Michael Beller offers his thoughts on the 2016 NCAA tournament bracket
This season’s bracket has been revealed, meaning the best sporting event of the year has unofficially begun. We’ll spend the next four days debating the teams, breaking down potential upsets and narrowing a field of 68 all the way down to one. Until then, take a look at our five biggest takeaways from the bracket.
Michigan State not a No. 1?
The members of the selection committee were seemingly the only people in America who felt Michigan State wasn’t worthy of being on the top line. The Spartans played like one of the best teams in the country for the last two months and went through Maryland and Purdue on their way to the Big Ten tournament championship. That should have been enough to make them a No. 1 seed, but the committee opted for Virginia and Oregon. The SI.com Bracket Watch agreed on Oregon, but had Virginia as a No. 2. The Spartans, however, did get placed in the Midwest, so they get to play close to home in Chicago, a city that also has a large MSU alumni base, if they make to the second weekend. It also sets up another potential matchup with Virginia, a team the Spartans have knocked out two years in a row.
The committee loves the Pac-12
Don’t say the Selection Committee doesn’t stay up late to watch basketball. Oregon got the No. 1 seed in the West, Utah a No. 3 and Cal a No. 4. Arizona, Oregon State, Colorado and USC all ended up at the high end of their likely seeding range. The Pac-12 had one of its best seasons in recent years, even with Arizona being down, and the committee rewarded it. Now, all its teams could have a tough draw. Utah would have to go through Seton Hall and Michigan State just to get to the Elite Eight. California is looking at a Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas. Still, it’s a great Selection Sunday for the Pac-12.
Oklahoma and Texas on a crash course in Sweet 16
The Sooners and Longhorns met twice in the regular season, giving us two of the best games in the best conference. Each team won at home, though the Sooners needed a Buddy Hield buzzer-beating three to knock off the Longhorns in Norman. Texas, meanwhile, used a 22–0 run to pull away from Oklahoma in Austin. The Sooners shouldn’t have any trouble getting to the Sweet 16, while Texas has a potentially tough draw with Northern Iowa and Texas A&M. Remember, though, that Texas owns wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia and North Carolina this season. A rubber match between these teams in the Sweet 16 would be a fitting end to the season for one of them.
The East is loaded
North Carolina swept the ACC titles this year. Xavier won 27 games en route to a second-place finish in the Big East. West Virginia went to the Big 12 tournament championship and racked up wins over Kansas, Iowa State (twice), Baylor (twice) and Oklahoma. Kentucky just won the SEC tournament and looms as one of the most dangerous teams in the field. Indiana won the Big Ten regular-season championship by two games. Notre Dame and Wisconsin are also in the bottom half of this region. In other words, whoever wins the East is going to have to earn it.
Kansas has the easiest path of any No. 1 seed
Kansas earned the No. 1 overall seed after winning 30 games, its 12th straight Big 12 regular-season championship and yet another conference tournament title. The committee didn’t just reward it with that top seed. It also gave it the easiest draw of any No. 1 seed. Chalk would have the Jayhawks playing Colorado, Cal and Villanova to get to the Final Four. Compare that with North Carolina’s path described above, Virginia having to go through Texas Tech, Purdue/Iowa State and Michigan State or Oregon looking at Saint Joe’s, Duke/Baylor and Oklahoma. Bill Self and the Jayhawks should be smiling.