Inside the College Game: NCAA Tournament Field Review

Mon, 03/17/2008 - 8:01am

By Adi Joseph

Sometimes, it just means too much to let go.

[img_assist|nid=3443|title=Reggie Larry (right) - AP Photo |desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]Boise State star Reggie Larry had watched two of his top teammates foul out. He knew in the back of his mind that New Mexico State was considered a deeper team. He was tired. He had a chance to win the game in regulation – a regulation he probably could barely remember – but he had missed a free-throw.

Larry’s team had led the whole way in regulation. They started the game with a 21-7 lead – something that could have only made that third OT period all the more grueling.

Three overtimes. For those counting – that’s 55 minutes of basketball. Larry himself clocked in 48 minutes in the game. But look at it from Larry’s perspective: he’d probably play another 48 minutes if that’s what it took for the Broncos to wind up in the NCAA Tournament.

The WAC title game proved to be one of the top highlights of Championship Week. But beyond the basketball played, that game proved emblematic of what makes Championship Week great.

Mid-majors and majors alike, this past week was an opportunity for every team in a conference of Division 1 (sorry, independents) to compete with the elite. Win and you’re in – no questions asked, no bubbles burst.

Georgia had won four conference games all season and seemed a lock to have their season end in the SEC Tournament, only to win four in a row and be crowned league champions. They simply had no business doing that – things like that shouldn’t happen, right?

Georgia’s win, like Boise State’s, gives us so much more than high-quality basketball. We experience the personalities of stars knowing their seasons or – in the cases of Larry or Georgia senior star Sundiata Gaines – their careers are on the line.

Neither Larry nor Gaines had experienced the NCAA Tournament in their careers. They both seemed destined to head off into the sunset and folklore as program stars who would be forgotten names referenced only in media guides and forums. Perhaps they would play professionally for a few years, but the NBA doesn’t seem too likely in either’s case.

In the last week, they’ve made their mark.

But it’s the NCAA Tournament that everyone wants to talk about now. So with that, let’s start the show.

Rants are nice

This time of year, it’s tough not to be able to find something that really pisses me off. And maybe I’ve got a little less than normal to complain about this season, but I’ve still got a few bones to pick.

On Snubs:

I have to applaud the NCAA Tournament committee for the job they’ve done. For the most part, they picked the correct teams to be in and out.

But I do take issue to the exclusion of Arizona State. And I’m not going to use the justification of comparing them to Arizona, because I firmly believe the Wildcats should be part of the field of 65.

Admittedly, the Sun Devils should have played a stronger non-conference schedule. And Herb Sendek probably knows this and hopefully will look to do something about it for the future. But considering the schedule they actually DID play, I really find it hard to believe that the argument against Arizona State is being made.

Here’s the case for the Sun Devils: They’ve got wins against Stanford, Xavier, USC, Oregon and Arizona (TWICE). And throughout the season, they’ve gone toe-to-toe with the top teams in the top conference in America, including a one-point loss to Washington State. A 9-9 record in the best conference should mean something.

The case against ASU? Computer numbers. Everyone knows the RPI isn’t worth caring too much about, and I firmly believe that in most cases the tournament committee understands that it is nothing more than a guide. But in this case, those computer numbers were clearly held against a team that was competing in the best conference in the country and holding their own.

It’s just a travesty.

On Seeds:

What was Wisconsin supposed to do? The idea that the Badgers don’t have a more impressive résumé than Duke is just silly. Had the Blue Devils made the ACC Championship game, I could understand. But I feel as though the Badgers being a No. 3 seed one of several signs of disrespect toward the Big Ten.

Is that what it means to be “No. 1 overall?” UNC got no favors from the committee. Tennessee, in my mind, was the strongest of the No. 2 seeds, and even Indiana is a bit absurd as a No. 8. The Hoosiers legitimately have the talent to knock off UNC if they get hot enough. The East is just completely loaded.

Gonzaga deserved better, and the Bulldogs are probably the nation’s most underrated team. They’ve had two “ugly losses” all season – the WCC title game against San Diego (on their home court) and an early season loss to Texas Tech. They’ve also beaten a few solid teams themselves. Look at the schedule and tell me that looks like a No. 7 seed.

On the flipside, Miami is nowhere NEAR the caliber of a No. 7. The Hurricanes should be no higher than a 9 seed in my view.

On a positive note, I think the committee did well with the tough case of Georgia. A 14-seed makes sense for a team that wouldn’t have been able to play in the postseason had it not won the SEC Championship. I was afraid they would overseed the Bulldogs into a 9 or 10 slot.

I also am glad to see the committee didn’t think much of the Missouri Valley, and gave Drake the fitting No. 5 seed it deserved.

On CBS/ESPN Coverage:

Another solid year of coverage, though I’m not sure Bob Knight added much the ESPN coverage of the event. He was tight and didn’t seem completely comfortable around the cast of characters in the studio with him.

And Knight’s argument for expanding the field is such stupid coach-speak. It’s a horrible idea that only benefits coaches looking to bolster their résumés

Game Notes:

First, I wanted to say I missed you guys but I’ve been so busy lately that I just haven’t had the time to write much. Second, there will be a full breakdown of the Tournament later this week, so don’t worry. And as a result, I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum… In all honesty, I would have been more shocked by Illinois than Georgia winning their conference tournament… It’s also worth noting that the NIT seems less exciting this year than in other years, because there simply wasn’t as much talent on the bubble this year… Syracuse’s hard slip is largely the fault of Donte Greene’s incredible burnout, which is upsetting to watch... Seth Greenberg is an incredible coach. And while I do believe Virginia Tech was justifiably left out of the field, it’s incredible that he lost so much and still managed to produce a bubble team. Kudos… Anyway, see you in a few days!

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