The stage is set. We know the 68 teams and the initial matchups. And considering how the picture looked a week or so ago, there were remarkably few real surprises in terms of who was in and who was out of the NCAA Tournament field.
We know that the last four teams in were Kansas State, Providence, USC and Wake Forest, and the first four out were Cal, Illinois State, Iowa and Syracuse. The latter four will be top seeds in the NIT, a small consolation prize.
There isn’t much to take issue with as far as the top seeds go. Villanova is the overall No. 1 seed, joined by Kansas, North Carolina and Gonzaga. There was some thought that Duke could grab one of the top seeds with an ACC Tournament title, but that didn’t happen – in fact, the Blue Devils ended up in the East region with Villanova, which in theory means they go down as the weakest No. 2 seed, although I would put them ahead of Louisville, who also got a No. 2 seed ahead of Oregon in the Midwest.
Oregon’s seed, however, might well be influenced more by Chris Boucher’s injury than anything else. The Ducks’ resume isn’t quite what was expected before the season, as they didn’t exactly set the world on fire in non-conference play, but as Dillon Brooks got back to full health and looked like the player we expected before the season, the Ducks, too, looked like the team we expected them to be before the season. Boucher’s injury certainly hurts the Ducks; he led the Pac-12 in blocked shots the past two years and can hit the three-pointer at the offensive end, making him an interesting matchup. While hardly a fatal blow, it is certainly not insignificant, either.
Utlimately, there were no glaring omissions from the field like a year ago, when St. Bonaventure and Monmouth certainly had great cases. Looking at the last four teams out, Cal let one get away against Oregon and had other chances, while Illinois State lacked the quality wins largely from a lack of opportunity, Iowa came on late but too late and Syracuse had some good wins, but they came in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome too often and an early exit from the ACC Tournament might have sealed their fate.
The biggest issues may be with seeding, and they may not leap out at you as the bracket got revealed or as you first look at it. That was not the case for me. But take a longer glance at it, and see the NCAA’s 1-68 seeding of the teams (below), and you can start to raise plenty of questions; colleague Matt Norlander had an excellent take on it right here, and Ted Sarandis and I talked about this and much more on College Basketball Tonight here on Hoopville. Also, our Adam Glatczak weighed in with his thoughts.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 12, 2017
Ultimately, the fact that only one true mid-major (Saint Mary’s) got into the field as an at-large is, while not shocking, a little concerning. It’s not shocking because there weren’t as many mid-majors that had resumes worthy of discussion for at-large bids in the first place; there was no Monmouth. It’s concerning because it’s a sign of what has happened in the college game, and it raises questions about scheduling. Wichita State is a No. 10 seed despite being an impressive team in every respect; committee chair Mark Hollis pointed out that the Shockers’ only win against a team in the NCAA Tournament field came against South Dakota State, the sixth seed in the Summit League Tournament before they went on to win. However, it would not be a surprise if the Shockers made every attempt to play a number of high-major teams and were rebuffed most, if not all, of the time.
For at least the next day or so, we’ll be talking about much of this and more. Once Tuesday, and especially Thursday, arrives, we’ll enjoy the games as we usually do.
Villanova and other northeast teams who play their first game on Thursday may leave town early due to the likelihood of a major snowstorm to hit much of the northeast corridor. A nor’easter is predicted for Monday night into much of Tuesday, which forecast suggest could drop a foot of snow on most of the big metropolitan areas. Teams playing in Buffalo will have media availability on Wednesday with their first game slated for Thursday.
Six conference championship games were played on Sunday, only one of which had apparent bubble implications. Rhode Island beat VCU to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament and grab the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Also, Princeton beat Yale to win the Ivy League‘s first tournament, while Troy beat Texas State to win the Sun Belt, Michigan completed an amazing story as they beat Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Tournament, Kentucky won the SEC Tournament by beating Arkansas, and SMU beat Cincinnati to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
As noted, the NIT is highlighted by the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament. You can find a printable bracket for the entire tournament at this link, with games beginning on Tuesday.
The College Basketball Invitational (CBI) announced its 16-team field on Sunday night, with all teams playing their first game on Wednesday. You can view the full release or a simple printable bracket. The CBI this year will use some experimental rules changes, including four ten-minute quarters and others pertaining to team fouls and shot clock resets. While it is great that teams get a chance to play in another postseason tournament, it’s unfortunate that they also end up being as much lab rats as teams trying to win a postseason tournament.
Also, the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) has been coming together over the past week, with teams formally accepting invitations with matchups to be decided. The first round matchups are now set, and the entire tournament schedule can be found right here.
The CIT gets going right away with one game, the Coach John McLendon Classic with Liberty hosting Norfolk State.