John Adams: 'Bracketology' not an exact science

John Adams
Tennessee center Yemi Makanjuola (0), guard Quinton Chievous (31), guard Armani Moore (4) and forward Kenny Hall (20) look on as the Vols play Alabama late in the second half during the quarterfinal round of the 2013 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Friday, March 15, 2013. Alabama won 58-48 over Tennessee. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee center Yemi Makanjuola (0), guard Quinton Chievous (31), guard Armani Moore (4) and forward Kenny Hall (20) look on as the Vols play Alabama late in the second half during the quarterfinal round of the 2013 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Friday, March 15, 2013. Alabama won 58-48 over Tennessee. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Did Tennessee deserve to make the NCAA tournament?

See the results »

View previous polls »

There’s nothing cryptic about how to succeed in an NCAA basketball tournament. You survive and advance, we are told with numbing repetition.

How you get in the tournament is not so simple.

Expanding the field hasn’t changed that. And the whys regarding those final selections rarely produce clarity.

Tennessee was on the outside looking in when the 68-team tournament field was announced Sunday. But it was close enough to inclusion that CBS analyst Seth Davis asked the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee about its omission.

Mike Bobinski responded with compliments. The Vols were a prominent topic of conversation amidst the selection debate. Their strong finish — nine victories in their last 11 games — was commendable.

But ...

The Vols didn’t win much on the road. Two losses to Ole Miss were damaging, he added, making you wonder if the Rebels and Vols were vying for a final at-large bid.

It’s hard to mount a passionate defense on UT’s behalf. It was 20-12 overall while playing in a conference that warranted little respect nationally. Moreover, it lost to Alabama, another bubble team, in the SEC tournament quarterfinals when it seemingly could have ended the NCAA debate in its favor.

However, if you deem the SEC a lower-class conference, should you grant Florida a No. 3 seed?

Missouri and Ole Miss were the only other SEC teams selected. And they were seeded ninth and 12th, respectively. But both beat Florida. So did Tennessee and Kentucky.

If Florida is a No. 3 seed, shouldn’t those teams have received more credit for beating them? In fact, the Vols’ RPI barely inched upward with a late-season victory over the Gators, who won the regular-season conference championship.

It’s also puzzling that Ole Miss could earn no better than a 12th seed. Never mind how unimpressive its non-conference schedule might have been. It went 26-8 and beat Florida on a neutral court to win the SEC tournament championship.

Oregon suffered the same fate out West. The Ducks (26-8) beat UCLA to win the Pac-12 tournament championship, and their conference placed four other teams in the NCAA tournament. Nonetheless, they’re a No. 12 seed.

Tennessee will tell you there are far worse outcomes than a 12th seed.

UT coach Cuonzo Martin seemed convinced the Vols would make the tournament, even after the loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament. And he wasn’t without supportive evidence.

The Vols beat third-seeded Florida, ninth-seeded Missouri and ninth-seeded Wichita State. They lost a one-point game to second-seeded Georgetown. Other losses include fifth-seeded Oklahoma State and sixth-seeded Memphis.

Their worst losses were to Georgia, whose 15-17 record was deceptive. Its last five defeats include one in overtime and four by five points or fewer; two of their non-conference losses were to sixth-seeded UCLA by four points and to No. 1 seed Indiana by 13.

Such details are irrelevant now. There’s no appealing the process.

But you can learn from it. The most obvious lesson: If your tournament status is up for debate the last weekend of the season, you’re in harm’s way.

When the Vols qualified for the tournament from 2006 through 2011, only their seeding was debatable.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 20

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

I can only speak for myself:

NCAA Selection Committee, you suck.

Year in, year out, we watch you load the field with Big 10 and Big East schools, only to see them fall like ducks shot by the Duck Dynasty boys.

In short, Selection Committee, you should be taking NO ONE who does not have a winning record in their own conference, as a start.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

The other bit that is floating on the circuits is the Selection Committee snubbed Tennessee to "send a message" to conferences such as the SEC.

Pretty tough on the players involved to be used in that manner, no?

kdaff51 writes:

Until you take best 64 teams and I dont care where they come from we will always have this problem. There are some teams in there that will get worn out and embarassed just so they can say we went dancing!

vut5686#1405392 writes:

This age-old argument presents valid points from all quarters. Those teams left out usually have blemishes. Half of all teams will lose in the first round....some by large margins. An argument is voiced that the SEC gets snubbed, or...this or that team was dropped to "send a message." Many conference champions or at large teams have no business in a National Championship "playhoff." But...that is what we have and everyone knows that going in. So, to remove all argument, a team simply has to win. And, win consistently and decisively. The Vols did not do that. It is an imperfect world, and to be a 16..or whatever bracket position and get sent home in the first found seems no great honor. The Vols can make a stronger case for their argument if they win the NIT; otherwise, they have no case.

volvann writes:

All year long the talking heads spoke about how bad the SEC was this year. This will never happen but I wonder how the at large teams Boise St and La Salle would played in the SEC? I am sure their conference records would have made them the 1 and 2 seeds in the SEC tournament. Hahahahahahahahaha.....

LovinMyVols writes:

I think the NCAA screwed up here, but it is what it is.

