In my post prior to any games being played on Selection Sunday, I revealed my anticipated field of 65. I had Ohio State in, but I noted a contingency that would put them out should Georgia win the SEC title. Georgia did indeed win the SEC. Thus, I had 64 of the 65 teams projected correctly (33 of the 34 at-larges, 97%). The only mistake I made in projecting who would get in was by putting New Mexico of the Mountain West in over Oregon of the Pac-10.
With regards to seedings, I correctly placed 21 teams. I was off by only one seed on another 25 teams. So, I placed teams within one seed of their actual NCAA seeding 71% of the time. I was two seeds off for 6 teams, three seeds off for 8 teams, and missed 4 others by more than three seeds.
Who received the biggest bumps by the selection committee?
Oklahoma (22-11, NCAA #6, Rogers Poll #13): Though Oklahoma did play the 12th toughest schedule in the country, I only had them ranked #69. The Sooners had a losing record away from home (7-8), a losing record against my top 100 (9-10), squeaked out 5 close wins, were only 7-5 down the stretch, and failed to capture a signature victory. Their best win was at home against my #24, Gonzaga. The last time we saw the Sooners in action, they were pummeled 77-49 by Texas in the Big XII tournament.
Oregon (18-13, NCAA #9, Rogers Poll n/a): The Ducks were the only team to make the field despite not being projected in by me. I did, however, have Oregon ranked #60 and listed as one of my top eight out. The fact remains that this team didn't put together a strong enough resume to warrant inclusion. They had a losing record in conference (9-10), had a non-winning record down the stretch (6-6), were a miserable 5-10 away from home, and had a losing record against my top 100 (9-12). Their schedule was tough (#23), but they failed to capture more than a handful of good wins.
Washington State (24-8, NCAA #4, Rogers Poll #9): The Cougars are a good team, but not an elite team, as their #4 seed in the NCAA tournament implies. I have them ranked #34, having played the 39th toughest schedule. They were an impressive 11-4 away from Pullman and proved they could beat good teams consistently as they were 13-7 against my top 100. However, they were 3-7 against the top 50, posted a modest 7-5 record at season's end, and defeated only one top 25 team (#24 Gonzaga). With all of that said, I expect them to be a dangerous team in the tournament with a real chance to get to the Sweet 16.
USC (21-11, NCAA #6, Rogers Poll #9): The Men of Troy came a long way from their season opening loss to Mercer (11-19, #291). They managed a 20+ win season and a 12-8 record in the nation's best conference despite playing the 6th toughest schedule. They also pulled out signature victories over #2 UCLA and #16 Stanford. Outside of those two big wins though, they were 1-8 against the top 50. This team is definitely deserving of an at-large bid and a single-digit seeding. However, handing them a 6-seed implies they are a top 25 team. Compare their resumes to the top 25 ... it just doesn't add up.
Miami (22-10, NCAA #7, Rogers Poll #10): The Hurricanes finished the season ranked #41 by me, playing a relatively mild schedule (#68) and posting a non-winning record in ACC play (9-9). They also benefited from 5 close wins. They lost 4 games to teams outside of my top 100, including two against teams ranked lower than 170 (Boston College and NC State). They can boast a solid home win against #6 Duke, but they have no further wins against the top 25. The last time we saw them, they were dominated, 63-49, by Virginia Tech, a team that failed to make the NCAA tournament.
Mississippi State (22-10, NCAA #8, Rogers Poll #11): The Bulldogs finished the season ranked #48 by me having played the #47 schedule. With their 22-win season, 13-5 mark in the SEC, and 8-4 record down the stretch, they were obviously deserving of an at-large berth. However, the selection committee granted them seed favoring a berth in the second round. Their best win of the season was against #32 Arkansas and their best road win of the year was at #71 Florida. For a team that was 4-9 against the top 100, you have to question whether or not they really deserved it.
San Diego (21-13, NCAA #13, Rogers Poll #16): The Toreros won the WCC tournament and ensured 3-bids for their league. Boasting a 21-win season, a 14-3 ledger in conference play, two wins over St. Mary's, a win over Gonzaga, a win over Kentucky, and a 10-2 record to conclude the year sure makes them look good on the surface. However, they played in the 23rd ranked conference, posted an 8-8 record away from home, lost to #310 Cal State Bakersfield (8-21) at home, and were 4-11 against the top 100. They beat up on little guys, going 17-2 against teams outside the top 100.
