March 14, 2016
This year’s selection committee took a beating on Sunday, particularly for the inclusion of both Syracuse and Tulsa into the field. Another slightly less controversial bubble team that got a vote of confidence from the committee was Temple, who snagged a 10 seed.
As it turns out, Fran Dunphy’s Owls had more breathing room than most of us anticipated:
And like past committees have frequently done, there could be a fun second-round matchup (Villanova-Temple in Brooklyn) if things break right.
Did Villanova get a raw deal? Yes and no. If they were the 7th-ranked team, their logical landing spot would be matched up with No. 2 North Carolina in the East Region. Joe Lunardi summed this up well:
The committee is clearly protecting North Carolina from a potential regional final against Villanova (in Philadelphia) by moving the Wildcats to the South and Xavier to the East. Haven’t we been told for years that the committee doesn’t project matchups? So Michigan State gets desired placement as a No. 2 seed, but the top Big East seeds don't. I don’t get it, unless Rich Kotite got the committee’s mileage chart wet.
On one hand, North Carolina playing a regional final against ‘Nova in Philly would have been unfair. UNC travels well, but that is essentially a true road game. On the other hand, if Kentucky beats UNC in the Sweet 16 (which is very possible) and ‘Nova makes it through three rounds (a big if), the decision to ship the Wildcats into Kansas’ region will seem ridiculous. So, I can see it both ways.
As has been the case for a few years recently, La Salle High’s Fran McCaffrey and Iowa struggled down the stretch. They won only one of their final six games and lost to a legitimately bad Illinois team in the Big 10 tourney. The Hawkeyes have a second-team All-American in 6’9” forward Jared Uthoff who can really play. He and 6’6” wing Peter Jok do the heavy lifting offensively, and they’re both very efficient.
Do the Owls have a shot? If Bad Iowa shows up, of course. Dunphy’s teams have made it out of the first round two of their last three times in the dance. But KenPom says Iowa wins this game 75 percent of the time, and I am not one to argue with that math. I don’t see a Big 5 battle in Brooklyn on Sunday.
UNC Asheville beat Georgetown on the road in December, and they seem like they can play a little bit. You never know when a 2-seed will get a scare, but coming off the loss to Seton Hall, it says here that the Wildcats come out firing on all cylinders.
(1) Kansas vs. (16) Austin Peay -- Best chant in America. Let’s hope the Governors score a few early baskets so we can hear their fans say it loud and proud:
(8) Colorado vs. (9) UConn -- When you don’t know too much about either team, go with the program that is known for making deep runs out of nowhere.
(5) Maryland vs. (12) South Dakota State
(4) California vs. (13) Hawaii
Anarchy in Spokane! I saw Hawaii play once this year, and they almost beat Oklahoma in that one. Let’s take the Rainbow Warriors against a very talented team that does heavily depend on a couple of freshmen. Melo Trimble is very good and the supporting cast is super talented, but Maryland just hasn’t put it all together this season. Let’s get crazy and say they get bounced right away.
(6) Arizona vs. (11) Wichita State/Vanderbilt -- This a brutal matchup for all three teams. Sean Miller has made the Elite 8 the past two years, so we’ll ride with him.
(3) Miami vs. (14) Buffalo -- Matt Mullin, Ja’Quan Newton and the rest of the Hurricanes advance.
This isn’t an easy draw for ‘Nova at all. KenPom has Iowa rated as the top No. 7 seed, and they’re a much better team than Dayton or Oregon State. Still, ‘Nova has talked all year about needing to get out of the first weekend. The status of Daniel Ochefu is very important, but the Wildcats are going to be playing in a familiar building in front a ton of their fans. Most importantly, they’re a better team than Iowa. Just go win the game.
(1) Kansas vs. (9) UConn -- Looking back at history, this is the danger game for the Jayhawks. I just happen to think they’re the best team in the field. Thanks for this, Huskies:
(12) South Dakota State vs. (13) Hawaii -- Upsets are great in the first round, but they can often produce bad basketball in the following games. Hawaii controls this one and has the honor of getting destroyed by Kansas.
(3) Miami vs. (6) Arizona -- Again, Sean Miller has been to the Elite 8 the past two years and his team is under-seeded. It says here that Miami’s three-point shooters go cold.
This is where I think Ochefu’s injury starts to play a major factor. Arizona has size, and while Darryl Reynolds does a very good job in relief, Ochefu is the type of rim protector that gives the Wildcats a chance to play against the truly elite teams. ‘Nova makes it through the first two rounds, but Miller’s team trips them up.
(1) Kansas vs. (13) Hawaii
(1) Kansas vs. (6) Arizona
Everyone is picking Kansas, so let’s be a little different. The Jayhawks have the best team in the field, but Arizona has made it deeper in the tournament the last two years. Miller has been to the Elite Eight four times, and he has to get over the hump at some point (sorry, John Chaney).
Perry Ellis’ decade in Lawrence finally comes to an end.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann