Thursday, March 17, 2011
This year’s annual family event of filling in our NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket was the most disappointing I can recall.
It was common knowledge going in that Alabama, my favorite college team, was “on the bubble.” Some so-called experts said the Tide would not get into the field of 68. Others said they would.
I got so tired of seeing “the last four in” and “the last four out” during the past week or so leading up to the announcement of the tournament field.
Andy had a blank bracket ready Sunday afternoon for the CBS show. So did I. Emma, from her dorm room at the University of Southern Mississippi, was included via cellular/speaker phone.
As the different regionals were announced, the Georgia Bulldogs popped up quickly as a number 10 seed.
A couple of reactions followed.
“If Georgia made it, Alabama sure better get in.”
“If Georgia is a 10 seed, then Alabama must be a 9 or a 10 seed.”
Other SEC teams, which were considered sure bets to make the “big dance,” followed. Those were Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida.
All came out of the SEC East, accurately considered the better side of the conference equation this season.
However, the Crimson Tide, who won the SEC West, did not make the NCAA Tournament field.
Most of the so-called experts on ESPN and other networks – who I watched – were as shocked as I was, if not more.
Alabama (21-11 overall) went 12-4 against SEC opponents and 4-2 versus the powerful East. The Tide beat Georgia twice in a week at the end of the season and defeated Tennessee in Knoxville and Kentucky at home. Alabama’s RPI (whatever that means) was too high, some said, and their strength of schedule was weak, plus they struggled very early in the season against non-conference foes.
Yet there were teams with 14 losses in the field. And there were teams who had not beaten any ranked opponents.
Alabama wasn’t the only school getting the shaft – there were Colorado and Virginia Tech.
Most so-called experts were particularly upset with a pair of selections – Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) and Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).
As far as that goes, I couldn’t be happier for coach Mike Davis and the Blazers. As you’ve read in this column before, Davis played for a high school rival, Fayette, Ala.
But I don’t know how they got in before the Tide.
It really griped me when the commissioner of the tournament committee was interviewed and asked about some of the ridiculous choices, and he really had no answer.
I’m sure I will watch portions of the NCAA Tournament, but I won’t give it nearly the attention as usual.
I thought Mississippi State got a raw deal a year ago, too, after losing a heartbreaker to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game.
But this year’s selections were even worse.
Some said college basketball is not as good overall this year. Whatever the case, the NCAA needs to come up with a better system of picking the best 68 teams.
This year I will focus more on the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), which includes Alabama and Ole Miss and probably should have included Southern Miss.
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