How to seed the new 68 team tournament?
I make it no secret that I’m a huge “underdog” kind of guy. If I’m flipping through the channels and run across Siena versus West Virginia, then I become a Saints fan for 40 minutes. So when the speculation began about how to seed the new 68 team tournament I sided with the “last at large teams” camp. Even trying to put my bias aside, I still can’t support an option that would punish automatic qualifiers just because of the conference they play in.
The solution is obvious of course: a compromise. Simply split the spots between the last at-large bids and the worst auto qualifiers. The teams from both camps with the worst records go to the play in gam- oops I mean Opening Round.
Since it makes the most sense though, it probably won’t happen.
A way too early, too early top 25:
1. Michigan State: Tom Izzo. Period. The man has proven time and time again that he can coach. This team returns a talented core group and should quickly learn how to make up for the loss of Raymar Morgan.
2. Purdue: Matt Painter has built something in West Lafayette. E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel are serious talents. The Boilermakers could see some time at the number 1 spot next year.
3. Duke: Coach K has an irritating way of keeping Duke up there with the best teams in the country every year. I don’t think this year’s team will be as successful in the long run as last year’s team; but I do expect them to be a consistent top 5 team all year.
4. Villanova: I will admit to not knowing a whole lot about this ‘Nova team. I know they lost Reynolds, who should have been drafted by the way, but that is about it. This pick is based on what I’ve read from others who put them as the Big East favorites.
5. Baylor: What Scott Drew has done in Waco is amazing. They lose Udoh, but they keep LaceDarius Dunn. This is my favorite to win a slightly weaker, but deeper, than normal Big 12.
6. Pittsburgh: Pitt is similar to Villanova for me. I just don’t know a lot about them, but others seem really high on them.
7. Ohio State: Ohio State has become a talent converter. High School talent goes in, NBA talent comes out. Losing Turner hurts, but when you return a pretty talented group and add five star players it becomes a little easier to stomach.
8. Temple: This is one of those teams that is making people look at the A-10 a little differently. They won 29 games last year, and hung around in the top 15. With 3 starters returning they shouldn’t lose anything this year.
9. Kansas State: Kansas will not be as good as they were last year. Kansas State should be just as good as they were last year, if not better. There could be a brief paradigm shift within college basketball in the state of Kansas.
10. Kansas: Speaking of Kansas, I have the Jayhawks checking in just behind KSU at 10. A bad year for Kansas is a good year for a lot of schools. Still the Jayhawks will be weaker than last year, meaning a weaker Big 12, leaving room for KSU and Baylor to work their way into the top of the conference.
11. Kentucky: Kentucky loses 5 players to the draft. That is a real team killer, right? Well, not exactly, at least not when you land the top recruiting class in the country. This incoming class won’t be as hyped as last year’s class. It might not even be as talented pound for pound; but it should make for a much more balanced and dynamic team. More of Coach Cal’s trademark DDM and less standing around outside of a zone.
12. Memphis: Josh Pastner is the Plato to Calipari’s Socrates. An upbeat recruiter who makes pulling in top prospects look easy. Going up against a mediocre CUSA should give the Tigers a good record come March, and they will have enough talent to make some noise.
13. North Carolina: They can’t struggle two years in a row can they? They will be weak in the front court, but loaded in the backcourt. A strong conference showing and they should be dancing again, but who knows with this team?
14. Florida: Florida is one of two SEC teams, along with Kentucky, that I think will jump around the 10-15 range all season. They have talent, but I’m not convinced they have the right kind of talent at the 1 and 4 spots to properly run the system Donovan has established.
15. Butler: The Bulldogs lose Hayward, which drops them about 8 spots from they would have been otherwise. Don’t expect them to slip quietly into the night however, as Brad Stevens is set up for the long haul.
16. Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt loses a significant portion of its scoring, and is going to face questions at PG; but Jenkins and Taylor look ready to step into their own as All SEC caliber scorers.
17. Gonzaga: I hate to call the ‘Zags a one man band, but they are here because of one man and one man only: Elias Harris.
18. BYU: Jimmer Fredette returns to the Cougars with aspirations of winning the MWC title and making another run in March; but they will face some pretty stiff competition from UNLV and New Mexico.
19. Missouri: Fun to watch, and now more talented than they have ever been under his watch, Mike Anderson’s Tigers will look to challenge for the Big 12 title. This is a bunch that could just as easily shoot up the rankings as slip out. If they can remain consistent then there is nothing holding them back from joining KU, KSU, and Baylor higher up the rankings.
20. UNLV: A talented group without a real star to take over the game when it’s needed. Still the Runnin’ Rebels should be the second strongest team in the three team fight for the MWC title.
21. Tennessee: Where to put Tennessee? This seems too low, but at the same time I have no idea what the Vols are going to look like this year. They lose a lot of scorers but retain Hopson and add Tobias Harris. I’m putting them here for now, with the expectation that they could easily move up.
22. Syracuse: The Orange won’t be as good as last year. Short and sweet. Straight and to the point.
23. Virginia Tech: I’m not sold on the Hokies. They do have a great player in Delaney, and a real chance at making the NCAA tournament, but I wouldn’t put money on them.
24. Murray State: People will sleep in the Racers, and they shouldn’t. This is a tournament team that won 31 games last year, lost a close one to the eventual runner up, and returns 4 of its top 6 scorers. Oh yeah, and three of those returning scorers averaged in double digits last year. They will get their chance to prove themselves early in the 76 Classic with Stanford, UNLV, and Virginia Tech.
25. Richmond: Another one of the teams that is making people think twice about scheduling A-10 teams. Their chances of a repeat trip to the NCAA tournament look good.