clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NCAA bracket 2016 reaction: 5 biggest storylines of Selection Sunday

New, comments

Per usual, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee left us with a great deal to argue about in 2016.

In terms of job performance reviews, the NCAA Tournament selection committee is essentially an officiating crew: "You guys did a good job, but a couple of things ..." is pretty much the best it can hope for. The other end of the reaction spectrum is something like "how can you possibly explain this laundry list of baffling decisions?"

Judging from the initial response, it appear that the consensus view on the 2016 Selection Committee's performance falls much closer to the latter extreme. Why? Well, let's look at the five items most worthy of discussion when it comes to the bracket for the current installment of the big dance.

1. The final at-large selections seem questionable at best

There's never going to be complete agreement when it comes to the final handful of teams to squeak into the field of 68, but 2016 might be the first year where we've seen complete disagreement.

BracketMatrix.com charts the bracket projections of 59 different uncertified bracketologists on the Internet, and in precisely zero of those brackets were the Tulsa Golden Hurricane forecasted to participate in the NCAA Tournament. They were far from the only ones. Even Frank Haith's players spent their Sunday waiting to find out who they were playing in the NIT.

But Tulsa isn't the only highly questionable at-large selection.

Knock on the RPI all you want, but there's no diminishing its importance when it comes to the selection process. That being the case, it's startling that not only did Syracuse make the field with the worst RPI (68) of any at-large team in the history of the tournament, but they weren't even one of the last four teams selected. The Orange, the No. 10 seed in the Midwest, weren't even the last at-large team to avoid Dayton, a distinction which belongs to VCU.

The fact that we've gotten this far without mentioning Vanderbilt -- which seemed to be a lock for the "how in the world are they in the tournament" title after they were announced in the opening minutes of the selection show -- tells you all you need to know about the response to the committee's work with the bubble teams.

Despite a top 20 preseason ranking, the Commodores finished just 19-13 with three losses to teams outside the RPI top 100. Vandy also lost to five teams that were not selected for the big dance, and beat just two who received at-large bids to the field. Still, they'll get what feels like their 10th shot at redemption in the First Four against Wichita State.

2. There is a strong potential for rivalry matchups

For years, the committee has denied that they purposefully set up the bracket in a way that might yield sexy second or third round matchups between teams that have a history of not liking one another all that much. For years, no one has believed them. But also, no one (outside of the parties involved) has complained.

This year's lineup of potentially juicy rivalry matchups includes No. 3 seed Texas A&M vs. No. 6 seed Texas in the West, No. 4 seed Kentucky vs. No. 5 seed Indiana in the East, and Michigan taking on Notre Dame if it can get by Tulsa in the First Four.

Is Michigan/Notre Dame a basketball rivalry? Even if it's not, I'm sure Harbaugh will do something to get everyone fired up about it.

3. Virginia's road to the Final Four could once again be stopped by Michigan State

The jokes were everywhere even before the season got started. Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers have been one of the highest-ranked teams in the country since November, but that's also been the case in each of the past two seasons, two seasons which saw the Cavaliers upset by Michigan State before they could make it to a regional final.

The worst fears of paranoid UVA fans were realized once again on Sunday, when the top-seeded Cavaliers were saddled with Michigan State as their No. 2 seed, despite the fact that many people believed the Spartans themselves had played their way to the top line.

Sparty single-handedly keeping Malcolm Brogdon and company from crashing the Final Four for a third straight season would be a bitter pill to swallow for everyone in Charlottesville. That said, it's probably the regional final that everyone wants to see more than any other.

4. The Bracket leaked

Before CBS could even get through the second region during its dreadfully expanded 2-hour show, a full and accurate bracket began to circulate throughout the Internet. By the time the selection show began "revealing" the East and Midwest regions, the rest of the sports world was already breaking down the matchups.

I don't know what the fix is to prevent something like this from happening, but if CBS wants to both maintain the magic of Selection Sunday AND force us to sit through a two-hour selection show, it needs to make sure any potential leaks are plugged before they go on-air.

5. The West seems like both the weakest and most entertaining region

While Kansas might have earned the distinction of being the tournament's overall No. 1 seed, the consensus seems to be that the Jayhawks were not awarded the follow-up gift of having the most navigable path to the Final Four. That present was handed to Oregon ... or Oklahoma, depending on which of those two teams you think is the strongest.

While the West should be fun to watch, with aesthetically pleasing offensive-minded teams like the Ducks, Sooners, Duke, Baylor, Texas and Oregon State in the fold, it also seems to have the least amount of depth among its top five seeds. That's good news for the group of teams hoping to carve a niche for themselves as the notable Cinderella of 2016.