Edey and Trevion Williams taking on a Baylor frontcourt that lost Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua for the year to a knee injury.
Those latter two rounds are in the East Region, too. Of the four options, Philadelphia is the furthest from Waco. Won't be a problem against Saint Mary's or UCLA, but Baylor will effectively be the road team if it draws Kentucky.
A week ago, I felt like Baylor and Gonzaga were the two teams I was going to pencil into the Elite Eight no matter the draw. Now I am contemplating if the Bears will even reach the Sweet 16.
Iowa State Cyclones as a No. 11 Seed?
There was only one seed choice with which I took particular umbrage, and that's Iowa State all the way down as a No. 11 seed.
The Cyclones ended up with nine Quadrant 1 wins, six of them against teams in the field: Memphis, Creighton, Iowa, Texas Tech, Texas and TCU. They also beat Oklahoma and Xavier, who were under consideration until the bitter end.
That's quite the list, and four of those games were in nonconference play, which is always a crowd pleaser.
Iowa State also did not have a single terrible loss. An overtime home game against Kansas State and a road game against West Virginia are as bad as it gets, and they both finished in the NET top 80, so no big deal.
While the Cyclones' top wins weren't quite as noteworthy as Rutgers' top wins, those two teams both had a nice stockpile of wins against the field. But the Scarlet Knights did so while suffering three bad losses and ended up with significantly worse metrics across the board. I thought for sure that wherever the committee landed on Rutgers, Iowa State would be at least two, maybe three seed lines better.
Instead, they ended up smack dab beside each other on the No. 11 seed line.
I certainly don't mind Rutgers as a No. 11 seed. That was one of the seeds I nailed. But I had Iowa State right on the border between a No. 8 and a No. 9 seed. Having the Cyclones down at a No. 11 was never even an option in my book.
I suppose it was a combination of the eight home nonconference wins against teams outside the NET top 200 and the 7-11 record in Big 12 play. Because if you want to disregard the cupcake games, the Cyclones have an effective record of 12-12. And while conference record isn't supposed to matter, it's still a thing everyone is aware of and can't very well ignore.
Still, given how much emphasis was clearly placed on Quadrant 1 wins during the top-16 reveal last month, I thought nine Quadrant 1 wins would carry more weight than that.
Of course, it's a little bit funny that the most egregiously under-seeded team is facing LSU in the first round some 24 hours after the Tigers announced they fired Will Wade for cause because of that notice of allegations they received. I'm not saying the committee was told to penalize LSU, but it sure worked out that way.
Michigan State Faces Its Former Point Guard in a Road Game
One man's trash is another man's treasure.
But what happens when the second man uses that treasure to try to thrash the first man?
Foster Loyer has been a godsend for the Davidson Wildcats. The Michigan State transfer never had much of a green light under Tom Izzo, but he sure does under Bob McKillop. Loyer is shooting 44.5 percent from three-point range and a near-best-in-the-nation 93.4 percent from the free-throw line.
After three straight years of scoring fewer than 100 points for Michigan State, he's up over 450 this year with Davidson.
Now he will lead the Wildcats into battle against the Spartans, and he will do so in Greenville, South Carolina, in a venue that's about a two-hour drive away from Davidson's campus.
That's a rough draw for the No. 7-seed Spartans, who were arguably worthy of a No. 6 seed, boasting five wins against the top half of Quadrant 1 and a total of 13 wins over the top two quadrants. I wanted to move the Spartans up in my final bracket, but just couldn't find a projected No. 6 seed worthy of taking their place on the No. 7 line.
Should they happen to survive that first-round game against their former point guard, the Spartans will remain at a drastic geographic disadvantage in the second round against Duke.
Boise State Sweeps the Mountain West, Committee Doesn't Care
Boise State got out to a rough start. Through seven games, the Broncos were 3-4 and had suffered a terrible home loss to Cal St. Bakersfield. Because of that, I had a feeling they might land a seed line below expectations.
However, if Dayton was painstakingly close to making the cut despite three Quadrant 4 losses in the first two weeks of the season, it's clear the selection committee was willing to overlook slow starts.
And from December 1 onward, Boise State was a whole heck of a lot better than a No. 8 seed. The Broncos went 24-3 the rest of the way, winning an outright regular-season title in the Mountain West before winning the conference tournament. They made it all the way up to No. 29 in the NET, 28.0 in the resume metrics and 40.3 in the quality metrics.
In the NET, they ended up one spot behind Colorado State and four spots behind San Diego State. They beat the Aztecs three times, and despite an 0-2 record against the Rams, one would think the sweep of the MWC titles would have been more of a tiebreaker than the head-to-head record.
Instead, Boise State was slotted two seed lines below Colorado State and landed on the same line as San Diego State.
Now, at least the committee is keeping them close to home. No. 8 and No. 9 seeds are liable to get shipped anywhere in the country (see: Seton Hall to San Diego), but the Broncos will open in Portland. They also landed in the West Region. Had they been the No. 1 overall seed and gotten their pick of the litter, that's the path they would have wanted.
Unfortunately, that path comes against the best No. 9 seed (Memphis) and the No. 1 overall seed (Gonzaga). So, you know, good luck, double MWC champs!
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.