2018 March Madness Has Arrived
by: The Cold Hard Truth
The time has arrived. Another great college basketball season has reached its culmination, and once again, the seedings that will arrive later today come with their usual controversies. Good teams will get ripped off while other teams will make it into the field unjustly - at least in my opinion. For every person who claims someone deserves the invite, there is another who can easily present legit facts to support an opposing viewpoint. I guess that's why it's great that I get to write this article, because it allows me to ignore everyone else, cut to the chase, and provide all you guys with the correct answers. Let's get started.
First and foremost - let's eliminate the cheaters. CBS Sports reported on February 24 that Arizona coach Sean Miller's contract states that he gets 10 million dollars if he is fired for cause and only 5 million if he is fired for no reason. It makes more sense to me now that Miller held a press conference where he denied having pay-to-play conversations even as the FBI wiretapped his phone and has recordings! Miller doubles his money for his wrong doings and Arizona higher-ups know that they won't be playing good basketball in the foreseeable future. They're making the most of their 2018. Sean Miller and Arizona - you're cheaters. We have "100,000" reasons for DeAndre Ayton to not play. Arizona, you're eliminated from the bracket.
Louisville, you had to vacate your 2013 title and 123 wins. The sad thing is it appears this is just the tip of the iceberg. You're still cheating - recruitment, sex scandals, etc. Even with all of that, the politics of bracketology is still trying to get them in the tournament. They lost to Kentucky by 29. Duke beat them by 26, and Virginia just beat them by 17. Plus, I've never seen a team lose a 5 point lead in a game with one second to play, but some how they did that too. Louisville - you're out.
I just love the bracketologies - I watch them every day this time of year. However, you can't help but notice the inconsistencies. Sure, Kentucky has been playing better as of late, but for much of the season, they weren't a very good team. They lost 4 games in a row mid-season and barely moved in the bracketology. In contrast, Mississippi State at one point was 3rd in the SEC and now has 22 wins and a .500 record in conference and won't even come close to making this tournament. The same situation is occurring with Nebraska. They tied for 4th in the Big 10 with Michigan. They finished 4 games ahead of the next placed team. They have 22 wins, and some how they are out. That is a travesty. Yet, somehow Oklahoma remains in the field. They are 2-9 their last 11; 4-10 their last 14; and they haven't won a road game in all of 2018. They lost head-to-head against OSU in the Big 12 tournament, in what should have been a play-in game. Oklahoma State and Nebraska - you're in my tournament field. Oklahoma, you're in the NIT. The sad thing is that politics does play a role. Even though Trae Young is a great talent, but that shouldn't mean he gets a bye into the NCAA tournament.
I can hear it now. "Cold Hard Truth, you just don't understand the selection process that the committee uses. They are looking at Quadrant 1 victories. Nebraska only has 1 Q1 victory. OU has 6 Quadrant 1 wins. Well, the bracketeers have been raving about how political juggernaut Notre Dame deserves a bid because they just got Bonzie Colson back from injury. Since when do we factor that in? I don't see people jacking up Missouri's seeding now that Michael Porter Jr. is playing. The Fighting Irish Quadrant 1 record is 2-9. Fighting Irish - you're out. Middle Tennessee has a 2-3 record against Q1 teams this year, The Blue Raiders have won games each of the last two years in the NCAA tournament. I think MTSU earned an invitation despite losing in their conference tournament to Southern Miss. However, I heard a stat the other night that a win would have given them a 99.2% chance to earn the invite. A loss resulted in their changes lowering to .5% (a 99% difference). That is just plain stupid. Kentucky can lay 4 eggs in a row - no problem. MTSU plays one bad game in three years and they are doomed. The system must change and acknowledge conference dominance - regardless of the conference.
The fact remains that conferences have rivalries. All conferences have difficult road games. Nobody can win every game on the road. We need to let these smaller schools play a few tough games out of conference without judgement and then accept the conference standings at face value. You don't beat them in ranking by using in-conference RPI or the KenPom. Again, this is just my opinion (which I'm told is usually correct).
