Here’s what the men’s NCAA tournament selection committee got right and wrong

It’s as time-honored a Sunday selection tradition as Seth Davis picking three 14 seeds to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Men’s Tournament.

First, the selection committee presents his brace. Then the chicanery begins.

The committee did a solid job for the most part this year, but there were a few glaring errors in the crops and one dubious decision on the bubble. The following shows what the committee did right and wrong:

What was wrong with the committee? Houston ahead Kansas on the seed line No. 1

Kansas probably didn’t care too much that Alabama got first place overall. The big disappointment, no doubt, was that Houston passed the Jayhawks for the top seed as well.

Since Houston received the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, Kansas’ title defense will not go through geographically friendly regional Kansas City. Instead, the Jayhawks will play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at the West Regional in Las Vegas if they get that far.

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Kansas trailing Houston was a surprise considering the Jayhawks entered Qualifying Sunday with a nationally-leading 17 Quadrant 1 wins, three more than any other team in the country. The Jayhawks (27–7) swept the Duke, Indiana, and Kentucky in a non-league game to win the regular season title in the nation’s toughest conference.

Houston (31-3), by contrast, has six Quadrant 1 victories this season, a pair against Memphis and then single victories over Virginia, St. Mary’s, Oregon and Cincinnati. Kansas is also undefeated outside of the upper quadrant, while Houston suffered an ugly home loss in Quadrant 3 against the middle Temple.

The only area where Houston has an edge over Kansas is in predictive metrics. The Cougars took first place on Sunday in all of them, while Kansas was ninth in the NCAA NET, No. 9 in KenPom and 12 in Bart Torvik’s T-ranking.

The selection committee can’t even justify punishing Kansas for a crushing loss to Texas in Saturday night’s Big 12 title game. Eventually, the next day, Houston suffered a one-sided loss in the title game of the conference tournament against Memphis.

What the committee got right: the rest of the seed lines #1 and 2

When UCLA lost to Arizona late Saturday night for the Pac-12 title, it made the selection committee’s choice for the final No. 1 seed much clearer. The committee made the obvious choice and placed Purdue (29-5) alongside Alabama, Houston and Kansas.

The Boilermakers opened the door for another #1 seed contender who swept them off four losses in February before bouncing back to win titles in both the regular season and Big Ten tournaments. They had a more impressive collection of standout wins than UCLA and three fewer losses than Texas at eight.

The committee also did the right thing by awarding UCLA the No. 2 prize seed in the West and dropping Arizona in favor of the Southern region. While the Wildcats (28–6) beat the Bruins two of the three they played and had more impressive non-league victories, UCLA (29–5) had the season’s best record. The Bruins won the Pac-12 by four full games and went undefeated outside of Quadrant 1 compared to the Wildcats’ three.

The final decision the committee had to make was which team would join UCLA, Texas and Arizona in the No. 2 seed. Marquette (28-6) award for impressive regular season and tournament title wins Big East was appropriate. Gonzaga and Baylor were the other two real candidates.

March 12, 2023;  Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Texas A&M Aggies head coach Buzz Williams talks to defenseman Dexter Dennis (0) and forward Henry Coleman III (15) during the second half break against Alabama Crimson Tide at Bridgestone Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinkel-USA TODAY Sports
After being snubbed in 2022, head coach Buzz Williams and Texas A&M returned to the NCAA Tournament. (Christopher Hanewinkel/USA TODAY Sports)

What was wrong with the committee? Texas A&M like seed number 7

Maybe the committee hasn’t forgotten Buzz Williams’ angry monologue after Texas A&M didn’t play in the NCAA tournament last March. Maybe the committee wanted to send a message to Aggie to improve their miserable non-conference schedule.

Whatever the reason, the committee royally screwed Texas A&M, giving it seventh place, when Aggie should have been fifth at worst.

After a staggering non-league schedule in which it lost to any team with a pulse and two teams without one, Texas A&M became a juggernaut. The Aggies posted a 15-3 SEC record, one game behind No. 1 seed Alabama. At home, they beat Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. They won at the Auburn and Missouri. They performed as Team No. 6 in nation January 1st, according to Bart Torvik’s T-Rating.

