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- Jeff GoodmanESPN Insider Close
- Joined ESPN as a college basketball Insider in June 2013
- Previously wrote for CBSSports.com and FOXSports.com
Being on the NCAA tournament selection committee doesn't come with a paycheck, but it does come with a price: Get it wrong and get crucified.
Recently, the committee has made it abundantly clear that it values a good schedule, especially the nonconference portion.
This year we take a look at the five most pressing questions, those that the committee has and will likely continue to agonize over as decision day is finally here.
1. How to place the No. 1 seeds?
It's just not as easy as it has been in past years. Sure, Villanova is a lock. And Kansas, despite losing early in Big 12 tournament play, also looks like a shoo-in. It would also be difficult to imagine a North Carolina team that won the regular-season title in the best league in the country not getting a No. 1. Then it comes down to Gonzaga or Pac-12 tournament champion Arizona. How does the committee value a one-loss Gonzaga team? In the early seed reveal last month, the Zags were the fourth No. 1, even though at the time they were undefeated. Or does it go to the Wildcats, who have more losses but also played in a more difficult conference and were without leading scorer Allonzo Trier for the season's first 19 games (which included a loss to Gonzaga)? Or could it go to Duke, which won four games in four days in the ACC tournament and has 13 wins against top-50 RPI teams?
2. What to do with Syracuse?
Coach Jim Boeheim's team barely got in last year and wound up making an improbable Final Four run. The Orange are 18-14. The selling points? Wins over tourney teams such as Duke, Virginia, Florida State and Miami. But there are those 14 losses, and also a nonconference slate that doesn't have much meat to it. Does the committee reward Syracuse for playing in the ACC, or penalize the Orange for some bad losses against the likes of UConn, St. John's, Georgetown and Boston College?
3. Where will Wichita State be seeded?
The Shockers have 30 wins, but the résumé doesn't look all that imposing. If Missouri Valley runner-up Illinois State doesn't get in, Gregg Marshall & Co. won't boast a single win over an at-large tourney team. Sure, they have pounded the competition for the past couple of months, but it has been Missouri Valley competition. Three of the Shockers' four losses came in November and December to Louisville, Michigan State and Oklahoma State, and the fourth was at Illinois State. Some metrics-based rankings such as KenPom have Wichita in the top 10, but others such as the RPI have them at 31. So where does the committee put this team? The Sockers have plenty of talent, and if put in the 8-9 matchup, would be a brutal opponent for a No. 1 seed in the second round.
4. Will Illinois State get in?
There just aren't many at-large mid-majors in the equation this year, so it will be interesting to see what the committee does with a Redbirds team that tied Wichita State for the Missouri Valley regular-season title, but got blasted by the Shockers in the tourney title contest. There are the 27 wins and an RPI in the mid-30s, but the early-season losses to Tulsa and Murray State won't help coach Dan Muller's case. Neither will just one top-50 win (against Wichita State). There's also a neutral-court setback to San Francisco on the schedule.
5. How to evaluate the Big East?
Villanova is easily a No. 1 seed, and Butler is a lock. But Marquette, Providence and Seton Hall have all beefed up their résumés by beating two teams — Xavier and Creighton — that lost their point guards to injuries (Edmond Sumner for the Musketeers and Maurice Watson Jr. for the Bluejays) early in conference play. Marquette has four wins against that duo, while Seton Hall and Providence each have one against both the Musketeers and Bluejays. And all of them came after those players went down. Then you have to judge (and seed) Xavier and Creighton, which have both struggled significantly since losing those key players.