Rising to the top

Well, the brackets are now out so it’s time to get out a pencil (I repeat…pencil) and start the madness. Along the way you will notice the seeding (or rank) for each team. Common sense is to pick the lower “seed” (better ranked team). That leaves most #8 vs #9 games essentially a toss-up. But it’s not that simple. In many an eye, every year the committee in charge of this vexing task seems to over-rank or under-rank a few teams. It leaves people saying “Did you see where they ranked (fill in team)? or “How unfair for (fill in team)”. We here at Bracket Bingo try to keep a safe distance from such chatter.

As you are completing your bracket and determining the fate (in you mind) of these teams, remember what and who they are. These 68 teams are comprised of young athletic men full of heart, determination and resiliency. These are attributes not accounted for by the committee. (I can’t imagine they try to quantify such things. How could you?) These are abstractions not found in a team’s RPI or SOS. The point…don’t ignore or forget about the parity. Don’t forget that no team entering the tournament is undefeated. Every team has fallen at least once. People love to say that “any team can beat any other team on any given night”. And shouldn’t that statement hold true even more so for this. These teams are the best of the best. They are here because they are Champions (Conference) or the committee believes they have the ability to be Champions (National). Here are some facts, not alternative facts but straight facts:

* Last year Syracuse was one of the last teams picked by the committee for an at-large bid. They finished their regular season winning only 1 of their last 5 games. Then they lost their first game in the ACC Tournament. Still, the committee picked them. Syracuse made it the Final Four as #10 seed.

* The 2014 Championship Game pitted #7 Connecticut and #8 Kentucky against each other. Connecticut was ranked #21 in the nation and Kentucky was ranked #25 entering the tournament. Both teams had made it to their respective Conference Final but lost.

* The 2012-2013 Wichita Shockers team made it to the Final Four as a #9 seed. They were ranked as high as #15 mid-season but entered the tournament unranked nationally. They made it to their Conf. Final but lost.

* The 2011 Final Four included Butler (#8) and VCU (#11). VCU ended their regular season 1-4 but did however make it to their Conf. Final only to lose. VCU never received a top 25 national ranking during the entire season. Butler started their season ranked #18 but after a few early loses dropped out of top 25 and never returned. They entered the tournament on a 9 game winning streak and continued it 5 more games until losing to Connecticut for National Champ.

* In the last 10 years the Champ. Game has been between a #1 vs #1 or #1 vs #2 6 times.

* 8 of the last 10 National Champions made it to their Conference Final (5 won and 3 lost)

To sum up: any team can play like a Champion on any given night and win. However, teams that are able to sustain that drive in successive games and have a track record to show, seem to follow a trend of being among the last to fall. And finally “Did you see where they ranked…?”