The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee unveiled its support Sunday night. Below is an overview of what went right and what went wrong:
What the committee understood: seeds n°1
The Sunday Selection drama was not at the top of the list this year. The committee shrewdly recognized that Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas and Baylor parted ways with the rest of college basketball’s top teams.
Gonzaga (26-3) earned the No. 1 seed overall when he revenged an earlier loss to Saint Mary’s to win the WCC tournament. Arizona (31-3) left no doubt they were also worthy of the No. 1 seed before they even added the Pac-12 Tournament title to their regular-season crown. Kansas (28-6) solidified its No. 1 seed by winning the Big 12 tournament, while Baylor crashed early but capitalized on a bit of chaos in the SEC tournament.
If Auburn or Kentucky had even made the SEC title game, they might have amassed enough quality wins to knock Baylor down the No. 2 line. The Tigers fell in the SEC Quarterfinals and the Wildcats came out a day later, allowing the Bears to climb an impressive 18-6 record against the top two quadrants to their second straight No. 1 seed.
What the committee got wrong: Duke over Tennessee as the No. 2 seed
The committee has done nothing to deter conspiracy theorists who argue Mike Krzyzewski gets preferential treatment. Duke clinched an undeserved No. 2 seed in Krzyzewski’s final NCAA Tournament before his retirement.
While Duke toppled Gonzaga and Kentucky in non-conference play this season, the rest of his resume was uninspiring. An utterly mediocre ACC provided few marquee winning opportunities and the rookie-laden Blue Devils didn’t take advantage of it enough to earn anything other than a No. 3 seed.
In Krzyzewski’s final home game, Duke fell to rival North Carolina. It was a similar story in the ACC title game a week later as Virginia Tech walked away to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Duke (28-6, 16-4, NET: 11, KenPom: 9)
Q1 record: 6-2
Q2 record: 6-3
Losses in Q3 or Q4: 1 (Virginia)
Best wins: Gonzaga, Kentucky, at North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest (2)
Losses: to Ohio State, Miami, to Florida State, Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia Tech
The team that deserved Duke’s No. 2 seed was Tennessee, which amassed more Quadrant 1 wins than any other team outside of Kansas after winning the SEC Tournament. The Vols have five more wins in Quadrant 1 than Duke, four fewer losses outside of Quadrant 1, and a slightly better ranking in most relevant metrics.
Tennessee (26-7, 14-4, NET: 8, KenPom: 7)
Q1 record: 11-7
Q2 record: 5-0
Losses in T3 or T4: 0
Best wins: Arizona, Kentucky (2), Auburn, LSU, Arkansas
Losses: at Kentucky, Villanova, Texas Tech, at Texas, at LSU, at Arkansas, at Alabama
The only silver lining for Tennessee was that their draw as the No. 3 seed might be better than Duke’s as the No. 2. The Vols open against 14th-seeded Longwood and could face either sixth-seeded Colorado State or 11th-seeded Michigan. the knockout stages. On the other hand, Duke could fight against battle-tested seventh-seeded Michigan State if they meet in the second round.
What the Committee Got Right: Rutgers in the Top Four
The First Four is the perfect destination for this year’s bubble team with the most bizarre resume. Rutgers (18-13) has had as many Quad 1 wins as No. 1 seed Arizona, but the Scarlet Knights also suffered a hideous early-season losing streak that hangs over their profile like a anchor.
Last November, Rutgers lost three straight to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass, all of them outside the NET top 100. Lafayette’s loss was particularly damaging as it came at home to a 20-game losing streak ranked 300 or less in most major metrics.
Add in a Quadrant 3 home loss to Maryland, and it’s easy to see why Rutgers is a dismal 77th in the NET rankings and 53rd or worse in every metric that appears on the roster sheets the selection committee receives. And yet, the Scarlet Knights were worthy of one of the last general offers thanks to wins over every other team in the Big Ten NCAA Tournament – Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana and Michigan.
Rutgers’ First Four opponent will be a Notre Dame team that also had an unusual profile. The Irish beat Kentucky out of the league and went 15-5 in the ACC, but entered the selection on Sunday with just four wins all season in the top two quadrants, the fewest of any bubble team. .
What the Committee Got Wrong: Snubbing Texas A&M
Left for dead after an eight-game losing streak mid-season, Texas A&M have returned to the game winning eight of their last 10 games. The Aggies dispatched Florida, Auburn and Arkansas in a memorable SEC Tournament before running out of gas against Tennessee in Sunday’s title game.
Most of the mock brackets had Texas A&M on the field despite Sunday’s loss. Most of the false parentheses were false. The Aggies were the third committee team left out, behind Dayton and SMU.
Although the committee has always said that it would consider all of a team’s work and not just how it ends, that alone should not necessarily have disqualified Texas A&M. The Aggies’ season resume compares favorably to that of First Four-bound Indiana and Notre Dame.
Texas A&M (23-12, 9-9, NET: 42, KenPom: 42)
Q1 record: 4-10
Q2 record: 5-0
Losses Q3, Q4: 2 (South Carolina, Mizzou)
Marquee wins: Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas (2), Notre Dame
Indiana (20-12, 9-11, NET: 38, KenPom: 40)
Q1 record: 4-7
Q2 record: 4-4
Losses Q3, Q4: 1 (Rutgers)
Marquee wins: Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame
Notre Dame (22-10, 15-5, NET: 52, KenPom: 54)
Q1 record: 2-7
Q2 record: 2-2
Q3, Q4 losses: 1 (Boston College)
Marquee wins: Kentucky, North Carolina, at Miami
Texas A&M even had a head-to-head win against Notre Dame earlier this season. Had the Aggies had the opportunity to meet the Irish a second time in Dayton this week, chances are they would have come away with another win.