Monday, March 13, 2006

Bracket Reaction (Rebraction? Breacktion?)

First of all, blogger extraordinaire Ken Pomeroy has pointed out two things that I think we at the MWB would find quite interesting. First of all, instead of bitching and moaning like everyone else about how teams Q, R, and S got screwed because teams X, Y, and Z got in, Pomeroy has taken the slightly more interesting route and pointed out that not only did teams (apparently) get jobbed, but that "this year's committee has set a precedent that even if you think there is no logical case for your team getting a bid, you better tune in to the Selection Show anyway because logic may not necessarily apply." Logic seems out-and-out missing from the process of figuring out the last few bubble teams. Seriously, you can make almost NO case for Utah State and Air Force to get in ahead of Cincinnati, Michigan, Missouri State, or Florida State. It's inconceivable. But more on this point later.

Pomeroy further made a point which Jay Bilas touched on a little bit yesterday about which I KNOW at least a few of us here will be interested: we may never see a better opportunity for a "16 over 1" upset than this year's Oral Roberts v. Memphis game. Bilas said on the radio today that Oral Roberts was criminally under-seeded, and that they're probably the best 16-seed in about ten years. As Pomeroy says, the committee made things super-interesting by "getting sloppy" in placing ORU at a 16, and then compounded that decision by pitting them against unquestionably the weakest of the four 1-seeds. As per usual, specific number-gorging followed in his analysis:

16-seeds are 0-84 all-time. It’s safe to say Oral Roberts has a better that 1-in-84 chance of beating Memphis. Much better.

Log5 says that Oral Roberts has about a 1-in-8 chance of pulling off the unthinkable. Log5 doesn't do so well with extreme matchups. It says Southern has a 1-in-40 chance of beating Duke, when Southern's chances are truly much worse. But I'd give ORU a 1-in-15 chance of a win. Which means that hyping this game will result in me looking like an idiot 14 out of 15 times, but that’s what I am all about.

I think it's safe to say that this development has created a must-watch situation this weekend. I mean ... it's gotten happen sooner or later, right?

As for the point about midmajor-ish teams getting a questionable free pass at the expense of possibly-more-deserving, almost-undoubtedly-better major conference teams, King Kaufman has the take that I would most align with (unless I was a fan of one of the "aggrieved"): who frickin' cares? These crappier major conference teams would be slated for bids somewhere in the 7-to-11 range -- and, apparently, possibly on the 12 line, as Texas A&M is -- and tell me, what would you rather see: the possibility of a "George Mason over Michigan State" upset in the 6/11 game, or a "Cincinnati over West Virginia" "upset"? Which would you remember watching, years down the line? Which would you give a crap about? Realistically, neither the midmajors who made it nor the majors who got the shaft would have come within a country mile of winning this damn thing, so let's give the little guy a shot at making some memories, for both themselves and for us. As for the big conference guys: win more games.

Lingering thought on the brackets and the two Bracketoloblah specials:

A.) How the hell are we not the 2-seed in Memphis's region? And if we're not, why the hell isn't Texas?
B.) As Wonk noted this morning, who did Tennessee sleep with? They get a 2-seed over Florida, Gonzaga, Boston College, and North Carolina? Even Illinois probably has a better case than the Fightin' Pearl Necklaces.
C.) Okay, since I brought up the whole "2-seed in the Memphis region" thing, when the hell did everyone fall in love with UCLA? Half the CBS analysts and 2/3 of the ESPN guys had the Bruins in the Final Four. Did I not get a memo or something? Is winning the Pac-10 tournament this year REALLY that big of a deal? (Okay, after reading through the Mandel column I linked to below, I see why: every possible challenger in their half of the bracket is probably seeded better than it should be. They have the potential to, as Mandel puts it, "sleepwalk to the Elite Eight," unless Indiana is hitting its threes in a possible Sweet Sixteen matchup. And then they may have Memphis or Kansas waiting for them. Todd's right: weak region.)
D.) Speaking of the conference tourneys, the committee once again seemed to weigh the conference tourneys to a possibly-disproportionate level. Those of you who had the fortitude to slog through the bracket-picking guide know how I feel about the perception that teams who ened the year "hot" are bound to do well in the Big Dance; the committee clearly doesn't feel the same way I do, as they apparently rewarded teams who put together runs last week (and the analysts, predictably, are fawning all over teams that looked good during Championship Week). Iowa a 3? Eh, maybe. Syracuse, from "outside looking in" all the way up to a 5-seed? Wow, that's some wad-shooting there. The aforementioned Bruins, suddenly a popular Final Four pick? Whatever. Boston College beat Carolina and gave Duke a game, so they're now a trendy pick to not only upset Villanova, but get all the way to Indianapolis.
E.) That was some frickin' balls to put a top-10 George Washington team into an 8/9 game. The committee sent a clear message to the Colonials: play somebody in the non-conference. But the thing about that is...
F.) Why the hell isn't the committee consistent with the messages they sent? With the aforementioned GW, they severely penalized a pretty good team for not playing anyone. Why, then, did they let in Air Force, with zero (ZERO!) wins over RPI top-50 teams, and Utah State, who played a non-conference schedule more creampuffy than a box of Little Debbie treats? I don't have any particular anger about the field itself, but be consistent, man. The one thing that bugs me about the committee is that, like the Supreme Court (wow, is this attenuated), they seem to come to the results they want to come to, and then come up with whatever justification they can. "Why did you put GW at an 8-seed?" "Well, they didn't play anybody." "Okay, then why did you put Utah State and Air Force in the field, but leave out Michigan?" Well, Michigan finished really poorly, losing 7 of their last 9." "Okay, then why did you leave Wisconsin in, when they finished almost as poorly as Michigan?" "Uhhhhhh..."
G.) This year seems so wide open. UConn is clearly the best team, in my estimation, but they tend to look disinterested a lot of the time. Will that come back to bite them is the ass? And every other team in the field has at least one glaring or semi-glaring hole, as the MWB's favorite Erin-impersonator Stewart Mandel points out today.

As for the Bucks, I'd be hard-pressed to be less happy about our situation, in terms of both current quality of play and possible opponents. Right now, we couldn't hit water if we fell out of a fucking boat, so teams would do well to zone the bejeezus out of us and not let Dials beat them. 'Cause if we're hitting from the outside, we're gonna win anyway, so you might as well take away the inside game and take your chances that we have yet another off-day shooting. As for the future, I agree with Dids: I don't want any part of Georgetown OR Northern Iowa. The Hoyas are patient offensively and very good defensively, with tons of talent and a battle-tested resume. UNI is one of those MVC teams that play solid, smart D, run their offense well, and have little white guards that can all of a sudden hit 10-for-14 from three for one particular game and send a favored opponent home with his tail between his legs. I want no part of either of those teams. And that's not even mentioning Davidson, a scrappy, underseeded 15 who was a 13-seed a couple of years ago, when they had a worse record than this year and would have beaten OSU had Brian Brown not sprung for 30. I do not take that game as a gimme.

One thing we have going for us, Georgetown-wise, is that we've seen the Princeton offense twice this year, albeit against much worse talent (Northwestern). But the bigger thing we have is that EVERYONE loves the Hoyas all of a sudden. Scads of prognosticators have G-Town making the Elite Eight. And if conventional wisdom has taught me one thing, it's this: conventional wisdom is stupid a lot of the time. I'm with Todd, too: if we can get to the Sweet Sixteen, a possible Florida or Oklahoma matchup looks decent on paper. Gotta get there, though. And anything after that is gravy, in my opinion.



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