Monday, March 13, 2006


Let me be (one of the) first to call it: Winthrop beats Tennessee this Thursday.

It really, really could not set up any better. Lower-seeded team vastly better than seed? Check. High seed vastly overseeded? Check. High seed from SEC? Check. High seed slumping? Check. Lower seed somehow playing closer to venue than high seed? Check. Lower seed a) MORE tourney experienced b) hungry c) due? Check, check, check.

Let's not ignore the 15 seed. It's a slap in the face from the Selection Committee. And Marshall should still be have one of those Hillshire Farms sausage gift baskets on its way to Littlepaige's house right now. (Even Marshall probably wouldn't disagree: apparently he was expecting the Vols. Methinks if the Eagles had drawn Texas, he'd be substantially more peeved at the seeding.)

How the Committee could possibly have Tennessee on the 2-line defies belief. Consider: LSU won the regular season SEC title by two full games. Florida won the SEC tournament while Tennessee lost in the quarters. And yet is the seeded SEC team. Apparently, victories over Texas go one hell of a long way--even further than actual conference titles. In the JCCW's humble opinion, Winthrop has a better shot at UT than any other 2 seed, any 3 seed, OR any 4 seed. (In fact, better to face Tennessee than 5-seed Pitt, if you ask me.) The Laws of Karma dictate than any team as over-seeded as the Vols must pay for their good fortune. And the Eagles are more than good enough--not to mention karmically justified themselves after the 15 snub--to take advantage. Complete breakdown of this matchup coming later in the week.

That the Big South's finest received both an family-sized portion of disrespect AND their dream first-round match-up only enhanced my feeling, after watching the Selection Show, that this Selection Committee was the hoops equivalent of your grandfather taking on babysitting duties. This Committee was, quite obviously, incompetent. Air Force is the most unqualified invitee I can remember. Boston College being rewarded for their ACC run be being sent to Salt Lake to take on Pacific and Nevada back-to-back was a hose job so big it should have been sponsored by the local Fire Department. Montana as a 12 vs. Northwestern St. as a 14 and Winthrop as a 15 makes as much sense as asking Dick Vitale to become a librarian. ("Please keep your voices down, THANK YOU BABY!")

But just as you can't complain when your grandfather lets you eat Count Chocula for dinner and stay up 'til 11 watching Star Trek reruns because Mom totally said you could (yeah, right), so as a mid-major fan I'm not too troubled by this Committee, well, sucking. Winthrop got the game they needed. George Mason deservedly got in. Utah St. might not have been as qualified as Missouri St. or Hofstra, but the Aggies are a good team that also happened to get royally shafted just two seasons ago. Air Force has no business being in, of course, but I'd still much rather see the Falcons than Michigan, Florida St., South Carolina, or (thank everything holy) Maryland and Gary Williams' triumphantly obnoxious ass. When some major-conference team--and this even appiles to Cincinnati--sneaks in as a 12 or 13 and wins a game, it'll be nice, but it won't exactly go down in the annals of team history. (Ask Florida St. if their fans are still stoked about beating TCU as a 12 before losing to Valpo in 1999.) But if Air Force wins that first-round game, it will be unquestionably the biggest win in program history.

No, that technically shouldn't have any bearing on who gets invited. But it does mean, at least, that I get to be thankful when mid-majors are invited over major conference also-rans.

Other random thoughts:

The next time anyone uses the phrase "East Coast bias" in a discussion of NCAA hoops they get a free foot up their ass, courtesy of me. Utah St. and Air Force got in, Nevada, Cal, and Arizona are all overseeded, and UCLA got the most favorable draw imaginable. Somebody on the Committee is a John Denver fan, I'm guessing.

My only guess on the difference between Montana and Winthrop's seeds--to my view, the most inexplicable of any seeding issues aside from Tennessee's--is this: the Committee has the option (I believe) to move a lower-seeded team up or down a seed line to keep them closer to home. So if Montana was a 13 and Winthrop a 14, changing their seed to keep them both within driving distance (relatively, in Montana's case) might somewhat help explain the difference. Mind you, it's still a joke. WU should have been a 13.

Coastal, as expected, got the NIT shaft. As Ian Guerin points out, not a lot of meat on CCU's nonconference schedule's bones.

The Oakland regional is weaker than an Applebee's cocktail. I'd look for whichever team wins that Kansas-Pitt second-round matchup to go all the way to the Final Four ... unless, of course, that match-up is actually Kent St.-Bradley, which could very, very well happen. What a toss-up.

The JCCW didn't do so bad with yesterday's off-the-cuff bracket guess, getting 32 of 34 at-larges, better than the great majority of online "experts." I would say "I got 63 of 65," but seeing as how 31 of those were chosen for me, it'd be pretty self-serving. I had Cincy and Missouri St. in, Air Force and Utah St. (like everybody else) out.

My complete tournament breakdown--picks, upsets to watch, and all--coming, oh, probably tomorrow. I know you're on pins and needles.

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