The Luck of the Draw
Roy Williams wasn’t thrilled with the ACC’s NCAA Tournament draw on Sunday night. One might have thought Maryland and Virginia made half-decent cases for tourney bids, and even if you think they didn’t, whichever teams you might put in their stead probably didn’t have a much better case either.
But that’s the point here. The selection process has become an annual charade of guesstimating which teams have earned a bid based on a forever revolving criteria that always seems disconnected from the eventual form the bracket takes.
Side note: Do people think expanding the BCS is going to fix the qualms in that sport? Just look at the NCAA Tournament — there are 68 spots and people still want it expanded. You could even argue that more teams leads to MORE arguing, but that’s a discussion for another time. The grass is always greener, isn’t it?
The inevitable temptation with the schedule at this point is to look at the matchups put in place by the committee and consider the motives behind them. Meaning: which teams make good storylines for TV, radio and message board fodder — maybe two coaches who used to work together are paired up, or teams with former transfers from one another are put in the same region.
In other words, no one would have been surprised a bit if UCLA and UNC were in the same mini-bracket. And even though everyone would have seen it coming, they somehow would have still found a way to talk about it nonstop — though starting that conversation would be the whole point to begin with.
There’s zero evidence the committee is trying to set up these made-for-TV storylines but we all know doing so for ratings would be highly incentivized to say the least — in the sense that it would be almost stupid not to do it.
Enter the Tar Heels, who seem under-seeded to many (given an 8th seed when their resume seems to line up with those around six or seven). And as easy as it would be to jump on that bandwagon, the fact of the matter is that the Heels didn’t do much to separate themselves from the pack that’s lodged between the 5th and 8th seeds.
In light of everything above, the focus falls on UNC’s probable opponent in the 2nd round (or whatever the hell round it is now) if they were to beat 9th seeded Villanova on Friday night. Of course, that team is Kansas. Of course, there’s a storyline that’s well-known.
—so much that it won’t be rehashed here. If you don’t already know about it you probably wouldn’t care to hear the story in the first place.
Adding some fuel to the conspiracy fire is that the first Saturday and Sunday of the Tournament are usually the hardest sell TV-wise. The first two days are possibly the most exciting in sports, and by the Sweet 16 you start having great match-ups between the higher seeds. But for the Round of 32? Those games are usually relatively boring and there won’t be as many upsets as in the first two days. Naturally, there’s an incentive to try to set up a Roy Williams vs. Kansas showdown.
—A showdown we’re likely going to see on Sunday. Villanova is a solid team and wouldn’t shatter anyone’s world if they beat the Heels on Friday, but they’re not big enough to exploit UNC’s main weakness and are one of the poorest three-point defenders in the nation. Advantage, UNC.
So all signs point to what will likely be THE matchup of the first weekend, as far as storylines go anyway. The Heels have yet to beat Kansas in the tournament since Roy’s return to UNC (both of which were much more high-profile than this one would be, but that isn’t the point), and the pressure on the Tar Heels for this one wouldn’t be any lower even though they would certainly be the Vegas Dog by several points. Kansas, version 2013, is a traditional squad which should have the size and guard-play to really hurt the Heels’ small ball system. Advantage, Kansas.
It doesn’t get any easier after that for the Tar Heels if they were to even make it. In their “South” region are big boys like Michigan (#4), UCLA (#6), Florida (#3), Georgetown (#2) and Oklahoma (#10).
But what everyone seems to be missing about all of the seeding is that they’re applying the “old” days of college basketball to the current era. No team is dominant this year. If no one has a clue who’s going to be a #1 seed going into Selection Sunday, then those #1 seeds can’t be that imposing can they?
The point here is that we’re poised to see the most ridiculous Tournament, maybe ever, in terms of upsets and losses. And since this is the year UNC is going with the non-traditional lineup and just a “throw the talent out there and see what happens” philosophy, what year could be a better draw for UNC to be in such a compromising position?
Sure, the Heels will probably lose on Sunday to Kansas if they make it that far. But then again, how much of anything ‘probable’ in college basketball recently has actually come to pass? Not much. The Luck of the Draw doesn’t seem that important anymore.
The fantastic Photography used in this piece is via TODD MELET