Now I know what a "weak bubble" really means. It means no 2006-style incendiary statements from Billy Packer, not to mention mere going-through-the-motions indignation from the ESPN crew on behalf of Virginia Tech and Arizona State, as opposed to the full-throated storming of the selection committee's Bastille that we get most years.
Good. Let us then focus on the 65 teams that we have: those who were treated well with their seeding, and those who were not.
Oklahoma. The Sooners were outscored by 25 points over 16 games in the Big 12. Just to revisit a point made Friday, major-conference teams that have been outscored in-conference have gone just 1-4 in the past two NCAA tournaments. Yet OU received a six-seed. The irony, of course, is that the very egregiousness of the injustice here enhances the potential for its continued existence: Oklahoma could actually win its first-round game against St. Joseph's. The point is not that Jeff Capel's team is doomed in that game. Rather, that the Sooners should be playing a much higher seed.
Vanderbilt. It's hard to gripe about a four-seed because, by definition, it's a seed you might not want anyway. It means you'll be playing the one-seed in the Sweet 16 should you make it that far. That being said, the Commodores are not on a level with fellow four-seeds Pitt, Connecticut and Washington State.
Through games of March 9, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession
Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)
Pace PPP PPP EM
Connecticut 67.7 1.11 1.02 +0.09
Washington St. 58.5 1.09 1.01 +0.08
Pitt 64.7 1.09 1.05 +0.04
Vanderbilt 68.4 1.05 1.03 +0.02
Keep in mind Pitt had significant injuries, but is now rounding into form and has just defeated Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown. As for Vandy, if nothing else their seed gives them a 13-seed (Siena) as a first-round opponent. Should the Commodores navigate that game safely, they should be viewed as underdogs to Clemson, assuming the Tigers survive Villanova.
Miami. See "Oklahoma," above, only this time the team in question has been given a seven-seed. The Hurricanes were also outscored over 16 games by their conference opponents. As with Oklahoma, though, Miami could conceivably win their first-round game. The 'Canes gets St. Mary's, who will have to jet into Little Rock from the rather more salubrious climes of Moraga, California, some 2000 miles away. A tall order for the Gaels; at least it's a Friday game.
Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were dinged by the committee for their struggles in November and December and thus given an eight-seed. That's a really low seed in light of the fact that MSU was clearly the second-best team in the SEC during the conference season. Conference opponents were unable to make 40 percent of their twos against Mississippi State. Rick Stansbury's team even shoots well. If they can just take care of the ball, the Bulldogs should have no trouble with Oregon and could give Memphis a game in the second round.
Indiana. The committee's toughest task may well be deciding what to do with a team that's changing rapidly before your eyes, whether for good or ill. In the case of the Hoosiers, granted, the recent change is for the worse: losses at Penn State and to Minnesota on a neutral floor. Still, an eight-seed? Arkansas as a first-round opponent? The overall one-seed, North Carolina, in the second round? Good grief. What more can possibly befall D.J. White in his career at Indiana? White provides that rarest of cases where the NBA actually promises to give a player a newfound sense of structure and stability.
Tennessee. I have no problem at all with the Volunteers getting a two-seed, but, my goodness this region is stacked: North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisville, Washington State and Notre Dame, with Butler as the seven-seed. Wow. It reminds me of last year when Ohio State, Memphis, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Louisville were all in the same bracket. If Bruce Pearl can make it to the regional final, much less the Final Four, he will have earned his money this season.
BONUS tournament build-up! Colleague Ken Pomeroy and I have been holding serious deliberations for the past several days to come to agreement on the first ever Pomaway All-American Team. Tune in Wednesday for our selections.
John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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