▪ Instead of all the complaining about the NCAA Tournament selection committee, or looking ahead to possible matchups with Indiana and North Carolina, Kentucky better be worried about its first-round game Thursday night.
This might be Stony Brook’s first year in the tournament, but the Seawolves are not a one-year wonder. Steve Pikiell’s team has won 20 or more games five straight seasons. It suffered four consecutive heartbreaking defeats in its conference tournament before breaking through this year.
It took Vanderbilt to overtime before losing in Nashville. (UK lost by 12 in the Music City.) It lost by two to Western Kentucky in Bowling Green. According to Ken Pomeroy, Stony Brook boasts a better adjusted defensive efficiency rating (61) than does Kentucky (70).
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▪ If Kentucky better worry about Stony Brook, Indiana better worry about Chattanooga. The Mocs went 29-5 under first-year coach Matt McCall, a former Florida assistant under Billy Donovan. The Mocs won at Dayton, which is in the NCAA Tournament. They won at Georgia. They beat Illinois in Springfield. And they are a veteran team.
▪ Mitch Barnhart made some good points in his Monday open letter questioning how the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee goes about its business. The UK athletics director was defending comments from his basketball coach, John Calipari, knocking the committee for seeding Kentucky fourth in the East Region.
Barnhart is right to call for more transparency. He rightly uses the College Football Playoff committee as a good example. It releases weekly rankings through the second half of the football season. If that were done with basketball, it would bring more insight into the thinking of a committee whose members and criteria change on a regular basis.
▪ All that said, you can make a case that Texas A&M deserved the No. 3 ranking over UK. Hat tip to Louisville ESPN 680’s Drew Deener, Texas A&M had five top-50 RPI wins (two at neutral sites) and one loss to a sub-100 RPI team. Kentucky had three top-50 RPI wins (one at a neutral site) and two losses to sub-100 RPI teams.
Texas A&M won six games against teams in the field of 68. Kentucky won four. In a game that could have gone either way, Texas A&M beat Kentucky in overtime in College Station. In a game that could have gone either way, Kentucky beat Texas A&M in overtime in the finals of the SEC Tournament before a huge pro-UK crowd in Nashville.
▪ Sage Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim got it right when he said Monday on ESPN’s Mike & Mike that he had studied the bracket and concluded the committee’s mantra was, “It’s not who did you play,it’s who did you beat?”
▪ It is also true that the committee has stopped giving extra weight to how a team finishes — “the last 10” criteria — compared to a team’s entire body of work.
▪ Calipari is also right that the SEC Tournament championship game doesn’t matter. There’s only one reason the conference plays the tournament finals on Sunday instead of Saturday. That’s when ESPN tells it to play the conference tournament finals.
▪ Several years ago I participated in the NCAA’s media mock selection committee in Indianapolis. I learned two things. It’s very complicated, and it’s more about numbers than names.
▪ No surprise that LSU turned down a bid to the NIT. The Tigers quit early in the first half of their embarrassing 71-38 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
▪ My Final Four: Kansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina wins it all.
▪ Did the person who leaked the NCAA Tournament bracket Sunday do it to protest the length of CBS’s Selection Sunday show or the selection committee’s decisions?