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The Field of 68 has been finalized.
Here are some random thoughts and wild predictions upon first look …
When the RPI doesn’t matter: I lead with this category every Selection Sunday, and it never disappoints. What you need to know is that no power-five school with a top-54 RPI was omitted from the NCAA Tournament this season, but eight non-power-five schools with top-54 RPIs were — specifically St. Bonaventure (30), Akron (34), Saint Mary’s (38), Princeton (39), San Diego State (41), Valparaiso (49), Monmouth (52) and Hofstra (54). This means the two best RPIs omitted belonged to non-power-five schools for the 12th straight year, and the best three KenPom ratings omitted from the field this season — No. 34 Saint Mary’s, No. 36 Valparaiso and No. 43 San Diego State — also belonged to non-power-five schools. So, once again, we are reminded that respectable computer numbers can save you if you’re a big brand. But they won’t help much if you’re not.
TOP TWO RPI RANKINGS LEFT OUT OF THE FIELD
2016: St. Bonaventure (30), Akron (34)
2015: Colorado State (28), Temple (34)
2014: Southern Miss (33), Toledo (38)
2013: Southern Miss (31), Louisiana Tech (54)
2012: Marshall (47), Oral Roberts (51)
2011: Harvard (35), Cleveland State (42)
2010: Rhode Island (40), Wichita State (43)
2009: San Diego State (34), Creighton (40)
2008: Dayton (32), Illinois State (33)
2007: Air Force (30), Missouri State (36)
2006: Missouri State (21), Hofstra (30)
2005: Miami-Ohio (39), Wichita State (45)
THREE THINGS I IMMEDIATELY NOTICED ABOUT THE BRACKET
1. Either John Calipari or Tom Crean will have a terrible weekend
Two of the most passionate fanbases in college basketball — and by passionate, I mean sometimes insane — belong to Kentucky and Indiana. And lookie here! Either the Wildcats or Hoosiers — both of whom were ranked in the top 15 of the preseason AP poll before winning their conference’s regular-season titles — will definitely be eliminated in the opening weekend because they’ll meet in the Round of 32 if they each win their first-round games. Consequently, either Kentucky fans or Indiana fans will be in a complete melt down by Saturday night and, possibly, typing online about their desire to replace their coach.
2. The South Region is loaded with good teams and great coaches
As I noted in a column dedicated to the South, the committee didn’t do top-ranked Kansas any favors. There are seven teams in the South that were ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll at some point this season, and nine of the teams in the South are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 25. They are Kansas (No. 1 at KenPom), Villanova (No. 5 at KenPom), Wichita State (No. 12 at KenPom), Miami (No. 13 at KenPom), Arizona (No. 16 at KenPom), Iowa (No. 20 at KenPom), California (No. 21 at KenPom), Maryland (No. 23 at KenPom) and Connecticut (No. 25 at KenPom). For what it’s worth, no other region has more than five top-25 KenPom teams. So the South is tough, tough, tough. And it’s filled with great coaches, too. There are five men in the South who have coached in a Final Four — namely Bill Self (Kansas), Jay Wright (Villanova), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) and Gregg Marshall (Wichita State). And that list doesn’t include Arizona’s Sean Miller, who has four Elite Eights on his resume but is still chasing a Final Four.
3. Tulsa got in?!?!?!
There’s a website called BracketMatrix.com that monitors all projected brackets. And, on Sunday afternoon, literally no bracket on this planet had Tulsa in the field.
Also worth noting: Tulsa guard Shaq Harrison didn’t have Tulsa in the field, either.
Tulsa guard Shaq Harrison deleted the original tweet. Here’s the exchange. pic.twitter.com/xlWdl4aH1p
— John Martin (@JohnMartin929) March 13, 2016
In other words, even Tulsa’s second-leading scorer didn’t think Tulsa was going to the NCAA Tournament because the Golden Hurricane “lost to Memphis by like 30.” Which is true, by the way. The Golden Hurricane lost to Memphis by 22 in the AAC quarterfinals after suffering a 92-82 loss to Memphis 12 days earlier. So Tulsa went 1-2 in its final three games with a pair of double-digit losses to a Memphis team that’s ranked 139th in the RPI … and still got in! And it’s not like the computers love Tulsa despite a resume featuring six sub-50 RPI losses. Tulsa is 58th in both the RPI and KenPom.
So good for Frank Haith.
Happy for him.
But, man, Tulsa’s inclusion is a real head-scratcher.
Two teams seeded too low: Michigan State, Indiana
Three teams seeded too high: Virginia, Texas A&M, Syracuse
Four Round of 64 games I can’t wait to watch: Arizona vs. Vanderbilt/Wichita State … Gonzaga vs. Seton Hall … West Virginia vs. Stephen F. Austin … Kentucky vs. Stony Brook
FIVE TEAMS I CAN SEE WINNING IT ALL
- Michigan State
- North Carolina
MY FINAL FOUR
- Kansas vs. Oklahoma
- Michigan State vs. North Carolina
MY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
- Kansas vs. Michigan State
MY NATIONAL CHAMPION