Sunday, March 20, 2005

The flock in formation: NCAA commentary

Remember when the brackets were set up, I said that if 12+ of the 1-4 seeds made the Sweet 16, folks would say how well the Committee did in the seeding process; and if fewer than 12 made it, we'd hear about the "parity" in college hoops. So watch how in the top 100 largest newspapers (other than the WSJ) their old-hand columnist or college hoops beat writer will pen a 20-inch column discussing the parity in the NCAA.

It's all a crock. When the season comes to its close in the Final Four, there will be four teams out of this group: Washington, Louisville, Illinois, UNC, Ok. State, UConn, Duke and Kentucky (the only dark horses = GTech, Florida). Sort of the group you'd expect. So the strata are divided between the top 10 or so, the next 40, and then the rest of the NCAA Tourney entrants.

Think about it: even if every one of the 1, 2 and 4 seeds win tomorrow (three #3s are out, 'Zona survived), only 10 of the top 16 teams pre-Tourney will advance to the Sweet 16. Poor ratio. And some poor seeding too: Bucknell whacked Pitt at Pitt, it may have deserved better than a #14; after all, how many other non-major conference schools seeded #11-#16 had a road win against a major conference opponent? Vermont played within 7 points at Kansas, the second-toughest road venue in college hoops, and had a top 30 RPI, so the Catamounts probably deserved a #11. They were underseeded and SU paid the price (although 23 turnovers and 4-18 by G-Mac helped that along).

As for others: did you really think Wake was that good? No defense = no title. That team had WVU buried, lost momentum and WVU put on a GREAT performance to overcome Wake, force the Deacs to twice extend the game (regulation, 1st OT) on clutch shots by Taron Downey (huge kudos to him) and ultimately fail when Chris Paul's heroics could not overcome a full team's worth of tremendous play. [ESPN will try to make that game part of its ESPN Classis rotation ASAP]. Wake 2005 = Syracuse 1986: big talent, some heart, no D. For those of us keeping track, that's the second time in three years Wake nabbed a #2 seed and failed to make it out of the second round. I'd previously pegged Gonzaga as overrated, Oklahoma as overrated and, as for BC: if you think you were shafted by the Committee with a #4 seed, you don't help your case by getting beat by the #12 out of the WTF league.

Parity is a nice code-phrase for those who thought Wake could run the table, who thought SU could win the Austin Regional (and I had no such thought until they teased me by winning the Big East Tourney), who thought this was THE YEAR for perennially overrated Gonzaga. Lessons learned?

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