BOZICH | Monday Muse: Is NCAA Tournament bracket manipulated? ACC, SEC, Big Ten awards
Does the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee fudge the bracket to sell more tickets? Who deserves the awards in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten? Time for the Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Hello, March. What took you so long? The Monday Muse has been waiting for you since November.
Waiting to start slotting teams. Waiting for a look at match ups. Waiting to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. Waiting to celebrate conference tournaments, too.
First, there are award ballots to complete. And cranky coaches to address. And packing to finish before John Lewis and I depart for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y.
My advice: Get your work done Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because the fun gets real at the end of the week.
1. Cranky Coaches
This is the time of year when college basketball coaches average 27 minutes of sleep per week. They won’t see the sun again until June. They cough and they sneeze and they start saying things that tell you how cranky they can be.
Ask Mick Cronin of Cincinnati.
Ask Tom Izzo of Michigan State.
I’ll start with Cronin, who said – twice – that seeding in the NCAA Tournament is dictated by business decisions. He essentially suggested it was a fact the Tournament Selection Committee and its television partners teamed to fix the seeding lists to create the best story lines.
Guess what? Guys have been pushing that story since Billy Packer was a puppy. It’s a nice theory. But there’s little proof.
Likes names. Teams. Specific examples.
The members of the committee change nearly every year. Representatives of TV are not in the room.
For more than a decade, the committee has invited media members to Indianapolis for seminars on how the selection process works. If you’ve participated in the seminars, you learn that as you rank the teams, many delightful match ups simply shake out as you separate the teams.
It’s inevitable. What's wrong with placing teams in spots where there fans can actually attend the games? Few things in the tournament are more puzzling than watching first- or second-round games played in half-full arenas. The NCAA Tournament should be more than a soundstage for a TV production.
I don’t believe there’s a grassy knoll or second shooter in the selection room. It’s a nice story that coaches and fans are eager to embrace. But in today’s world of social media, if games were really being played in that room, the secret would not remain a secret.
Then there is Izzo, one of my favorite coaches. He’s annoyed that the Big Ten is not stirring as much love as the Atlantic Coast or Big 12 conferences. He said the media, among others, have not done enough to push the league.
This has not been a great year for Big Ten, Tom. Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State are down. Wisconsin has slipped. The Pomeroy and Sagarin computer rankings slot the Big Ten behind the Big 12, ACC and Big East.
The league was not great in non-conference play. See the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for details. It has not produced the NCAA champion since 2000. Seven Big Ten teams won only 8 of 15 games in the 2016 tournament without advancing a team to the Elite Eight.
The highest any Big Ten player is ranked for the 2017 NBA Draft at DraftExpress.com is 12th – and that’s Miles Bridges, who plays for Izzo.
If Big Ten coaches, players and programs are convinced the league is being disrespected, there is one sure fix:
Prove it beginning next week.
2. ACC Awards
Conference tournaments are not the only college basketball activity this week. More coaches will get the word Kim Anderson got at Missouri on Sunday. Gone. Awards will be distributed like bags of pretzels in the media hospitality room.
The best thing about tracking college basketball in this area is the chance to keep score in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. Time to file my award ballots in all three leagues, starting with the ACC.
All-League: Justin Jackson, North Carolina; Luke Kennard, Duke; Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame; John Collins, Wake Forest; Donovan Mitchell, Louisville.
Player of the Year: Collins.
I know Jackson won the award from ACC coaches and media Sunday. I know that ESPN pushed Jackson and Kennard because ESPN pushes everything that happens at North Carolina and Duke. But Collins was the pick in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency metrics. The guy has averaged nearly a double-double for a team that is primed to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
Coach of the Year: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State. The argument for Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is sound. The argument for Hamilton is better. The Seminoles were picked to finish eighth and head to Brooklyn as the two-seed. Plus, they’re fun to watch.
Newcomer of the Year: Dennis Smith, North Carolina State. If this kid played for Duke or North Carolina, he’d be getting as much national love as Lonzo Ball.
3. SEC Awards
All-League: Malik Monk, Kentucky; Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina; Yante Maten, Georgia; De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky; Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt.
Player of the Year: Monk. Only a few guys in the country can take over a game the way Monk can take over a game – and the others don’t play in the SEC.
Coach of the Year: Mike White, Florida. He’s taken the pieces he was left by Billy Donovan and kept the Gators in the Top 25.
Newcomer of the Year: Monk. (See above).
4. Big Ten Awards
All-League: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; Ethan Happ, Wisconsin; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Peter Jok, Iowa; Derrick Walton, Michigan.
