Sunday, March 16, 2008

Let the Shafting Begin

So, unfortunately, as was sort of predictable, Wisconsin did not earn a number two seed in the tourney. Instead, they're the number three seed in the Midwest regional, facing Cal State Fullerton in the first round, and, if they manage to beat the champions of the Big West, will match up with the winner of USC-Kansas State, a sort of lottery pick showdown between OJ Mayo and Michael Beasley. The two seed on their side of the regional is Georgetown, which I actually think might be a good match-up with Wisconsin. They run a style of offense similar to Northwestern's, they play at a slow pace, generally play very good defense, and feature seven foot lottery pick Roy Hibbert in the middle. However, unlike UW, they tend to foul a decent amount. I always see an advantage for UW playing against handsy teams that are a bit careless with their fouls (like Sparty and Marquette). So if UW advances to the Sweet Sixteen, I have some hope for giving Georgetown (should the Hoyas make it to that round) a good battle. And that's as far as I'm willing to look right now.

What's interesting is that Georgetown is one of the teams that some predictors had UW bumping for a two seed. Duke was the other. It didn't happen in either case, so it's sort of fitting that G'Town is in UW's group of eight. They may be able to see who's better, straight up, should both teams win their first two games.

Why didn't that bump happen? Well, take a look at how the other Big Ten teams are seeded, and it becomes pretty clear. The NCAA selection committee thinks the Big Ten stinks. Indiana, the third place team in the conference, getting an 8 seed?! This is a team with two first round draft picks on it, and the consensus Big Ten player of the year, which went 25-7. The committee is telling us that an 11 loss Oklahoma team, who lost to Stephen F. Austin and Nebraska by 18, is significantly better? (The Sooners are a six seed.) Second place Purdue, who beat every other good team in the conference at least once and beat three seed Louisville, gets a sixth seed? Then Sparty, which finished well back from Purdue and Indiana gets a fifth seed. Weirdness.

The only thing to explain this is that the committee thought the Big Ten stunk. It underrated intra-conference performance, and mainly looked at how tough the teams' schedules were outside the conference. Indiana had a schedule full of patsies, except for Xavier, who beat them. They're one good non-conference win was over an iffy Kentucky team. Purdue beat Louisville, yes, but David Padgett wasn't playing and the Boilers also lost at home to Iowa State and Wofford. (Never mind that they have five freshmen in their rotation and that they've been excellent since then.) Sparty actually had a solid non-conference schedule-- playing and beating Texas, BYU and Missouri, and losing a close game to UCLA, their only loss in the non-conference portion. So apparently your performance during the conference season didn't matter that much. After all, in the selection committee's eyes, it was just crap on crap.

Or maybe there's a different reason they seemed to ignored Big Ten regular season performance-- they didn't get to see it. The Big Ten Network is still not available on most cable carriers, and satellites are still not that big a portion of the market. Out of sight out of mind, and apparently out of consideration for decent seeds.

What I also find funny is that the ACC got the same number of bids as the Big Ten-- four. But no one talks about the ACC being down, and none of their seeds suffered for it. Duke is still a two, despite finishing second and not making the conference tourney finals. And hell, Miami and Clemson are seven and five seeds, respectively. Clemson had six conference losses in an ACC that only sent three other teams to the tourney. And Miami was .500 in the conference and had one decent pre-season win-- over Mississippi State. And they're seeded ahead of Indiana? Come on, now.... Time to do some digging into who is on the selection committee.

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