Who received the biggest shafts by the selection committee?
New Mexico (24-8, NCAA n/a, Rogers Poll #10): The Lobos were the one team I projected into the tournament that did not get the nod from the selection committee. They finished the year ranked #39 in my rankings, despite playing a weak schedule (#139). The strongest argument for them was their run at season's end. They were 8-2 in their last ten, with both losses coming in overtime to good teams (#13 BYU and Utah). They also captured a 59-45 win over #26 UNLV in their home finale.
BYU (27-7, NCAA #8, Rogers Poll #4): The decision by the selection committee to seed the Cougars so low may be the biggest insult of all. The Cougars posted a 27-win season, including a 16-3 mark in the nation's 7th best conference, were 10-2 down the stretch, 11-6 away from home, 8-7 against the top 100, defeated #10 Louisville, #26 UNLV, and #39 New Mexico twice. They only lost to one team all season that failed to post 20 wins (Wake Forest, 17-13). Many will point to their schedule (#115), but they did not slip up against a weak opponent and they proved time and time again that they could beat good ones.
Western Kentucky (27-6, NCAA #12, Rogers Poll #8): Though they played in the 13th ranked Sun Belt, their only 2 losses in conference play came to #27 South Alabama. Furthermore, they took home the conference tournament championship. They were 11-1 down the stretch with a lone 5-point loss to 26-6 USA. They were an amazing 14-5 away from Bowling Green. The thing that ultimately cost them, however, was their weak schedule (#169) and only one quality win out-of-conference (overtime against 19-12 Nebraska).
Marquette (24-9, NCAA #6, Rogers Poll #3): The Golden Eagles finished the season #11 in my rankings, played the #31 schedule, had a winning record away from home, posted 5 wins over the top 50, and posted a 13-8 record in the Big East (which sent 8 teams to the NCAA tournament). Three of their nine losses came by 4 points or less to #6 Duke, #21 Notre Dame, and #9 Georgetown. They can also boast road wins over #3 Wisconsin and Villanova, a neutral site win over #21 Notre Dame, and home wins against #21 Notre Dame, and the Big East tournament champions, #19 Pittsburgh.
St. Mary's (25-6, NCAA #10, Rogers Poll #7): The Gaels are my #22 team, having handed #17 Drake one of their only four losses, in addition to key wins over a Pac-10 at-large team, Oregon, conference rival, #24 Gonzaga, and Big West champion, Cal State Fullerton. In all, they hold a 6-4 record against the top 100. Additionally, they posted a 10-5 record away from home and an 8-4 mark down the stretch. They pushed San Diego to overtime in the conference championship game, and lost only once to a non-20-win team (Southern Illinois, 17-14).
South Alabama (26-6, NCAA #10, Rogers Poll #7): The Jaguars end up my #27 ranked team. Of their six losses, four were by four points or less. In all, they only played 5 games against the top 50, but were 3-2 in those match-ups, defeating Mississippi State and Western Kentucky twice. The two losses against the top 50 were both by 3 points, on the road against SEC opponents (Ole Miss and #18 Vanderbilt). So, there is no question that they can compete at a high level. They were 9-5 away from home and 9-3 in the stretch run. They have the potential to make a run in the tournament.
Cornell (22-5, NCAA #14, Rogers Poll #11): Apparently, it's fashionable to seed the Ivy League representative low. However, the Big Red are not the typical Ivy team. They were 14-0 in league play, 10-4 away from home, and finished the year as my #42 team. They did play a very weak schedule (#320), but they proved they could play at a higher level, going 3-3 against the top 100, including a win over 22-10 Siena. Among their five losses on the season were road trips to Syracuse and #6 Duke.
The play-in game is not between the two worst entries
Finally, I want to make note of the selection committee's not-so-subtle decision to put Mount St. Mary's in the play-in game. Since the inception of the play-in game, the major opponents of its existence have pointed to its seemingly inherent purpose of pitting the conference champions from the two Historically Black College and University (HBCU) leagues, the SWAC and the MEAC. This year, there is no question that a merit based decision would have done exactly that, with Coppin State and Mississippi Valley State squaring off for the right to play North Carolina in the opening round. However, the committee opted to replace the Delta Devils with Mount St. Mary's. I guess they hoped no one would notice or care. I'm sure they are probably right about the latter.