Try this hypothetical on for size. Duke wins 27 games, the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title, and the ACC tournament championship, and the NCAA selection committee assigns the Blue Devils a No. 2 seed.
Now that would be some March Madness.
It would never happen. Not in 100 years.
But that’s what the selection committee did Sunday to Miami’s Hurricanes.
Mike Bobinski, the chairman of the committee, said there are only four No. 1 seeds and that “if we’d had five Miami would have been there.”
He said it came down to Miami and Gonzaga, which is 31-2 and ranked No. 1 in both major national polls.
Gonzaga has the worst strength of schedule of maybe any No. 1 seed dating to the Christians vs. Lions days.
The Bulldogs haven’t faced any opponent among the Top 10 teams in RPI. Miami has beaten two of them.
One other team from the West Coast Conference, St. Mary’s, got an at-large bid into the play-in round. The ACC was the fourth best league in the nation, based on RPI.
All teams are not created equal. Miami doesn’t have Duke’s history. Heck, Miami doesn’t have Gonzaga’s history. So be it.
I think Miami has a better chance to make history between now and April 8 than does Gonzaga. That’s why they’ll play the games. There will be plenty of upsets between now and then, but if form holds Miami would have to beat Indiana in the East Region final to get to the Final Four in Atlanta. If form holds, Gonzaga would have to beat Ohio State in the West Region. Don’t be afraid to back the Bucks, who have hit their stride at exactly the right time.
Some other hits and bits on the NCAA tournament:
■ Who can wear the slipper? I was prepared to go all-in with Memphis, the only team besides Gonzaga with 30 wins, as an under-seeded Cinderella story. The committee gave the Tigers, the only C-USA team in the field, a sixth seed and then put them in the same bracket as Duke and Michigan State. The slipper doesn’t fit there.
So let’s go with karma. Saint Louis’ players were pallbearers at their coach’s funeral in December and then held it together to dominate the Atlantic-10, a league with five teams in the NCAA. It’s been a Cinderella story all season, so why not now? Of course, the No. 4-seeded Billikens are in the same bracket with Louisville, the No. 1 among No. 1s. Hmmm.
■ The Big Seven: The Big Ten has been touted as the nation’s top league all season long and it got seven teams in the field, including one on each of the five top seeding lines. Lo and behold, the Big East got eight berths. Interestingly, neither posted the top conference RPI. That was the Mountain West and a potential meeting between the best of that league, New Mexico, and Ohio State in the Sweet 16 could be a dandy.
■ Scalpers’ delight: The last time the Palace of Auburn Hills served as an opening-weekend NCAA site, at the end of the 2005-06 season, the field included West Virginia, Southern Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern State, Pitt, Kent State, Kansas, and Bradley. They couldn’t give tickets away.
This time, both Michigan State and Michigan are assigned there. So are regional neighbors Akron and Valparaiso. This time, there won’t be enough seats.
■ Early ambushes: The lowest-seeded teams I can see winning on the opening weekend are on the No. 12 line and there are four to choose from in games against No. 5s. Oregon is very dangerous against Oklahoma State; Ole Miss is fresh off a mildly surprising SEC tournament championship and will challenge Wisconsin; Cal is another capable Pac-12 team and gets to play one hour from campus against UNLV, and Akron could well be a threat to VCU.
■ The Fraud Four: Southern Miss (25-9), defending national champion Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia were left on the outside looking in when the last four at-large berths went to La Salle, Boise State, St. Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee St.
■ The Final Four: No. 1 Louisville, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 2 Georgetown, No. 2 Miami.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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