March Madness: Winners, Losers on Selection Sunday

Jacob Hamburger, Business Editor

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Selection Sunday, the day when teams are chosen to fill the 68-team NCAA tournament bracket, held few surprises in the eyes of many. Many of the high seeds have been penciled in from Day 1. But a few teams outperformed, and others underperformed, as the season came to a close, resulting in a lower or higher seed. I’ve highlighted some of those who found a higher seed than their season would suggest, and those who fell off

WINNERS

Duke University (2nd seed in the East, 27-8): Originally ranked the number 1 in the AP Preseason rankings, Duke’s ceiling was high with a swath of young players and loads of talent. But the Blue Devils under-performed during the regular season, largely due to the tough competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), finishing 5th in conference standings. However, Duke won four straight in the ACC Tournament, capturing the attention of the Selection Committee and winning the toughest conference tournament in basketball. Duke gave the Selection Committee glimpses of what earned them that No. 1 Preseason Ranking, vaulting them to the 2nd seed in the East region despite losing eight games throughout the season to lackluster opponents.

Michigan University (7th seed in the Midwest, 23-11): Tragedy nearly struck the Wolverines on Wednesday March 8th, as their plane slid off the runway while taking off en route to the Big 10 Conference Tournament. Nobody was hurt, but many thought it would hamper the team considerably. The team had to fly to the tournament the morning of their first round match up versus Illinois, and they even had to wear their practice jerseys during their first game (having to have left their uniforms on the plane). Playing with this experience in mind, Michigan did not flounder in the limelight; rather, it flourished, winning four straight games and snatching the Big Ten title as its eight seed. Its victories in the tournament included wins over Purdue (1st seed in the Big Ten tournament, 4th in the Midwest) in the quarterfinal and Wisconsin (2nd seed in the Big Ten, 8th in the East). While a 7th seed may not be much, Michigan is riding a hot streak into the tournament…making it the perfect underdog.

LOSERS

UCLA (3rd seed in the South, 29-4): UCLA’s high octane offense has been hard to contain all year, as they have left opposing defenses gaping. This is reflected in their 4 losses, the 3rd lowest total in Division 1, and their ranking in the AP Top 25 throughout the year, as they spent much of their season in the top 5. They were even ranked third in the country as of March 6th. But, a poor showing the PAC-12 conference tournament (a semifinal loss to Arizona) has left the Bruins on the downswing towards Selection Sunday. They may have got the short end of the statistical straw and it could cost them after being placed in a stellar South region along with powerhouses Kentucky (2nd seed in the South, 28-5) and North Carolina (1st seed in the South, 27-7).

Syracuse University (left out of the NCAA tournament, 18-14): Contrary to what their record might suggest, Syracuse was a tough competitor in college basketball’s best conference, the ACC. Syracuse’s most notable victories include wins against Florida State (3rd seed in the West, 25-8), Virginia (5th seed in the East, 22-10), Duke (2nd seed in the East, 22-10), and Miami (8th seed in the Midwest, 21-11). Considering solely these wins, Syracuse looks like a top seed. But grueling losses to weak programs like Boston College (left out of the NCAA tournament, 9-23) and St. John’s University (left out of the NCAA tournament, 14-19), coupled with a first round exit in the ACC Tournament to Miami (8th seed in the Midwest, 21-11) has left the Orange dreaming of a ticket to the Big Dance.

This article will be Jacob’s first in The Communique’s ongoing coverage of March Madness. Stay tuned for more!

March Madness: Winners, Losers on Selection Sunday