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What the NCAA Men’s Tournament Selection Committee got right and wrong

Some observers still wonder if the strength of the West Coast Conference is hurting Gonzaga once the NCAA Tournament begins. First, the WCC is stronger than people think – especially this season with three nominations – but more importantly, Gonzaga is 20-6 in the last six NCAA Tournaments combined with two appearances in the national title game and two more in the Elite Eight.

The Bulldogs have yet to win a national championship… (for the record, the Big Ten, with whom the committee has a love affair each March, last won a national championship in 2000.)

Gonzaga should be the favorite to win the West for several reasons. He has the experience of senior Drew Timme and the remarkable talent of 7-foot rookie Chet Holmgren. He averages five players in double figures, he plays defense and he has a future Hall of Fame coach in Mark Few.

It also has a pretty good draw. The second seed is Duke. Mike Krzyzewski took 12 teams to the Final Four but never out of the West. More importantly, his players failed twice in high-pressure games: his farewell at the Cameron Indoor Stadium and the ACC tournament final on Saturday. How do you think this group will handle knowing that their next loss will be Krzyzewski’s last?

There are other dangerous teams in this bracket, including Connecticut (revived since returning to the Big East) and Arkansas (solid all season in the ultra-competitive SEC). The committee did the Razorbacks a disservice. pitting them in the first round against Vermont, who shouldn’t have been worse than a No. 11 seed but is a No. 13 because, well, obviously the committee doesn’t watch a lot of basketball from East America.

Davidson can beat Michigan State in the first round because the Wildcats can shoot and because the Big Ten are overrated. This might be the best coached match of the first round: Tom Izzo is in the Hall of Fame; So should Bob McKillop A second-round game between Arkansas and Connecticut could be hugely entertaining, and the winner could be tough for Gonzaga. If Duke beats the Michigan State-Davidson winner, it could struggle with Texas Tech or Alabama.

Regardless of who shows up in the regional final, Gonzaga should qualify for New Orleans. The sentiment might say Krzyzewski should get one last Final Four before he hangs up his clipboard. Duke beat Gonzaga in November, but that was a long time ago. Bulldogs should go from Spokane to Bourbon Street.

Baylor is the most vulnerable seed in the tournament, and some, like me, think the Bears deserved a No. 2 seed and Tennessee a No. 1. But the committee isn’t making changes on Sunday, so the volunteers win the SEC tournament didn’t even get them past a No. 3.

That said, coach Scott Drew deserves big credit for keeping Baylor so strong this season after dealing with injuries and big departures from last year’s national championship team. be ready for Norfolk State, which is as good a champion as the MEAC has produced in several years.

They should win, however, and face a tough second-round game against either North Carolina or Marquette. The Tar Heels are the Jekyll-Hyde team this season. When they’re good, they can beat anyone. When they’re bad, they’re really bad. or Marquette could give Baylor a tough night.

The smileiest coach on Sunday had to be Kentucky’s John Calipari, whose Wildcats earned a No. 2 seed despite losing to Tennessee for the second straight time in the SEC Semifinals and were sent to the region with the weakest No. 1 seed. could face a tough second-round game with Murray State, which is 30-2 and went undefeated in a strong Ohio Valley conference.

UCLA will attract a lot of attention due to their remarkable run last season, from the First Four to nearly beating Gonzaga in the Final Four. But No. 3 seed Purdue should not be overlooked despite losing Sunday against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game. Matt Painter is a vastly underrated coach because, like his mentor Gene Keady, he never made the Final Four.

The real sleeper could be Virginia Tech, the ACC Tournament champion The Hokies are white hot right now and should beat Texas and be tough for Purdue in the second round.

The committee always throws at least one bouquet to a non-Power Five team, and the beneficiary this season was Wyoming, which faces Indiana in Dayton.

Something tells me chalk won’t fly in that area. Heck, Akron could beat UCLA in the first round. Never sleep on the Zips.

There’s no one hotter than Kansas entering the tournament, and the Jayhawks got their No. 1 seed.

But their road to New Orleans will not be easy. Auburn, the No. 2 seed here, clearly has the knack to beat anyone, and playing No. 3 seed Wisconsin is still like 40 minutes of a root canal. Additionally, two of the three most underseeded teams on the field (joining Tennessee) are in this region: No. 4 Providence and No. 5 Iowa.

Providence looked terrible in a Big East semi-final loss to Creighton, but anyone who has really watched Ed Cooley’s Brothers this season must think they deserved a No. 3 seed. Iowa won the Big Ten tournament, but obviously the committee had finished the bracket long before it could be argued that the Hawkeyes also deserved a No. 3 seed.

Wisconsin won’t have an easy first-round game against Colgate, which can shoot and makes its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Heck, South Dakota State can beat Providence. Expect a lot of upheaval along the way here. Miami and USC should be one of the best games in the first round, and the winner will give Auburn trouble.

There is also the LSU sideshow. After waiting three years for the NCAA to officially announce that some rules may have been broken under coach Will Wade, the school decided to fire him on Saturday. That means Kevin Nickelberry will coach the team against Iowa State on Thursday. Nickelberry has been the head coach at Hampton and Howard, he will handle the situation as well as he can.

A Kansas-Iowa Sweet 16 game would be a shooting range, but the hottest team right now is Kansas. Wisconsin, though Auburn’s Bruce Pearl certainly proved he can coach in March. Kansas has been to three Final Fours under Bill Self. A fourth wouldn’t shock anyone.

There was no doubt that Arizona deserved to be the No. 2 seed in the tournament and the No. 1 seed in the South. The Wildcats were 31-3 and won the regular season and Pac-12 tournament under first-year coach Tommy Lloyd.

Clearly, Lloyd learned a lot in 22 years as an assistant under Mark Few at Gonzaga. Arizona has faded in Sean Miller’s final three seasons, finishing 17-9 a year ago after declaring itself ineligible for the playoffs amid yet another NCAA investigation. around quickly.

Villanova, the region’s No. 2 seed, needs no turning back Jay Wright’s side won national championships in 2016 and 2018 and were the only team in last year’s tournament to scare Baylor, losing to the Bears in the Round of 16. The Wildcats are experienced and have a knack for winning close games.

The team that belongs the least on the court is Michigan, which the Wolverines beat Colorado State in the first round. CBS’ Clark Kellogg kept repeating “the strength of the non-conference program” as the reason Michigan made the pitch. Michigan beat a team on the field. in non-conference play: San Diego State. It lost to North Carolina by 21. But the committee loves the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, Dayton, which beat Kansas in the non-conference, was knocked out of the field because Richmond won the Atlantic-10 tournament, and VCU didn’t stand a chance because the Big Ten get TV ratings. .

Tennessee could easily get out of this region. It opens against the best history of the tournament – Longwood – and then faces Michigan or Colorado State. Loyola Chicago is also worth watching early. (Remember Sister Jean? She’s 102 and it’s always a great story.) The Ramblers are coached by 30-year-old Drew Valentine, who played in the Final Four for Michigan State a year ago. barely seven. They get Ohio State in the first round.

If Villanova and Tennessee make it into weekend two, it could be the Sweet 16’s best game. Houston should also be watched. It could be a fun region from start to finish.

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