I remember watching the NCAA selection show one year when JU was going to get a bid. They drew Temple in the first round in Dayton. Not bad I thought, until then-coach Bob Wenzel came on the news and complained loud and hard about being the 8th seed. He talked about how hard the 8-9 game was and how unfair the committee had been to the Dolphins. And he was right. But the Sun Belt Conference got no respect and the committee was making it tough on JU. Just an early example of how things can either go your way or not in the bracket.
This year’s 65-team field isn’t the best 65 teams in the country, but rather a cross section of representatives from different regions and conferences. Three-quarters of the teams are from east of the Mississippi. Duke seems to have the easiest road to the final four, with Alabama looking like their only obstacle to get to Atlanta.
Cincinnati’s road looks hardest. Nine of the 16 teams in the West probably have a legitimate shot at winning that region. It’s also where the most unfair seeding happened, with Gonzaga being placed at #6.
How is that important?
In the second round, they’ll face Arizona, a game that should be somewhere closer to the Final Four instead of the second round. Florida will have a tough time. Playing Creighton in Chicago, and then facing Illinois in the United Center, right in the Illini’s backyard. If they get by that, either Stanford or Kansas will be waiting.
Georgia’s road could be a little smoother with Texas Tech, NC State and U Conn looming on the horizon. There will be upsets but I’ll stick with the four teams who should have been the #1 seeds: Maryland, Duke, Kansas and Oklahoma to get to the Four.
Duke and Kansas will be there, I’m taking Oklahoma because they’re hot, and Maryland, because I went there. I think that’s the same kind of logic the committee used anyway. I’ve only got one suggestion that people come up with every year. Put everybody in the tournament. That’s right, all 200+ teams get a chance. I know the conference championship tournaments give teams a shot, but just extend the NCAA’ s by two rounds, give a few teams a bye to even the number of teams out and let it be a free-for-all. The ultimate outcome won’t change. Parts of the current tournament format are unfair, but one thing never changes; to win it all, you have to beat everybody who’s put in front of you. Do that, and you deserve to be called a champion.