Less than three weeks ago, I was using this space to preach about the injustice of including Virginia Commonwealth in this 68-team tournament when there were other worthier teams with better resumes. How fortunate that the NCAA expanded the field by three teams this year because if only 65 teams had been chosen, we would have been denied one of the great Cinderella stories of all time.
This year, though, I am struggling to make my picks. In fact, I can’t even get past the first round. There are too many intriguing games and, while bad for my bracket, that’s great news for Gus Johnson and the heart-wrenching drama that makes March Madness the best few weeks of the year. Let’s take a look at two of the best first round matchups.
UAB, it seems, was included primarily because of their impressive (though inflated) computer numbers and a Conference USA regular season title. But any good college basketball fan knows that the RPI is not a reliable tool and can be manipulated by savvy scheduling. How can one justify rewarding UAB for its 12-4 Conference USA record and first place finish in conference play, while leaving out Alabama, who finished first in its division in the SEC with that same 12-4 mark?
At the beginning of each college basketball season, fans and critics get a taste of tournament basketball in November. For most teams, this opportunity provides an early checkpoint to see not only how far a team has progressed since the dog days of summer lifting, but more importantly, in what areas they need to improve before conference play commences.