The 2016 big dance is set as the committee released the official bracket on Sunday evening following the conclusion of the Big 10 and SEC Championship games. Here are a few things to point out from the field of 68 and whether or not the committee got it right.
No. 1 Seeds
Kansas (South), North Carolina (East), Virginia (Midwest), Oregon (West)
Entering this weekend, the committee knew that either North Carolina or Virginia (both were possible one-seeds in bracketology) was going to fall in their conference tournament. The committee obviously felt that the close game the Tar Heels and Cavaliers played on Saturday made both of them more deserving of a one-seed than either Villanova or Xavier, who both failed to win their conference tournament. Kansas, meanwhile, was the clear best team during championship week as they ran through the Big 12 tournament. Oregon, meanwhile, made a huge jump from being a projected three or four seed, to No. 1 in the West after demolishing Utah in the PAC-12 Championship. Despite Virginia losing in the ACC Final, the committee got it right with these four No. 1 seeds as all were solid throughout the entire college basketball season and played their best basketball of 2015-2016 during their conference tournaments.
Snuck Into The Field
Michigan, Vanderbilt, Syracuse
Michigan made a good run in the Big 10 tournament with buzzer beater wins over Northwestern and Indiana, so it should not be surprising that the committee included the Wolverines in the field of 68. It is unclear, however, as to why the committee decided to include Vanderbilt and Syracuse, who both had very mediocre seasons and had early exits in their conference tournaments. The Wolverines and Commodores will play in their respective play-in games in Spokane and Dayton on Tuesday while Syracuse will play against No. 7 Dayton in the Midwest region. The committee may have done the right thing in awarding No. 1 seeds to Oregon, Kansas, North Carolina and Virginia, but it did not by allowing Vanderbilt and Syracuse a spot in the field over other more deserving teams.
Monmouth, South Carolina, Florida, and St. Mary’s all had over 20 wins in 2015-2016, yet none made the tournament over a 19-win Vanderbilt team who had a terrible loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. There seems to be a group snubs every year in when the committee announces the NCAA Tournament field, but four teams that have played at the caliber of Florida, Monmouth, South Carolina, and St. Mary’s should not have been left out over Vanderbilt. The committee got this aspect of the field very wrong.
Has there ever been a more difficult year to predict your bracket than 2015-2016? In a season which saw top-five teams fall just about every week, it seems almost impossible to be able to predict which teams will excel in the opening rounds of the tournament and which teams will cave. Last season, we saw Iowa State go on a run in the Big 12 Tournament, but then run out of steam and fall to Alabama-Birmingham in the opening round. This season, it is a bit more complex, as all of the major conference champions are No. 1 seeds other than Kentucky, who is a four-seed, and there has never been a 16 over 1 upset in NCAA Tournament history. After all the craziness that has occurred in college basketball this season, many are saying that this is the year that a No. 1 seed falls in the opening round. For those who are not willing to predict that big of an upset, maybe consider picking one of these two potential bracket busters instead:
No. 12 South Dakota State over No. 5 Maryland
No. 14 Green Bay over No. 3 Texas AM
A lot of people are picking Maryland and Texas AM to get to the Sweet 16 and some are even picking the Terps to head to Final Four out of the South Region. With Maryland having to go across the country to play South Dakota State in Spokane (home court obviously in SDSU’s favor), beware of a major bracket buster on the first day of the tournament with Maryland, as the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State (26-7) are no joke and could very well bounce Maryland early and ruin a bunch of brackets. Texas AM, meanwhile, is almost set up for the perfect upset. A de facto home game in Oklahoma City against a team that is on an upset spree in recent weeks after knocking off Valparaiso in their conference tournament in Green Bay. Maryland and Texas AM could end up making it far in the tournament, but the committee did not do them any favors with these two first round opponents.