When the Selection Show finally wrapped after the 400th terrible joke from a clueless Charles Barkley and the last halfhearted cheer from the “fans,” the field was final and the bracket was complete. As usual, John Calipari took to the airwaves to complain about his team being disrespected, I’m sure Seth Greenberg wondered why he wasn’t in, and the awesome scene of Arizona State celebrating made the rounds.
And not long after that came the hot takes. Only this year, they were a bit less flaming. Bruce Rasmussen’s group have put together a bracket without a glaring omission. Yes, Syracuse probably shouldn’t be in the field, but no one else that landed in hasn’t done more than enough to prove their point. Even the Orange have wins against Clemson, Louisville, and Miami under their belt this year. They even, God bless them, played a road game in the non-conference.
In an interview with Rasmussen, Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander hit upon the key for teams like Oklahoma and Arizona State. The committee has, finally, dropped the ridiculous standard regarding the last ten teams a team has played. According to Parrish and Norlander, it’s easier to think about a resume as a golf tournament. Sure, it’s more fun to rip to the finish with a 62, but shooting 62, 63, 65, 72 can win you the thing just as easily. (I’m relying on what those guys said here, I know almost nothing about golf tournaments beyond what Tiger Woods 2005 taught me.)
For the Sun Devils and Sooners, two teams that the unwashed masses have been clamoring about, that means early season wins get to count just as much. ASU beat both Xavier and Kansas. I’d challenge you to find any team that has beaten two #1 seeds in the regular season and then been left out. In conference the Devils beat USC and UCLA. Oklahoma has wins over USC, Wichita St., Texas Tech, Kansas, TCU twice, and, actually I’m not going to keep going. There’s no way that team shouldn’t be in.
This year there just isn’t that darling team that should have gotten in but didn’t. USC certainly has an argument based on their RPI, but they have no good wins to hang their hat on. The best team the Trojans beat was MTSU, another bubble dweller who shot themselves in the collective foot with back to back season ending losses to Marshall and Southern Miss. Maybe Notre Dame could have made it, but it’s hard to blame the committee for overlooking a bubble resume that prominently features a home loss to Ball State.
Much has been made of the plight of Saint Mary’s (and it is a shame Jock Landale won’t be in), but knowing that his conference was garbage, Randy Bennett turned down games from URI and Creighton and bought out a game with Nevada in the non-conference this year. Just playing those three would have bolstered the Gaels chances. Winning one of them almost undoubtedly would have done the job. Instead, Bennett grabbed games with Cal State Fullerton (153rd), San Jose State (298th), St. Francis (204th), and Sacramento St. (282nd). That’s all self-inflicted damage, and it goes a long way toward eliminating a team that unexpectedly doesn’t reach their conference tournament final.
With all the chaff sorted and the quick reactions done, there’s not a lot worth complaining about this year. Even the seeding is, for the most part, as good as the system can let it be. when the games start on Thursday, it’s going to be one of the best fields the committee has put together in recent memory.