Now that the NCAA committee has fine-tuned the parameters for placing teams in the field of 68, we may find more conference foes playing each other earlier in the tournament.
We could see Xavier-Villanova from the Big East in the second round, or North Carolina-Virginia from the ACC in the third round. How about UCLA-Arizona State in the Sweet 16?
How soon teams from the same conference can play each other and the desire to protect the integrity of the tournament seed list are tweaks made to the selection process last summer.
The previous policy did not allow more than two teams from a conference to be in the same region unless nine or more teams were selected from one league. This happened only twice in the history of the NCAAs, both with the supersized Big East with 11 teams in 2011 and nine in ’12.
“We felt that was important, especially as conferences expand,” NCAA selection committee chairman Ron Wellman said Wednesday. “There aren’t many conferences now playing a true double round robin in the regular season that we’re not getting the true picture of a conference situation maybe as much as we did a number of years ago. So we have conference teams playing each other one time.”
If teams play each other once during the regular season and the conference tournament, they will be allowed to play as early as the third round. If they play each other twice in the regular season and again in the league tournament, those teams would meet in the Sweet 16. If they play three times in the regular season and conference tournament, then they would be able to play in the Elite 8.
The committee also wants to honor the seed lines – the first four teams on the No. 1 seed line, the second four seeds on the No. 2 line and so on. There have been 18 times where a league placed seven or more teams in the NCAAs, with 12 of those coming since 2007. During that span, an average of 10 teams per season have moved up or down at least one line in the seeding bracket. That system has been eliminated.
“There have been years where we had to drop a team or promote a team a seed line,” Wellman said. “There was a team a couple of years ago that dropped a couple of seed lines. We don’t feel that’s appropriate, we don’t feel it’s fair to the team that’s being dropped or promoted or to the team that’s being affected by that or the teams that they have to play.”
Wellman said the primary objective is to keep teams on their natural seed line 1-16 in each region.
“The part that gets overlooked to a certain extent is the seeding process,” Wellman said. “We spend so much time getting teams in order seeding them 1-68, and it isn’t until that process is fully vetted that we begin the bracketing process.”
Smart overreacted, but …
While not condoning Marcus Smart’s actions, I certainly understand why the Oklahoma State guard shoved Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr. In the heat of competition, Smart finds himself in the stands with a woman clapping hard in his face and Orr says something that triggered Smart to push him. Orr says he didn’t use a racial slur – as if he would ever admit to doing so – and whatever was said, it certainly wasn’t an invitation to dinner and Smart was disrespected. Yes, Smart overreacted and his three-game suspension is perhaps justified, but we shouldn’t be surprised how a 19-year-old responds to an insult. It’s called being human.
Billikens on track
Only a few weeks from Selection Sunday and Saint Louis is flying under the radar once again. The Billikens have won 16 straight heading into Saturday’s home game against VCU and hold a two-game lead in the Atlantic 10 standings. Their two losses have come to unbeaten Wichita State and No. 21 Wisconsin. Defense is their calling card, and the Billikens lead the A-10 in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense, and three-point field goal percentage defense. But Saint Louis was in a similar position last year and then upset by 12th-seeded Oregon in the third round of the NCAAs. A repeat of that unpleasant experience isn’t likely.
Brown a miracle worker?
Larry Brown had nothing left to prove as a coach, but the job he’s doing at SMU, long known as a coaching graveyard, is truly remarkable. Last week the 73-year-old Brown led the Mustangs to a blowout victory over Cincinnati, SMU’s first win over a Top 10 team since 1987. This week the Mustangs are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1984-85. SMU has defeated three ranked teams – Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati – since Jan. 4 after not beating a ranked team in 11 years. Within two seasons if Brown hangs around – which isn’t a given considering his track record and age – SMU will be a Top 10 team.
W. Virginia’s bright future
Speaking of veteran coaches, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins is taking a roster awash with freshmen, sophomores and transfers and pointing them toward an NCAA Tournament bid. Their record is an ordinary 15-10, but they’ve won five of their last seven, including two of the last three games against Top-25 teams. Monday’s 102-77 blowout over No. 11 Iowa State was a much-needed NCAA resume-enhancer. Dayton transfer Juwan Staten, who rarely leaves the floor, is the team’s leading scorer, followed by sophomores Eron Harris and Terry Henderson and freshman Devin Williams. The Mountaineers’ future is bright.
Another team making a late-season push is Georgetown. Late last month after a five-point loss at home to Villanova, the Hoyas were left for dead after a five-game slide. But they’ve experienced a Lazarus moment by winning four straight coming into Sunday’s road game at St. John’s, another cold-turned-hot team that has won six of seven. Over the last three games, the Hoyas have committed just 19 turnovers.