Q: USC as a 4 seed? Arizona as a 5?
A: My fellow bracket predictors disagree with me on this one, and that's fine. To this point, the Trojans have outplayed the teams below them. They won in Eugene against the Ducks and nearly claimed a victory versus UCLA. Their non-conference schedule was more difficult than most. As for the Wildcats, getting a 5 seed is a bigger demotion than it seems on paper. There is a precipitous decline in quality after the top 8 teams, of which the Wildcats were once a member. Currently, they have lost 4 of 5 and were blown out in their own building on Saturday. Before that, they were dominating RPI-top 100 teams with a steady offense, good rebounding, and some semblance of a defense.
Q: How does Alabama make the field despite being trounced on the road and winning via controversy?
A: I admit, this bid is a flyer. Alabama does currently not have the resume to be in the tournament. However, I think they will be able to turn it around rather soon. Ultimately, if they keep this up, they will be overtaken by mid-majors who gain crucial wins in mid-February and beyond.
Q: Did Chris Lofton's injury play a major role in your near exclusion of Tennessee?
A: Yes. They looked lost in Lexington on Sunday. Their role players became "roll players" because they rolled over in defeat. Expect them to rise when Lofton returns, because he is kind of a big deal.
Q: What ultimately pushed Syracuse over fellow Big East middlers West Virginia and Louisville?
A: Their win at Marquette. Away wins against quality opponents are priceless.
ESPN BracketBusters Banter
Q: What was your initial response after hearing the BracketBusters pairing?
A: Chris Clement is the only one who knows of my initial response, because he called me last night to inform me of the pairings. I can't air it in public circles, but I'll paraphrase to say that the Missouri Valley Conference is being handed more primo matchups than deserved.
Q: What's your more educated response?
A: Here's my top 7 home and road teams participating in this year's edition of the BracketBusters prior to the announcement:
Home: Butler, Nevada, Creighton, VCU, Missouri St., New Mexico St., Hofstra
Road: Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Winthrop, Appalachian St., Bradley, Drexel, Old Dominion
As it stands, the major outliers (based on my biased rankings) are Appalachian State playing at Wichita State and Holy Cross at Hofstra. While I feel miffed about the matchups for the top two CAA teams, my guess is that when the fine folks at ESPN did the pairings, they had VCU paired with Appalachian St.; however, they already played once this in Richmond. Before last night's pairings and their eventual shock loss to Delaware, Hofstra was on a 15-2 terror after starting the season 0-3.