Zion Williamson

USA Today

2019 NCAA Tournament

The lines have been drawn in March Madness.

March 18, 2019 - 10:17 am
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It is here. The Monday after Selection Sunday. The lines have been drawn in March Madness. And the ACC is looking pretty damn good. Duke is the number one seed overall. The committee got that right. I mean, after watching the Return of Zion, does anyone, anywhere have any complaints about that? The committee could’ve just said, we’re breaking with tradition and advancing them to the Final Four right now and nobody would’ve complained.

And that’s the biggest thing overall about this year’s bracket – the lack of complaints. One conference, the ACC, has three number one seeds in Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina, and there aren’t too many complaints. Gonzaga is the fourth number one and there aren’t too many complaints about that.

Pause on that for a moment. Gonzaga is a number one seed and it’s not a huge story. Gonzaga is a number one seed in the NCAA tournament without winning their conference tournament, and while there might be a few complaints here or there, nobody is taking to the streets. That’s what Mark Few has done at Gonzaga. And it is ridiculous. It is so ridiculous that it has become so normal.

Not only are you not hearing a ton of complaints about Gonzaga, you aren’t hearing a ton of complaints about the field in general.

The Sunday night and Monday morning after the brackets were announced used to be the most rage-filled hours of the year. People freaking out because they couldn’t figure out why one program was left out or another was included.

And that would be followed by the head of the committee getting on television and fumbling through an explanation of what happened in the hotel conference room. Explanations that involved phrases like “eye test” and “balance of power” and other whack phrases that always made it much worse.

But the last few years, it’s been pretty quiet. I hate to say it, because crushing the committee used to be such a blast: such good sport. But it’s not anymore. Because they’re really not giving us any reason to do so. The damnest thing happened. They started getting it right.  They’re actually getting good at it. And not just good, but really good.  Like, damn, they’ve actually figured it out.

Believe me, I'd like nothing better than to roll in here this morning and smash the committee. The easiest show of the year would be to crack on the committee for a segment and then throw open the phones to angry fans of schools who were left out. It used to be that I could clown the committee for being a bunch of stiffs who don't understand basketball and do super awkward handshakes. But if you got left out this year, that's on your school, not the committee.

Like I said, they are getting good at this. 

They’ve even got the clever, I mean, crazy coinky dinks like a potential  reunion of Buffalo and Arizona State, provided the Sun Devils get through the first four in Dayton. You’ve even got Belmont getting an at-large bid and bringing their head coach to tears. And you’ve got Temple getting a First Four shot in Fran Dunphy’s last year.

What is there to get angry about this year? Michigan State as a two seed in Duke’s region? Sure. I get why they’d be bitter and I’ll get to that in a minute, but there were years where the committee would’ve been thrilled if the only complaint was about the best two-seed drawing the best number one seed in the same region. And Cincinnati probable deserved better than a seven. Same with Wofford.

But it wasn’t that long ago that Wichita State was an undefeated number one seed and they drew Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kentucky as an eight seed. An EIGHT?!? You go undefeated your entire season and conference tournament and your reward is to play Kentucky in the first weekend. That was a reason to riot. That was insanity.

This year, the biggest complaint is that Michigan State is going to have to face a team in the Elite Eight that they’d have to beat in the Final Four if they want to win it all.

And truthfully, the biggest complaints are never about seeding, it’s about who is in and who is out. If you’re in a major conference and you didn’t make it in, there’s a pretty good reason.

I know NC State fans are bent, but check your non-conference strength of schedule. I don’t want to get all stat-head on State fans, but given that they beat just two tournament teams this season and their non-conference schedule included juggernauts like Maryland-Eastern Shore, maybe you sit out this argument.

Playing a directional school is one thing. Playing a directional AND locational school is another. And Maryland-Eastern Shore is just that. I’m sure it’s a fine academic institution and this isn’t about disrespecting Maryland or the Eastern Shore.

But from a basketball standpoint, when you start to say the name of the school, it’s sounds good. Maryland. If you stop there, we’re all thinking about the great Terps teams of the past and the fact that this year’s team is pretty tough, too. Then you get to Maryland Eastern and it’s a little less intimidating. And by the time we’re at Maryland Eastern Shore, all intimidation is gone.

And they weren’t the only directional and locational school. South Carolina Upstate is in there too. Again, if you’re playing South Carolina that’s awesome. Frank Martin’s crew? That’s to be a battle. But South Carolina Upstate? Again, fine school, but not exactly intimidating on the schedule.

I’ll say it again, the committee is getting better and better at doing their jobs. And the fact that people weren’t’ looking to rage and burn something last night tells you that. I hate to disappoint all but I’m just bent. And nor am I going pretend I am, because I’m lazy and have nothing else to talk about. I’m not. And I do.  No bracket will ever be perfect; someone will always be pissed. But this group did a really nice job.