Wiedmer: Vitale smarter than the selection committee

Wiedmer: Vitale smarter than the selection committee

March 17th, 2014 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Dick Vitale's volume too often overwhelms his veracity.

Not Sunday night, however. Not as ESPN's most famous basketball talking head offered his opinion of the Selection Committee's seeding work for the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.

"As for the selection (of the 68 teams), I have no problem," he said. "But I cannot believe that Louisville, based on the eye test, is a No. 4 seed. Louisville got a raw deal."

When it comes to the seeding, the defending national champs and runaway tournament winners of the American Athletic Conference, couldn't have gotten a much worse deal regarding the eye test, computer rankings or just plain Selection Committee stupidity because to watch the Cardinals the last three or four weeks was to possibly view them as the most impressive college team in America aside from No. 1 Florida.

Rick Pitino's squad hasn't just won 12 of its last 13 games, it's won those 12 starts by an average of 25 points. These guys are shredding people with such regularity that every basketball expert from Jay Bilas to Vitale believed the Cards probably deserved a No. 1 seed, but were almost certain to get nothing lower than a No. 2.

Go by the eye test and it seemed you'd have to be blind to even consider putting Louisville any line lower than a No. 3.

But then this is the same committee that put a BYU team with three losses outside the Top 100 in the field, relegated a Tennessee team that crushed the No. 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers by 35 points into a Wednesday night play-in game against Iowa in Dayton, Ohio, and handed a No. 8 seed to Kentucky, despite John Calipari's Kiddie Cats having a No. 19 RPI, No. 4 strength of schedule and a one-point loss to Florida in Sunday's SEC championship game.

By comparison, the Atlantic 10's UMass earned a No. 6 seed despite having the same number of wins as UK (24), a schedule ranked 48th, and losses to St. Bonaventure, Clemson and George Mason, none of whom made the field.

In fact, Selection Committee chairman Ron Wellman, whose day job is Wake Forest athletic director, even told CBS, "Louisville's playing as well as anyone."

At least as well as any other No. 4 seed, we suppose, which includes Michigan State, which cruised to the Big Ten tourney title over second-seeded Michigan, San Diego State and UCLA.

Of course, the greater injustice may be to the team seeded first in U of L's Midwest Regional - undefeated Wichita State. Consider that three of last year's Final Four teams - WSU, Michigan and Louisville - are all in that region. Beyond that, should Kentucky survive a Friday game against Kansas State, The Shockers would have to face the talented Cats in a round of 32 game. Get by that and Pitino's Cards - which beat Wichita by four in last year's national semifinals - would likely await in the Sweet 16.

Can anyone say "brutal?"

Then again, the very fact the A-10 got the same six teams as the Atlantic Coast Conference was justifiably brutal to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who feared after his Blue Devils defeated N.C. State on Saturday in the ACC tourney semis that America's Cockiest Conference might get but five bids - Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, North Carolina and Pitt.

"I'll get in trouble probably for saying it," Coach K said. "Like the Atlantic 10, they're a really good conference. I hear people saying there are six teams in there. Come on. I mean, they're good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through."

And that's the problem with a lot of this. It's apples and oranges to start with, and then the committee often appears to be made up of a bunch of nuts.

Beyond that, look at the possible pairings. Let UK get by K-State and Wichita and the Cats would meet Louisville in the Sweet 16. Ohio State opens against Dayton. Louisville begins the tournament against Manhattan, which is coached by former Pitino assistant and former UK player Steve Masiello.

As Vitale said, "Those matchups are good for basketball, but I don't want to hear anything about a computer picking those."

So who should you pick?

Despite the seed snub, Louisville should run through the Midwest. If injured Kansas center Joel Embiid returns for the second weekend, expect the Jayhawks to outlast Florida in the South. If he's not at full speed, expect the Gators to reach the Final Four in Dallas. Look for West No. 1 Arizona to possibly join Wichita as a first-weekend casualty, taken down by the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State winner. Then go with Baylor to win the West. In the East, expect Michigan State to prevail.

Just don't base your billion-dollar QuickenLoans perfect bracket entry on me or the seeds. Instead, flip a coin, preferably a penny, since Honest Abe will surely show you the way to instant riches.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com