Xavier fans who have ever wondered what it must be like to be in the last pairing announced can be forgiven for now wishing they didn't know. Yesterday's exercise in nerve-wracking tension (we are in, right?) became the leading storyline for the evening. It's very to focus on anything else when an entire fanbase is breathing like a nationwide Lamaze class.
The rest of the bracket is full of stories, though. Depending on who you watched, you might know who you think was snubbed, who got in that shouldn't have, and which teams are seeded bizarrely. If you watched Doug Gottleib, you might think that the Big East is a Division II conference that gets an automatic qualifier out of pity. The next few days are for poring over brackets, writing things in ink, reading every breakdown you can get your hands on (our will be out tomorrow and Wednesday), and generally ignoring other things in favor of basketball. With all that said, here's what the committee got wrong yesterday.
Shouldn't be in:
UCLA is the big name here if you spend much time with the national media. On the surface, they aren't all wrong. UCLA's best win was over Utah (8th in KenPom) followed by Oregon (46th). After that was a sweep of Stanford and then a wasteland of losses to good teams and wins over bad ones. If you're a big follower of Ken Pomeroy, it may be the inclusion of Indiana that sticks a bit more. The Hoosiers are 53rd in Pomeroy rankings (UCLA is 41st) and lost to such stalwarts as Eastern Washington and Northwestern. Frankly, neither team's inclusion is quite as galling as you might think. When you hit the end of the bubble, no team is going to shine.
Consider for a moment that the top 44 teams in the Pomeroy rankings are in the field. If you're into RPI (which you shouldn't be) the top 29 teams made it in. Colorado St. is making a case, but they are 68th in the KenPom and beat only two top 40 teams. The Rams also landed 57th in ESPN's BPI. The inclusion of UCLA over teams like Colorado St. and Temple sends a clear message: stop trying to game the RPI and actually play some good teams. Shed no tears for the Rams, their head coach admitted that they had front loaded their schedule with mediocre wins intended to boost their RPI, and they paid for it. Biggest snub? There really isn't one.
And please, for the love of everything we hold dear, don't say Murray State. They weren't close, nor should they have been.
It really pains me to say this, but Ohio State may have gotten a really rough go from the committee to land as a ten seed. Their worst loss was to KenPom #77 Michigan in a rivalry game. The Buckeyes may not have had a marquee win (though they did beat Maryland) but that they ended up as a lower seed than an Oregon team that also lost to Michigan but added losses to terrible Washington and Washington State teams boggles the mind. I love few things more than seeing bad things happen to OSU, but this is borderline absurd.
Northern Iowa and, to some extent, Wichita State. The Panthers beat Iowa and Wichita State. Other than that, their marquee win was the same Stephen F. Austin team that Xavier rolled by 18. UNI also added a win over Richmond at home and wins over Illinois State. After that, they only played one other game against a team in the top 100 of the Pomeroy rankings. That's nine out of 33 games against teams that aren't in the triple digits. That's not even as many games against mediocre teams as the 13 wins they racked up against teams ranked 218th or worse. 7-2 against decent, not even great, competition and a schedule loaded with cream puffs evidently garners you a five seed.
That's what I see after a quick scan of the bracket. Does anything jump out to you? Should Texas and UCLA be in, or should those spots go to mid-majors? What do you make of UNI being such a high seed while OSU lands in a 7/10 game? There's no time like the present to talk about the bracket.
And don't forget to join our bracket challenge.