Another Selection Sunday has come and gone. Lots of grown men got together, put on suits, stared into cameras and broke down the handy work that some other guys in suits produced from the conference room of an Indianapolis Hilton Garden Inn.
But at last, after all the “eye tests” were conducted and “bodies of work” had been examined, we got our bracket. As is tradition, CBS carries the Selection Show and I watch with baited breath. As a Virginia fan I’ve had a few sweats during the selection show (including the 2000 tournament, where UVa being left out still has to be the biggest screw job in tourney history) but for the most part it’s either been obviously in (unfortunately, not too often until Tony Bennett showed up) or obviously out (Dave Leitao, ladies and gentlemen).
Come Tuesday, the games will begin and all the bracket chatter will have as much value and significance as New Year’s Eve party supplies on a January 1st afternoon. But as it’s released, the sports world is at full attention and so was I (and special guest, my lovely wife!) for the show this year.
Here’s your bracket, and here’s a closer look at each region as well as the absurdity of the show itself.
6:00 PM sharp and we are off to the races. Unlike years past, CBS jumped right in, announced Kentucky as the 1 seed and started rolling out the bracket. Hold on a second CBS! You can’t just cut right to the chase! What happened to revealing just the 1 seeds and then going to a commercial? Then slowly–excruciatingly slow–revealing each team in the draw. I need to be romanced a little bit CBS.
Anyways, I quickly explain to my lovely wife what the Selection Show is but I can’t get past the sentence “unveiling of the teams and matchups of this years tournament” before she breaks into uncontrollable laughter. Women.
The whole bracket process begs for many logical questions that become increasingly difficult to answer without sounding like an illiterate rube.
“Why are Gonzaga and North Dakota State playing each other in the South region but playing each other in Seattle?” Fellas, try answering that one in 20 words or less while keeping some semblance of a coherence.
Anyways, back to the Midwest bracket. Kentucky, and then, does it matter? While the wife looked at Key Lime Pie recipes on Pinterest and wondered aloud “how do these guys get ready for this show?” (Bracketology post grad work?) the path of destruction for the Wildcats was announced.
Friskiest double digit seed: You could make a case for 10 through 13, but I’ll bite on 13 seed Valpo who is only getting 4.5 points from Maryland, a suspiciously small line.
Underdog all the pundits like: Buffalo, coached by former Dukie legend Bobby Hurley. The Duke bias getting creative.
Made for TV 2nd round matchup: Wichita State vs Kansas. Bill Self has dodged the Shockers in the regular season, and the committee always does a good job of not giving the big boys a choice come March. (Last years Ohio State vs Dayton matchup for instance.)
Made for TV 2nd weekend matchup: Kentucky vs Notre Dame. The Irish have the offensive fire power to hang with Kentucky for awhile and showed they can make a run in a tournament setting beating Duke and Carolina this past weekend in the ACC Tournament. No way this game wouldn’t be entertaining.
Final Four: Kentucky. Team on a mission, insane to pick anyone else here.
We are blowing through the bracket and my lovely wife noticed the show was scheduled for an hour and asked what do they do for the rest of the show. I informed her that after they reveal the bracket their is reaction and speculation and…well I nearly lost her here.
Luckily at this moment the Lafayette Leopards were announced as Villanova’s 1st round opponent and she stuck around to see if perhaps their uniforms were actually leopard print.
The shocker of the bracket (for me at least) came in the East region when Dayton was revealed in the play in game. The committee would inform us a little later that the Flyers were actually the last at-large team to make the field. To me Dayton was a team comfortably in the tournament that’s been playing great ball and had put up some impressive wins in a very solid Atlantic 10 conference. Ridiculous they got shipped off to the play-in game.
Friskiest double digit seed: Let’s go with Dayton. None of the other long shots look like a live dog and the Flyers get to play on their home court in the play-in game and then in Columbus for the weekend, should they make it. I’ll take those chances, even if their rotation is 6 guys and a tour guide from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Underdog all the pundits like: Whoever wins the NC State vs LSU game. Lots of chatter about Villanova not getting out of the first weekend, so of course they will with ease.
Made for TV 2nd round matchup: CBS tipped their hand on this one sending the Nantz/Rafftery/Grant Hill team to Charlotte. A Virginia vs Michigan State 2nd round game would be one of the juiciest matchups of the weekend and a rematch of one of the best games of last years tournament; a 2 point win for Sparty.
Made for TV 2nd weekend matchup: Northern Iowa vs Villanova. Classic mid major vs power conference matchup between two teams that can shoot the rock (both in the top 40 in shooting % in the country). The Panthers have a run in them this month.
Final Four: Virginia. Justin Anderson gets right and the Hoos get past their biggest hurdle (Sparty) in the 1st weekend.
