The NCAA Tournament bracket is a piece of art -- stare at it long enough, and you can see just about anything. Here's what we see from the 2005 bracket after two rounds, including one vision worthy of Nostradamus and another impression the 2006 selection committee will need to consider.
The Stanford Factor
This could have been called The Iowa Factor or The Texas Factor, but Stanford was the most painful example of something the 2006 selection committee must avoid.
|Nate Robinson won't be able to hide from Washington's fate for long. (AP)|
All three lost in the first round. Iowa and Stanford were outclassed, the Hawkeyes by Cincinnati and the Cardinal by Mississippi State. Texas was beaten by a Nevada team not playing its best ball of the season.
It'll happen again next year. A very good team will lose a very good player, and then will weasel its way back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Judging from the 2005 bracket, the 2006 selection committee will need to pat that team on the head, commend its perseverance and send it to the NIT.
Nostradamus are us
The gap between the No. 1s and No. 16s continues to shrink, reaching an all-time low this season. In 1998, the No. 1s' average margin of victory was 42.3. In 2001 it was 37. In 2002 it was 29.8. Last year it was 25.
This year? Down to 15.5. Three games were decided by 12 points or fewer, another first.
The two closest margins were Washington's 88-77 win against Montana, and Duke's 57-46 victory against Delaware State. That's bad news for the Huskies and Dukies. Over the past decade, a No. 1 seed has never reached the NCAA title game after posting the smallest first-round winning margin among top seeds.
Pods need work
The pod system failed Wake Forest.
While every other top-two seed was playing close to home, Wake Forest got sent to Cleveland, where West Virginia waited in the second round. West Virginia isn't near much -- but it's near Cleveland. Guess who was the home team? Guess who won?
Good for West Virginia, which deserves its place in the Sweet 16. But Wake Forest deserved the same accommodation given No. 2 seeds Oklahoma State, Kentucky and Connecticut, which as a trio didn't travel as far as the 380 miles Wake Forest flew to Cleveland.
Oklahoma State played in Oklahoma City. Kentucky was at Indianapolis. Connecticut was in Worcester, Mass.
Wake Forest got Cleveland ... and Wake Forest was the committee's top No. 2 seed in the bracket?
Small leagues need more bids
It's no longer a cuddly surprise when a mid-major goes toe-to-toe with a national powerhouse. Bucknell beat Kansas. Vermont beat Syracuse. Wisconsin-Milwaukee beat Alabama and then Boston College. Louisiana-Lafayette gave Louisville a much better game in the first round than 2004 NCAA finalist Georgia Tech did in the second.
It's time for the selection committee to rethink its position on strength of schedules and the RPI -- we know, we know, the RPI is a blunt tool -- and start spreading the bids out. What did this tournament gain from having mid-tier teams from power conferences like UCLA or Iowa or Pittsburgh or Minnesota?
More painfully, what did this tournament miss by not having Davidson, Holy Cross or Western Kentucky?