Posted: 12:18 a.m. Sunday, March 17, 2013
I don’t think Selection Sunday is a national holiday – yet.
But on Tobacco Road, it’s bigger than Labor Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or (the latest official national holiday) Super Bowl Sunday.
My only complaint with Selection Sunday is that it’s always the same day as the ACC championship game. I would much prefer to have at least 24 hours to celebrate the new ACC champion. Instead, almost as soon as last net is cut and even before the confetti is swept off the floor, speculation turns to the NCAA announcement later that afternoon.
It’s almost as if Christmas and Thanksgiving – two holidays that still outrank this one – were on the same day.
Of course, for Duke this year, the NCAA obsession started Friday night after the Blue Devils were unceremoniously eliminated from the ACC Tournament by Maryland. Before that game, Duke was being cited as the potential top seed in the tournament – clearly the No. 1 team in the East Regional.
The Maryland loss changed Duke’s outlook – although as of late Saturday afternoon, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi (not always the most accurate guy in the world) still had Duke as a No. 1 seed – but in the South, not the East. That wouldn’t be that bad – Duke came out of the South in 2010 en route to its most recent national title.
But going into Sunday’s games, it is still impossible to guess the lineup of No. 1 seeds.
Duke did get some help Friday as such potential No. 1s as Georgetown and Michigan were also beaten. Gonzaga, which has already won its conference tournament, seems locked into one No. 1 spot – even though contenders are lining up to be the No. 2 in the West with the Bulldogs.
Indiana, despite its loss Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament, seems likely to get another No. 1. Kansas, which seems headed for the Big 12 title as this is written, is also a contender, along with Louisville, in Saturday night’s Big East title game and Miami, if the ‘Canes win the ACC title today.
And with Duke – still the No. 1 team in the RPI.
But note this: no team in the seeding era (which started in 1979) has ever won an outright ACC regular season title AND the tournament and not gotten a No. 1 seed. Georgia Tech came close in 1985 – the Jackets were part of a three-way tie for first in a balanced regular season (the three first-place teams were 9-5 … two more teams were 8-6). When Bobby Cremins’ team won the ACC Tournament, they still ended up with a No. 2 seed (in the same bracket with Georgetown, the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament).
[Note: Just an aside … in the first 59 years of the ACC Tournament, no non-North Carolina team has won the ACC regular season outright AND won the tournament. Again, Georgia Tech in '85 is closest - they are the only non-North Carolina team to share the regular season title and win the tournament. Miami could make history].
In the past, the Selection Committee has not treated conference tournament losses as significant as fans seem to think. Part of that is procedural – building the NCAA bracket is a complex task and the committee can’t always wait until Sunday to pick its No. 1s. They do sometimes have alternate plans and in some cases, it works out well – for instance, it’s not impossible that Duke and Miami could be in an either/or situation – if Miami wins the ACC, the ‘Canes get a No. 1 seed and Duke a No. 2 … if UNC upsets Miami in the finals, Duke could back into the No. 1 seed and Miami would then be a No. 2.
Duke’s status is secondary in most ACC eyes to its two bubble teams.
Virginia’s status is extremely shaky at the moment. The Cavaliers will offer the Selection Committee one of the toughest calls ever. I’ve written about this before – Virginia has more top 50 wins (four) and more top 100 wins (eight) than almost any bubble team in history. But the Cavs also have some of the worst losses (318 Old Dominion) and one of the weakest non-conference strength of schedules (294) of any team on the board.
That makes it tough to guess the committee’s reaction – Virginia has the good things that teams that have survived the bubble offer, but also have the kind of holes that have cost past bubble teams a bid.
Maryland’s chances seem even weaker than Virginia’s. The Terps have a slightly better RPI (62 to 74) and a slightly weaker non-conference strength of schedule (300). They have just three top 50 wins (two over Duke) and just four top 100 wins.
Of course, if you apply the eye test – based strictly on what happened this weekend in Greensboro – Maryland looked like a much stronger team – the opposite of what I would have said before this weekend.
If you put a gun to my head – or a microphone in front of my face – I’d guess that both teams wind up in the NIT. That might not be bad for Virginia, which could get a No. 1 seed in that tournament. The way the Cavs play at home, that could be a ticket to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals.
That would make Peter Thamel happy … to have an ACC team in the Garden. Then again, last night’s Big East championship game matched two future ACC members.
At any rate, I’m guessing that the ACC gets just four teams in the field and two in the NIT – maybe three with Florida State on the NIT bubble.
Duke and Miami will be either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds.
North Carolina and N.C. State will be in the middle range – probably somewhere between a No. 6 seed and a No. 10 seed.
But I’m just guessing.
I do think I’m an educated guesser. I was taught the intricacies of the NCAA Selection process by the late Bill Brill. Long before anybody heard or Joe Lunardi or Jerry Palm, Brill was filling out brackets and explaining the rules that guided the selection committee to the rest of us. He got much of his information straight from committee chairmen Gene Corrigan and later Tom Butters. He learned what impresses the committee and what doesn’t.
Some time in the mid-1980s, the Brill prediction show became a staple at the ACC Tournament. Every Saturday at midnight, Brill would be wheeled into the media hospitality room on a luggage rack as the crowd of writers chanted, “Oh, no, not Brill!”
The veteran writer would then unveil his bracket to the room. Invariably he would nail 63 or 64 of the then 64-team field. His seedings and placements would be a lot closer than what you read from Lunardi these days.
Brill ended his show in 2005 as a protest against the ACC’s expansion. It left a big hole in the ACC media experience.
Bill is gone now and he’s missed. But he passed on his knowledge to another generation of basketball writers – David Teal, Doug Doughty, John Feinstein, Ed Hardin … and, I think, myself.
It’s impossible to guess exactly what the Selection Committee is going to do because the makeup of the committee changes every year and with those changes come different priorities.
But if you know the rules and understand the principles of selection and seeding, it’s not all that hard to do.
And, if you don’t know exactly what’s going on, the anticipation of the announcement makes Selection Sunday one of the best days of the year.