Time to concentrate on the NIT and another chance at Bama in that championship game would be nice right after we beat the kittens to get there.

tan007 writes:

It will be interesting to see just how boring this tournament is when it gets going with so many mediocre teams included. It will take getting to the sweet 16 before we can enjoy some good basketball.

debaser11 writes:

More dribble from the dribbler... win close games and avoid bad losses (GA) and we're in. The NCAA is not and never has been about fair, otherwise teams like Liberty would not be in. If it were about fair, the committee would simple select what it thought was the top 64 teams... but that is NOT the case. Get over it!

chinarobert writes:

The PAC-12 and MWC always get shafted by the eastern bias on the committee. E.g., not only Oregon, but AZ was 12-0 non-conference with wins over Florida and Miami (by 17!). All of their losses were within the PAC which was tough top to bottom. AZ and New MX re too god to play in the second round, assuming they both win. One thing is certain, no game is a given this year.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to chinarobert:

The PAC-12 and MWC always get shafted by the eastern bias on the committee. E.g., not only Oregon, but AZ was 12-0 non-conference with wins over Florida and Miami (by 17!). All of their losses were within the PAC which was tough top to bottom. AZ and New MX re too god to play in the second round, assuming they both win. One thing is certain, no game is a given this year.

That's a damn good comment.

FWBVol writes:

Let's face it, this is all about money. The NCAA tournament is about making money and the conference tournaments are about making money. If you take away the automatic NCAA bids from conference tournament champions then there seems to be no need to play the conference tournaments and all that money, not only to the conference, but to the business in the host cities of the conferences is lost.

I don't see any way around the situation without eliminating the automatic bids, but that will never happen because that would nullify the reason for conference tournaments, which again goes back to the money.

jmaples54 writes:

only about 1/4 of the teams have a real chance to even make the final four (win 4-5 games). there is no real difference between the last 30 in and the first 30 out.

to me the best answer is to imitate the football bowls-- include every team that has a .500 record. this would at most be about 170 teams and would only add one week to the tournament.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tan007:

It will be interesting to see just how boring this tournament is when it gets going with so many mediocre teams included. It will take getting to the sweet 16 before we can enjoy some good basketball.

I somewhat disagree. As one of the talking heads said yesterday, the world is flat in college basketball this year. In most years, up to a quarter of all first-round games are "upsets", many of them by "mediocre" teams over relative blue-bloods. That is part of the charm of the tournament, and the main reason I watch as much of it as I can every year even if "my" team isn't in it. This is not so much because I expect a "Cinderella" will win it all, though #11-seed George Mason made the Final Four a few years ago, but that some "giant" will stub his toe. Who didn't love Lehigh over Duke last year, except for Duke fans, of course, and it's always fun to watch Arizona take its annual pratfall.

CoverOrange writes:

RPI is a farce. MTSU wins one game against the top 100 and has a RPI of 28. That lone win (against Ole Miss at 47) was at home. Tennessee was 3-5 against top 50 and 8-10 against top 100 with an RPI of 59?

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to jmaples54:

only about 1/4 of the teams have a real chance to even make the final four (win 4-5 games). there is no real difference between the last 30 in and the first 30 out.

to me the best answer is to imitate the football bowls-- include every team that has a .500 record. this would at most be about 170 teams and would only add one week to the tournament.

I keep hoping something like that will gain traction.

Seed the top 48, for instance, and just have a play-in for the final 15 slots.
It literally takes about 4-5 games:
*note, simplified to use as an example*
game 1: 256 teams
game 2: 128 teams
game 3: 64 teams
game 4: 32 teams

there are of course more than 304 teams or whatever, but you get the idea.

1vavolfan writes:

What is ridiculous is a team going 19-1 in its conference and not getting its automatic bid. For teams in small conferences the regular season is meaningless. Liberty is a perfect example. It doesn't matter if 75% of your reason was junk as long as you get hot a couple of weeks in march.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

I keep hoping something like that will gain traction.

Seed the top 48, for instance, and just have a play-in for the final 15 slots.
It literally takes about 4-5 games:
*note, simplified to use as an example*
game 1: 256 teams
game 2: 128 teams
game 3: 64 teams
game 4: 32 teams

there are of course more than 304 teams or whatever, but you get the idea.

I can see you have given this whole idea of reforming the NCAA tournament a good deal of thought, but this idea would render the regular season almost completely meaningless. Conference seasons really mattered before every conference adopted a tournament to name its #1, if not ONLY, entry into the NCAA, and still does in identifying other possible tourney entries. Why should the "name" teams knock themselves out except for the payoff of favorable seeds and/or locations for the BIG tournament? I know an expanded tournament would provide a huge financial payday for probably every team in the whole NCAA, but why would fans pay good money for essentially meaningless games? That NCAA windfall wouldn't cover all athletic expenses for all schools. I applaud your inventiveness and you have some interesting ideas, but how would you address the above concerns, of which these are only a few possible ones?

ThinkAboutIt42 writes:

in response to andforhisnexttune:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bernard King never played in an SEC Tournament, as there was not an SEC Tourney played from '52-'79-- check the record books for "evidence"

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

What is ridiculous is a team going 19-1 in its conference and not getting its automatic bid. For teams in small conferences the regular season is meaningless. Liberty is a perfect example. It doesn't matter if 75% of your reason was junk as long as you get hot a couple of weeks in march.

That doesn't bother me a bit. Conferences have the choice of the regular season winner or tourney winner getting the automatic bid, so it is what it is.

What I DON'T like is when a lower conference team has such a good year they would get an at large bid, then they lose in their tournament, turning a one bid league into a two bid league. You have to wonder if they threw the game in order to get a second conference team in.

Atomic_Dog writes:

We might as well just admit that the SEC collectively was pretty mediocre this year. If Mizzou didn't join, then there would be only two SEC teams. Usually we can count on five; but even UK is out of the picture!

The Nashville Tennesseean put it accurately regarding the last month for the SEC: March Badness!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features