By Kellen Bulger
“The messages they send, year after year, are not consistent,” an always passionate Jay Bilas proclaimed when referring to this year’s NCAA Tournament selection committee.
With regularity, every year in early/mid-March an absolute firestorm of national media is ensued, all surrounding the announcement of the NCAA Tournament field. However, it is not just the national media that salivates over what has been labeled March Madness for years now.
This year, according to Fortune, there will be an estimated $10 billion worth of bets made on the NCAA Tournament games. To put all of that cash into a more understandable context; the United States Department of Commerce is estimated to spend a little over nine billion dollars in 2017.
This year’s announcement of the 68 team field was especially interesting for a couple reasons. For one, the often maligned and criticized committee, announced on February 11, taking a play out of the College Football Playoff, the top-16 overall seeds up to that point in the season on Feb. 11.
One might think to themselves that these teams and respective seeds would fluctuate greatly, and in the parity rich world of college basketball, teams would fall and rise with regularity— Not so much. 15 out of the 16 teams that were announced on Feb. 11 were also revealed as top 16 seeds Sunday afternoon, with the only exception coming in the form of Virginia, who ended up as the 17th overall seed.
Despite the field coming out as maybe less of a surprise than usual, there were still bubble teams that ended up not hearing their names called on Sunday, to the surprise of many.
No one more notable then the Syracuse Orange, who despite garnering six wins over the RPI top-50 this season, failed to hear their name called on Sunday afternoon. The Orange and their fans are likely to feel especially snubbed, when in just last year’s NCAA Tournament, they narrowly made the field as an eighth seed, only to rattle off a number of upsets, leading to an eventual Final Four appearance.
As many times as I myself have disagreed with the selection committee, ESPN made a good point; it seems extremely foolish to sit here and critique the selection committee year after year.
No matter how easy ESPN’s Joe Lunardi makes it look, seemingly rolling out another new bracket every week leading up to selection Sunday – it is not easy.
Let us take a second and imagine being a member of the selection committee. You are one of 10 individuals, each with your own set of opinions, brackets and biases, and in charge of not just coming to an agreement with your fellow committee members, but selecting 68 different teams in an array of differing orders, ensuring of no re-matches and locating appropriately throughout venues across the country.
And let us not forget that, just like referees in a big-time sporting event, it is an likely for there to be one singular piece written out there detailing how good of a job the selection committee did this year.
So, now that all of the teams are announced, tears shed and sighs relieved, we can look forward to sitting back and enjoying maybe one of the most purely entertaining sports-spectacles in the world. It all starts this Thursday inBuffalo, New York.