At this point, the Dayton play-in games are raising more questions from my lovely wife than I can answer. “Why Dayton?”, “Why don’t they just take care of all those games before this show?” and “Is it Gon-ZAG-a or Gon-ZOG-a?” We get an answer when Greg Gumble (“the human Brillo pad” my wife declares) refers to Zag Nation. Finally, some answers.
Duke is your somewhat controversial 1 seed in the South, becoming the 1st team to get a 1 seed without winning their conference title in the regular season or in their tournament since 2008.
I’m not saying the South is weak, but CBS claimed the Duke games and TruTV is just showing episodes of South Beach Tow instead of the rest of the field.
Friskiest double digit seed: Davidson. Team that score 80 points a game versus a Big 10 after thought and the proverbial chokers of the tournament in Gonzaga? Sounds like a run to the 2nd weekend.
Underdog all the pundits like: Stephen F Austin, who I can’t totally disagree with because Utah has been pretty miserable away from Salt Lake City. That seems like one of those upsets that everyone has and it hits.
Made for TV 2nd round matchup: This whole region is on TruTV for a reason. Iowa State vs UCLA seems like the sexiest matchup you can find.
Made for TV 2nd weekend matchup: Duke vs Iowa State would be the choice here. Two extremely athletic and physical teams from the two best conferences in the country. This would be one of the best games of the tournament.
Final Four: Duke. I can forgive the Devils for the Notre Dame slip-up. That loss makes it easy to forget how hot this team was prior to the ACC Tournament. Weak region and two recent 1st round exits fresh on Coach K’s mind will open up the highway to Indianapolis for Duke, but not after an epic regional final against Iowa State.
I’ve finally lost the wife, while Wisconsin is announced as the 1 seed out west. She returns just in time for Wofford (Whoa-ford, she insists) to find out their opponent and also brings along more questions.
“How many teams get in?” Finally, I can give her a straight answer.
“OK, so basically everyone gets in.”
This leads to a conversation about at-large bids, the NIT (“they do this AGAIN for a whole different group of schools!?”) and the bubble (“bubble? what’s the bubble?”)
The final three punch combo for my lovely wife that ends her night of college hoops happens when she discovers:
- On ESPN they are doing the exact same show, only with more people
- On her phone there is a family group text with 25+ messages about the proceedings that she is somehow included on
- After the show there is 2+ hours of “Bracketology”, where the suits will now discuss what was just revealed.
As my lovely wife finally declared no mas, the West bracket wrapped up the night.
Friskiest double digit seed: Following Mercer’s upset over Duke last year, I’ll go with Wofford, also from the Southern Conference. There’s always the potential that the “SEC stinks” narrative gets blown out of the water and one of the non-Kentucky teams makes a run, but I’ll take the stance that it won’t be Arkansas.
Underdog all the pundits like: Lots of love for Georgia State before the draw, but Baylor is a tall order. Kevin Ware leads the…(checks espn.com) Panthers into the tourney after his career at Louisville ended with that hideous leg injury he suffered in the Elite 8 game against Duke. Their coach also tore his achilles Sunday after celebrating their Sun Belt Conference title. Only an 8 point underdog in a 3 vs 14 matchup, maybe Georgia State can give Hunter another reason to jump around.
Made for TV 2nd round matchup: Arkansas vs North Carolina. Talk about fast paced; this could be a highly entertaining game over the weekend. The Razorbacks like to press and Carolina can get out and run. First to 80 wins.
Made for TV 2nd weekend matchup: Wisconsin vs Arizona. Two complete teams that could both give Kentucky all they could handle. It’s a shame only one can potentially get a shot at the Wildcats. Arizona had a good argument for a 1 seed, and are playing their best ball of the year. They enter the tournament with their scoring offense and scoring defense both within the top 25 in the country. The Badgers, led my Frank Kaminsky and legendary coach Bo Ryan were so damn close to a championship game appearance last season and have that look of a team that won’t sleep walk through the early rounds. It’ll be a shame if we don’t get this matchup.
Final Four: Arizona. Sean Miller finally gets his guys over the hump and after not having Brandon Ashley last year his presence makes the difference this season.
Champion: How do you not take Kentucky? Well I’ll be that contrarian guy and go with Arizona. I’m just not seeing the undefeated run ending with a title in Indy. Duke struggles to always play great defense and Virginia struggles to always play great offense. Arizona does both well and has size and scoring balance (6 guys average 9 points a game or more) to give Kentucky the toughest fight they’ll get all year.
Arizona beats Kentucky in the national semifinal and then beats Virginia in the final. Although take that pick with a grain of salt because my wife’s bracket usually beats mine.