2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Grading out the selection committee
From seeds to snubs, Jerry Palm reacts to the 2017 Bracket
The NCAA Tournament selection committee has a difficult job pretty much every year trying to select the 36 at-large teams and seed the NCAA Tournament. Jerry Palm offers his grades for the selection committee’s job on picking their 68 teams for this year’s Big Dance.
The NCAA Tournament committee had it easy in some ways, hard in others, but generally did a good job with selecting the field. I am sure the committee will say that selecting the field was hard because they always do, but it really did seem easier than in years past. They were helped by the lack of upsets of some of the better potential non-major at-large teams, which shrunk the bubble as the conference tournaments progressed.
Some teams, like Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Kansas State, finished strongly and comfortably secured a spot. Vandy beat Florida twice late in the season and their resume improved as Iowa State, another team the Commodores beat, progressed to a Big 12 Tournament championship.
Wake Forest needed quality wins late and picked up a win at home over Louisville and a road win at Virginia Tech. That earned the Demon Deacons a spot in the First Four. They will play Kansas State, which needed to simply improve its record down the stretch of the season, but had quality opponents in its way. The Wildcats picked up a huge win over Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament that seems to have secured its spot
Xavier’s selection was also in some doubt after a six-game losing streak, but the Musketeers beat Butler in the Big East tournament, reaffirming that they could play tournament quality basketball with their current roster.
For the most part, the selection committee stayed true to its principles when it came to seeding the bracket. There were some difficult decisions throughout the bracket, starting at the top.
North Carolina received a No. 1 seed, and not even the fourth of the top seeds, despite a semifinal loss in the ACC tournament to Duke, a relatively sub-par record against better opposition away from home and losing two of three to the Blue Devils.
In a head-to-head comparison, Duke would appear to have a better overall resume than the Tar Heels, but selection committee chairman Mark Hollis said that when the committee went through the process of scrubbing seeds, Duke never got high enough to be compared to North Carolina. The Blue Devils were the No. 7 overall seed, behind Kentucky and Arizona on the two-line.
Two seeds that stand out as being high are Vanderbilt’s and Michigan State, both of which are nine seeds. Michigan State (18-14) tied the record for the worst record for an at-large berth. That is, until Vanderbilt (19-15) broke it. Georgia in 2001 actually had a worse record, but nobody gets compared to that team because it played 27 of 30 games against top 100 teams. Michigan State, in particular, was not that great away from home this year. Vanderbilt played the No. 1 overall strength of schedule, which is why they were selected with a record like that, but their seed seems like the committee version of a heat check. They finished hot, and ended up slightly overrated for it.
The opposite of that was the seed for Wisconsin, which ended up as an eight seed. The Badgers stumbled in the middle of February, but seemed to recover right before and during the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin did not have anything resembling a bad loss and won six games against tournament teams, but ended up in the middle of the bracket.
South Carolina, on the other hand, beat Florida and Michigan, both at home, and that is pretty much it for quality wins. The Gamecocks lost twice to Alabama and at Memphis, and really does not have a profile that indicates that they are a borderline top 25 team. However, the committee has them as the No. 26 team on the seed list.
The Pac-12 was held down in the seeding for having a down year. The top three teams are all very good, and potential national title contenders, but USC is the only other team to get into the bracket and is in the First Four. It will be the Trojans’ second appearance in that event. In 2011, they were an unjust selection and were defeated by VCU on the Rams’ run from the First Four to the Final Four. They are a more deserving selection this time, but the lack of quality wins held down their seed.
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