Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Committee leans toward power conferences in NCAA field

The 68-team NCAA Tournament field released Sunday evening features nary a dynasty. No 2015 Kentucky, '91 UNLV or '76 Indiana lurks on the latest brackets.

The tournament selection committee could do nothing about that. But what it had control over is how many spunky, small-conference overachievers it allowed in.

In that regard, the snub of giant-killers is nearly as glaring as the lack of juggernauts.

"The little guy gets buried," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. "There's no doubt about it."

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MAAC force of nature Monmouth (27-7) — which owns wins against UCLA, Southern Cal and Notre Dame — was bypassed. So, too, were St. Mary's (27-5), which defeated Gonzaga twice; and Valparaiso (26-6), which went 4-2 against top-100 RPI teams.

But Vanderbilt (19-13) got in. So did Syracuse (19-13) and Tulsa (20-11), last seen losing to Memphis by 22 in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals in Orlando.

According to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, every eligible Power 5 school with a top 54 RPI made the tournament. But eight non-Power 5 schools with top-54 RPIs did not.

"I've hardly been the champion of the little guy all these years," ESPN's Jay Bilas said. "But I'm tired of the committee saying, 'Go out and play (quality nonconference teams),' when in a year when SMU and Louisville's not in the field, they don't put Monmouth in. It's very disappointing."

So question the committee's credibility; it's an annual rite of March anyway.

Just don't question the field's parity. This is anyone's ballgame.

The four No. 1 seeds — North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas and Oregon — have a combined 23 losses, an NCAA Tournament record. The Tar Heels and Jayhawks are among six teams that have been ranked atop the Associated Press poll at some point this season.

And the quartet of two seeds — Michigan State, Oklahoma, Villanova, Xavier — may collectively be the most dangerous ever to grace that line. The Spartans, who won their conference tournament (Big Ten), were bypassed for a No. 1 seed in favor of the Cavaliers, who did not.

"No. 2 overall strength of schedule, No. 3 in the RPI," committee chairman Joe Castiglione said of Virginia.

"Finished as the (ACC) runnner-up in the regular season and obviously had a very close game in the ACC tournament final (a 61-57 loss to UNC). A lot of our committee felt good about them as a possible one-seed … and felt like even the loss in that tournament championship didn't change their minds all that much."

From a statewide perspective, Miami and Atlantic Sun champ Florida Gulf Coast are in, marking the first time since 2013 that more than one Florida school made the field.

That was the same year FGCU — aka "Dunk City" — captivated the nation with upsets of Georgetown and San Diego State en route to the Sweet 16.

Miami's roster features Lakewood High alumnus Anthony Lawrence Jr. Also representing the bay area will be Texas Tech sophomore Justin Gray (Berkeley Prep), whose team is a No. 8 seed in the Midwest.

Former USF point guard Anthony Collins, now a graduate senior at Texas A&M, makes his first tournament appearance since sparking the Bulls to a pair of tourney wins in 2012.

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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