So let's talk about something good. Stephen F. Austin is in the tournament for the 4th time in 5 years. In non-conference, they went into LSU and beat the Tigers by a point. They followed that up with a 1-point loss to Mizzou in a game they easily could have won. Then they went into their conference, played well, but ended up 14-4 and in third place behind Nicholls State and SE Louisiana. This is more proof that all conference are competitive. My earlier remarks would suggest SFA should perhaps be out of the discussion. However, in this case, they played well in non-conference and then defeated both teams ahead of them in their tournament. SFA is legitimately in the field in my opinion. They have an aggressive defense and are a talented team. They could be an interesting upset special in their first round game.
This year is tough to judge. Is the American Athletic Conference really that good? I'm having trouble deciding whether Cincinnati, Houston and Wichita State are really that good. My gut makes me think they're a bit down - good enough to win a game of two early but lacking enough talent to make a real run. The Atlantic 10 - same thing. Davidson just took down Rhode Island by a point in the A10 Final. Rhode Island is 2-5 in Quadrant 1 wins and somehow has kept their RPI in the Top 15. They are likely in the tournament. This means Davidson just locked out a bubble team - hopefully the Sooners. However, do we really think the A10 has enough talent for a team to make it deep in the field? They could do that (and ruin my bracket), but a more likely scenario would be a few early wins and an early exit. Lipscomb took down Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun tourney. I love the athleticism of FGSU (they're obviously out), but Lipscomb is a pretty replacement. They are a good offensive team. They are not an easy out and should be fun to watch. The ACC looks tough again as usual. The Big 12 - I'm not too sure. Kansas may earn a 1 seed, but they really only have one great player in Devonte Graham. Is that enough fire power to make a Final Four Run? West Virginia looks awesome at times and beat Virginia this year. However, they lose big leads which is never a good thing. Texas Tech has been a big surprise this year. They're patient, have a ton of talent, and understand that Keenan Evans is their go-to-guy in crunch time. I like this team a lot. The only problem is they are the "Dead Raiders", famous for screwing up almost every time it looks like they should win. That said, an Elite 8 run is certainly within reach. The Big 10 has been bashed on all year. Four teams will make it (5 if they do the right thing with Nebraska). I think they'll make some noise this year. All those teams are talented, and a deep run is possible. The West Coast Conference - Gonzaga - "The Best in the West" had a great run last year to the final and has reloaded nicely. Saint Mary's never seems to get their due respect and is either barely in or on the bubble despite 28 wins, a 2-1 Quadrant 1 record, and a #40 RPI. I'd like to see the Gaels make a run, probably won't happen. The Bulldogs are not as good as last year. However, when has that ever stopped them from making a run. They have the right mentality and the right coach. We'll see what happens with Gonzaga. The PAC 12 - clearly the best high school conference in college basketball. They don't deserve to get a team in this tournament. However, politics might get USC and UCLA into the dance with Arizona. However, if I was picking, I'd toss bubble team Arizona State into the mix. They have had an unexpectedly good year and a good non-conference run. Best of all, they didn't cheat to do it. The SEC - a much improved conference with a lot of even teams. Auburn lost a key player to injury. They haven't looked the same. I don't know if these teams can make a deep run, but should perform fine in early rounds. Teams like Bucknell, Loyola Illinois, Buffalo, South Dakota State - these are the teams that make March Madness great. They all have talent and can win a game. The big question is whether you have the guts in your CBCC bracket to take a chance on them. Finally,how good is the Big East? I just watched Providence take two potential #1 seeds in Xavier and Villanova to overtime, beating Xavier and then finally losing to the Wildcats. I think this is where my main research will take place the next few days. Seton Hall, Creighton, Providence, and Butler - we know they can be good. The question is whether they will be good. I am sure it will be fun to find out!
So here we are, only a couple hours away from hearing the seedings. It's the best time of the year and we get to all sit down and share this moment together. Best of luck to all you diligent CBCC fans who recognize this moment as the greatest in all sports. Let's roll up our sleeves are get to work. We have some basketball to watch!