Aside from perhaps the College Football Playoff, nothing in sports breeds more discussion and debate than Selection Sunday. This year’s rendition, however, was fairly straightforward – especially at the top.
“I really wasn’t too surprised by the 1 seeds,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Maybe a little (bit by) Duke over Virginia, if only because Virginia was the regular-season ACC champion and really (had) a remarkable body of work. (They) only took two losses when they actually had their full team – meaning Justin Anderson – in the lineup. I thought you could have – by the time we reached Selection Sunday – (taken) Kentucky and Villanova as definite ones. I thought you could argue Wisconsin/Virginia/Duke in any way. So I was a little surprised by Duke over Virginia, but not that surprised.”
Some of the biggest surprises, according to Parrish, are the Dayton Flyers having to play a first-round game Wednesday – on their home court, no less – and UCLA not only making the NCAA Tournament, but also earning an 11-seed in the process.
“I think Dayton being in Dayton obviously jumps out for a variety of reasons,” Parrish said. “(One), it’s just weird, and (two), it probably shouldn’t have gone that way. And then UCLA (not only) getting in, but (comfortably getting in) was a bit if a surprise – because when you look at the Bruins’ resume, honestly, there’s not a whole lot there. I’m not offended by their presence in the bracket, but the fact that you could have them comfortably in and Dayton literally on the verge of missing if Connecticut would have stolen a bid (Sunday) with the American Athletic Conference championship game, that’s weird. How you could have UCLA comfortably in and Dayton the last at-large team doesn’t make sense. There’s no metric or data available that backs that up.”
UCLA was one of several major-conference teams to dominate the bubble, along with Texas, Indiana, LSU and others. Murray State, meanwhile, was left out after losing by a point in the OVC Championship to snap a 25-game winning streak.
“Some things never change,” Parrish said. “This is the way it really is always. Now, some of it is the American Athletic Conference is down this year because two of its premier teams – Connecticut and Memphis – are down this year. The Mountain West is down this year because two of its premier programs – UNLV and New Mexico – are down this year. But historically speaking, you are almost better off being mediocre in a power conference than you are being good in a mid-major. I’ve never thought this is fair. The game is rigged against them from the start – and I mean in a variety of ways.
“I knew relative to the numbers, Murray State had no chance (of making the tournament),” Parrish continued. “The only way the committee was going to put them in is if they just disregarded the numbers – similarly to the way they disregarded the numbers of UCLA, I guess. But the issue with Murray State is they can’t get games that (they need) to play. What the committee will do is say, ‘Hey, we need you to schedule more aggressively. We need you to play people.’ And then Murray State says, ‘Cool, that’s what I’d love to do.’ And then they call around and nobody will play them.”
Murray State has actually fared quite well in regular-season tournaments in recent years but has had a hard time getting invited back – for that very reason.
“ESPN runs these events and has power-conference ties all over the place,” Parrish explained. “And the power conferences say, ‘You can’t bring a really good OVC team into this event because we can’t risk losing to an OVC team.’ So nobody will play them and then everybody (says). ‘Hey, they didn’t play anybody.’ Well, only because you won’t play them. I just thought the game has always been rigged against them.
“And honestly, this Selection Sunday – maybe a bit extreme, but no different than the others – it just serves as reminder: If you’re outside of the Power 5 structure, you have to do a little bit more than everybody else.”