You cannot ignore the entire scope of work. Texas A&M must answer for their losses to Murray State, Wofford and Colorado in a non-league game. But this is a team with an elite point guard, a proven head coach and a formidable defense. No one wanted to draw Aggie as the #5 seed, let alone the seven. Giving them seed 7 is not only a disservice to them. It’s also unfair to Penn State, their first-round opponent, and Texas, who could have seen them in the Round of 16.

Where the Committee Went Wrong: Lack of Regional Balance

Here are the top four seeds in the West Region (and their place on the committee’s seed list):

1. Kansas (3)

2. UCLA (5)

3. Gonzaga (10)

4. Yukonn (13)

Here are the top four seeds in the East Region:

1. Purdue (4)

2. Marquette (8)

3. Kansas State (11)

4. Tennessee (14)

In the Western Region, there is a Kansas team that was ranked No. all indicators. The East Region has the Purdue team, which finished first on the lowest ranked committee, the Marquette team, which finished second on the lowest ranked committee, the Kansas State team, which peaked in January, and the Tennessee team, which is different. without his starting point guard.

How did the committee feel about these two regions and conclude that they are remotely comparable?

It helps a bit that Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Memphis and Florida Atlantic are dangerous lower-seeded teams in the East, but there are some scary sleepers in the West as well. Anyone want to take on a team from Arkansas with the eighth seed that has two NBA lottery picks in the backcourt? What about a season-tested TCU team that played better than its No. 6 seed when star guard Mike Miles Jr. was healthy?

What the committee got right: Pittsburgh in the top four

While Pittsburgh should have avoided the Top Four in many sham tournaments, the committee sending the Panthers to Dayton is not a miscarriage of justice, as some claim. Pittsburgh’s resume has always been more shaky than its 14-6 ACC record would suggest.

Pittsburgh has beaten the NCAA tournaments in Miami, Virginia, North Carolina State, and the Northwest this season, but 15 of their 22 wins have been in Quadrant 3 or 4. The Panthers were 3-5 up in Quadrant 2 games and suffered heavy defeats at home against Florida State and at Notre Dame.

That might have been enough to keep Pittsburgh out of the top four had he just lost to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals rather than being wiped out. The 27-point loss took the Panthers out of the top 60 in NET, out of the top 70 in KenPom, and out of the top 80 on Bart Torvik’s T-Rating.

The first-four game against Mississippi State gives Pittsburgh the chance to prove the metrics wrong, that they are an NCAA tournament caliber team. It’s not where the Panthers wanted to be, but it’s better than not hearing their names.

January 28, 2023;  Las Vegas, Nevada, USA;  Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Jarod Lucas (2) misses a pass against the UNLV Runnin' Rebels at the Thomas and Mack Center.  Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Jarod Lucas (2) and Nevada have made it to the NCAA Tournament, where they will face Arizona State on Wednesday. (Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports)

Where the Committee Went Wrong: Nevada in the Field

Just two weeks ago, Nevada was in a good position to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Eric Musselman. The Wolf Pack then lost to Wyoming… and at home to rival UNLV… and San Jose State in the quarterfinals to Mountain West.

Those three losses should have doomed Nevada (22-10) to the NIT. The seasonal work of the Wolf Pack was not strong enough to overcome such a poor result.

Aside from taking Kansas State to overtime, Nevada did nothing of note in the out-of-conference game. His best non-league win was… Akron? Sam Houston State?

The Wolf Pack split with the NCAA Tournament Mountain West teams from San Diego, Boise, and Utah during the regular season, but those victories were all at home. Their best road win out of Reno came in a waning New Mexico in early February.

Given Nevada’s mediocre resume and Mountain West’s terrible recent NCAA Tournament history, the Wolf Pack should not have been questioned as the last team in the field. The spot could easily go to Rutgers, Vanderbilt, or even a small team that needed an opportunity like North Texas with 26 wins.


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