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The Morning Dish – Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

We know neither the NCAA nor CBS will cop to it, but after the NCAA men’s basketball committee’s first in-season release of the top seeds in advance of the tourney, we have to wonder something.

Was the NCAA’s attempt to create in-season “buzz” with a college football-inspired in-season ranking of a portion of the field a flop?

While yesterday’s selection preview was a topic of some talk throughout games on Saturday, it was hardly anything earthshattering. There was some discussion of it on social media, but not much more than a routine weekly bracketology update from Joe Lunardi. If one was looking for even a small scale of the excitement of Selection Sunday, this wasn’t it.

The truth is, the preview still is a college hoophead niche item more than anything else, and the person getting into office pools and picking teams to advance for their funny nicknames wasn’t going to be interested enough to check this out. And for the hophead, most probably didn’t learn a whole lot that they already have or could’ve figured out quite easily before.

There were few surprises. There’s not a ton to debate about the seeds. Maybe Butler was a little high. Gonzaga was probably low, but that’s of no surprise whatsoever given the pittance of respect the committee has given the past couple years to conferences such as the one the Zags are members of. And frankly, the goal for the Zags is a 1 seed in the West however possible, and it really makes no difference if it’s the first or fourth one.

Wisconsin is the first team mentioned by many as the one with the biggest gripe about not being on the list, but we might suggest Cincinnati had every bit as much of a case. In fact, if one took the names out and placed the Badgers’ resume side-by-side with Cincinnati’s, they’d have a bear of a time trying to distinguish one from the other.

Also not new was that the committee does not rely on the RPI as much as the too-long perpetrated urban legend claims it does. Not that perpetrators of that myth will ever admit it. If the committee was really was so stuck on RPI, then West Virginia never would’ve been close to a 4 seed, Butler would’ve been even higher, and Gonzaga wouldn’t have been a 1 seed, either.

No, the top 16 the committee spit out was pretty darn close to a consensus, the 16 teams just about any other person would’ve picked. If anyone was outraged by what the committee released yesterday, then it’s only because they’re trying to be. There was nothing to be outraged about.

And that’s the problem, if the NCAA really wants this to be something people care about. As TV analyst Mark Adams said so right last night, the top 16 teams aren’t the ones to be concerned about. Indeed, the teams that really pique the interest are the last at-large teams. Those are the ones generating far more discussion on Selection Sunday, far more than if an SEC was wronged because they got a 3 seed instead of a 2.

Of course, the committee has good (if self-preserving) reasons for not releasing those teams. But it also will then have to live with the fact that the event that was supposed to get people more fired up for the NCAA Tournament really is doing little of the sort.

Side Dishes:

Phil Kasiecki will have his Saturday notes recapping all of the day’s biggest games.

Today’s Menu:

  • The day starts with a good one in the Patriot League, a rematch of last year’s conference tourney final with Lehigh at Holy Cross (Noon Eastern, CBSSN).
  • As much as it’s tempting to write off Indiana’s postseason chances, the Hoosiers’ schedule just keeps setting them up for chances to get back on track. Up next: Michigan at home, and on national television (1 p.m., CBS).
  • The biggest game of the day, and one of the biggest of the weekend, has Cincinnati at SMU, two top-25 AAC teams who have had a lot of important meetings the last three years (4 p.m., ESPN).
  • Wichita State will get tested with a trip to Loyola (Ill.), as the Ramblers gave the Shockers some trouble in their first meeting in Wichita (4 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Not as tasty as suspected before the season, Nevada traveling to San Diego State still gives the Aztecs another chance to jumpstart a stretch run (4 p.m., CBSSN).
  • Northwestern has shown a few cracks lately, and now comes a trip to Wisconsin (6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network), with the Badgers officially put on notice by the selection committee that they need to impress to improve their seeding.
  • Finally, Virginia goes to Virginia Tech, with the Hokies looking to show some fight after a 23-point whupping in their first meeting rematch of thei (6:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Have a relaxing, restful Sunday.

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