Selection Sunday. It’s the Sunday before the weekend of the NCAA Tournament tip-off, and it’s easily one of the biggest days in college sports. In college football, individual teams (outside of at-large bids) know where they will be headed for postseason play according to pre-determined bowl sites. In college basketball, all is determined by a selection committee. College basketball has really latched on to a golden idea here. There are 32 Division I basketball conferences, and a total of 347 teams. The winners of these 32 conferences all receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, with the exception of the newly created Great West Conference. All conferences (barring the Ivy League) hold post-season tournaments to determine which team will represent their conference in the tournament. Some conferences however, send multiple teams to the Big Dance. For instance, the Big East will probably see a large number of teams qualify for the tournament, as they currently have five teams ranked in the Top-25. All would seem rather smooth, but really, this is where things can get murky. To get the nod from the selection committee (outside of winning your conference) is called an “at-large bid.” The committee takes into account many different things, such as strength of schedule, RPI rating, and of course, wins and losses. But as with any committee coming to a consensus, there are going to be some things that get left out. These “snub” teams are teams that seemingly have all the credentials necessary for NCAA Tournament play, but don’t get the O.K. from the selection committee.
Now, having the knowledge of what exactly “Selection Sunday” is, we can look at this year’s possible snubs, possible Cinderella teams, and teams that very well may disappoint.
Sleeper — University of North Texas Mean Green
Call me an optimist. Call me a homer. I don’t care what you call me as long as it’s in time for supper. The last part of that quote is borrowed from my dad, but I felt it fit very accordingly in this situation. Being a student at UNT and having personally attended approximately 15 of their games, I know how this team functions. This team is currently riding an 11-game win streak, and is fired up to be in the NCAA Tournament. They lead the nation in free throw attempts made (639), and can cause some damage inside when Jr. C/F George Odufuwa and Sr. F Eric Tramiel work in unison down low. Odufuwa averages 10.7 rebounds/gm, and Tramiel is coming off a monster Sun Belt Conference Tournament in which he received Most Outstanding Player honors. Not to be forgotten are Jr. G Tristan Thompson (14.1 points/gm) and Jr. PG Josh White (14.9 points/gm) who has defined throughout the season what it means to be a floor general. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team upset a higher ranked opponent, so watch out for them in the first round. (See my other articles about The University of North Texas basketball team for more information on this possible Cinderella.)
Sleeper — Wofford Terriers
Anyone want to take a guess as to when Wofford’s last NCAA Tournament appearance was? Anyone remember seeing them when filling out your office bracket? Probably not, because if you did, you had a messed up bracket. This team has never been to the NCAA Tournament, and for that very reason you can expect this team to be incredibly pumped. This is a team that can play with a “What do we have to lose?” mentality, and those can be scary if you’re a number 1, 2, or 3 seed. If not for a 2 point loss to Charleston, this team would be in the midst of a 20 game win streak. Instead, they’re sitting on a modest 13-game win streak. Wait, you can’t really ever use the term “modest” when describing a 13-game win streak; that’s flat out impressive no matter what league you’re in. It’s also noteworthy that the Terriers have some guys that can play too. Jr. F Noah Dahlman received the SoCon conference Player of the Year award, and head coach Mike Young received Coach of the Year honors. It could be very hard for Wofford to knock off a number 1 team, such as a Kansas or a Duke, but they could certainly raise some pulses. Keep an eye on this team.
Sleeper — UTEP Miners
You may or may not have heard much about this team, but they have managed to quietly nestle their way into the top-25, currently seated at number 21. It’s difficult to tag any ranked team as a “sleeper,” as most people think a sleeper is a team from a mid-major conference, but this team isn’t anything to mess around with. The Miners have 3 guys averaging more than 10 points/gm (Randy Culpepper, Derrick Caracter, and Jeremy Williams) and 2 guys (Arnett Moultrie and Christian Polk) scoring just shy of that at 9.9 and 9.8 points/gm, respectively. 15 wins in a row, and quality wins over New Mexico State, Memphis, and UAB (twice) have strengthened this teams tournament resume. If the Miners manage to grab a middle seed (6, 7, or 8), look for them to cause some damage. I would feel comfortable putting this team in my personal bracket’s Sweet Sixteen.
Possible Snub — Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
It’s probably quite appropriate that this team’s other nickname is the “Ramblin’ Wreck,” because this team has been a tale of two stories all season. A 71-67 win over Duke on January 9th raised some eyebrows and caused some “Hey now, this could be a pretty good team” talk. But it’s embarrassing losses such as the one to a very sub-par Miami (FL) team (4-12 in ACC play) that make some people say, “Well, maybe they’re not so good after all.” They’re going to need a little help from some outside teams if they plan one making it into the NCAA Tournament. It’s a little disappointing to say that this talented frontcourt combo (Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors) could be either playing in the NIT or sitting at home come post-season time, but I think it could be in the Yellow Jacket’s future.
Disappointing Team-Villanova Wildcats
Villanova has enjoyed being ranked in the top-25 all season long, and for most of that stretch, they enjoyed their spot in the nation’s top-10. This team at one time raised some national championship talk, although that was very early in the season and as we all know in college basketball, early season talk usually doesn’t pan out too well. Still though, this is a team that has been performing way below their level of talent, and their level of expectations. After starting 22-2, they have lost 5 of their last 7, and have probably lost what was a lock to a number 1 seed in the tournament. Today’s 80-76 loss in the Big East Tournament to Marquette certainly didn’t help their case any. I don’t see any immediate changes out of this team, and I wouldn’t be in the least bit shocked to see a first or second round exit. Honestly, I think I’d be more surprised to see this team in the Sweet Sixteen.
Whether you’re filling out an office bracket for money or just filling out a bracket with friends for bragging rights these are a few tips that might come in handy in addition to the information above. 1) The 5 vs. 12 seed match-up, for whatever reason, usually doesn’t fair well for at least one of the number 5 seeds in the tournament. 2) It’s hard to go against a team that’s hot, and it’s easy to go against a team that has been reeling lately. And finally 3) It’s going to be weird seeing a bracket without the UNC Tarheels being somewhere on there.
Rankings as of March 12, 2010.
Information about all conference selections provided by http://www.georgiasoutherneagles.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=18700&ATCLID=204900090
Stats provided by www.Sports.espn.go.com