Player of the Year: Swanigan. Double-double after double-double after double-double.
Coach of the Year: Chris Collins, Northwestern and Richard Pitino, Minnesota (tie). I can’t separate these two. Collins has achieved the impossible in Evanston. Pitino has upgraded the Gophers from two league wins to 11. Make two plaques.
Newcomer of the Year: Miles Bridges, Michigan State. Has the heart of a warrior and a nose for being around the basketball.
5. Applause For Roy Williams
I enjoy it when the customers write, and I received e-mails of agreement and support for the column I wrote asking programs to drain arenas of fans who scream and chant relentlessly obnoxious things. Like the stuff recently said to Rick Pitino at North Carolina and John Calipari at Missouri.
Good to know Roy Williams of North Carolina agrees.
The most admirable thing Williams did all weekend was not beat Duke and win another ACC regular-season championship.
When I see Williams in Brooklyn this week, I plan to thank him for admonishing North Carolina fans for chanting “Overrated,” at Duke freshman Harry Giles during the UNC-Duke game Saturday.
Noting obscene or particularly obnoxious about that word.
But there is also nothing particularly uplifting about it, especially considering Giles is a North Carolina kid who has tried to overcome significant knee injuries during his freshman season. Giles did not rate himself the best high school player in America. The recruiting pooh-bahs did.
Cheer your lungs out for your guys. But leave the silly stuff at home.
6. The Sounds of Silence
Williams isn’t getting the only Thank You card from The Muse this week. I’m also gaga about what happened in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Have you heard what the New York Knicks wanted you to hear – the sounds of silence?
With the Golden State Warriors in town, the Knicks posted an announcement on the video board before the game that the first half would be played without any in-game entertainment.
No thump, thump, thumping music.
No Kiss Cam.
No T-shirt tossing.
No fear of losing the attention of the paying customers for a few seconds.
What were the reviews? Hard to tell. Draymond Green of the Warriors said that he hated it. (Link).
I’d love the opportunity to find out if I loved it or hated it.
How about you?
7. Is Shaka Smart Still the Latest Greatest?
The coaching carousel is leaving the station, and you’re about to hear about all the latest crop of guys guaranteed to take your program where it needs to be.
You know the names. Gregg Marshall of Wichita State. Archie Miller of Dayton. Will Wade of Virginia Commonwealth. Kevin Keatts of North Carolina-Wilmington. Danny Hurley of Rhode Island.
Shaka Smart was atop that list several years ago. Smart was the smart choice as Mr. Fix-It after he took VCU to the 2011 Final Four. He was selective. Determined to find the proper fit.
The call Smart finally made was Texas in 2015.
Have you checked the latest Big 12 standings?
Texas finished last. The Longhorns won four of 18 league games. They lost their last seven. Smart dismissed one of his top recruits. Jarrett Allen, the team’s best freshman, could be one-and-done.
It’s only Year Two. Plenty of basketball to be played in Austin.
But file it as another reminder that even a coaching prospect as universally acclaimed as Shaka Smart is not an automatic plug and play.
8. Don’t Play Gin Rummy With Rick Pitino
Kevin Willard sometimes gets overlooked among the former Rick Pitino assistant coaches who have made it in college basketball. He’s down the list from Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, Richard Pitino and others.
But Willard took Seton Hall to the NCAA Tournament last season, and Joe Lunardi has the Pirates slotted as a 10-seed for the 2017 tournament at ESPN.com.
Steve Serby, a veteran columnist at the New York Post, had an interesting interview with Willard, including several questions about his father, Ralph, as well as about Pitino. He told a great story about learning to play gin rummy on a flight with Pitino – at the low, low introductory price of $400.
You can read the entire interview at this link.
9. Poll Results I
I posted this question on Twitter Saturday night: If Louisville has to defeat Duke, North Carolina and Florida State on three consecutive days to win the ACC Tournament, would winning the NCAA Tournament be easier?
So if Louisville has to beat Duke, UNC and Fla State in 3 days to win ACC Tournament, would winning NCAA Tournament be easier?— rickbozich (@rickbozich) March 5, 2017
10. Poll Results II
Who is your pick for college basketball national coach of the year?
Rick Pitino, Louisville 43.5 percent
Richard Pitino, Minnesota 16.3 percent
Chris Collins, Northwestern 16.2 percent
Mark Few, Gonzaga 11.3 percent
Other 9.9 percent
Roy Williams, North Carolina 2.7 percent
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