The clocks have changed. Winter is about to step aside for spring. So it’s that time again — time for every supporter of every NCAA tournament team to grouse about their team having the toughest road to the Final Four.
Now, thanks to the NCAA tournament Selection Committee’s efforts to become more transparent, there is a way to measure such claims, and by that measurement only 16 schools from one of the four regions can say the numbers back them up.
That region is the South, whose top seed is Kansas University.
The committee seeded the field from 1 through 68 and released those seedings. The best means of determining which region is toughest is to add up the overall seeds of the top four seeds in each region.
In the South, Kansas is seeded second overall, Georgetown seventh, Florida 10th and Michigan 13th, for a total of 32.
Next toughest is the Midwest with a total overall seed number of 33, followed by the West (35) and East (36).
Of course, the objective measurement presupposes the committee’s seedings are on point when in fact they are the subjective consensus of 10 members.
Even in the world of opinion it’s difficult to see KU’s hurdles as anything but the tallest among the four No. 1 seeds.
Michigan a No. 4 seed? Michigan? The Wolverines are tied for 10th in the latest Associated Press poll, which would make them a No. 3 seed if that’s how they were assigned.
Michigan point guard Trey Burke is the leading candidate for national player of the year honors, and Big Ten coaches also voted Tim Hardaway Jr. to the five-man first team in the nation’s best conference.
In order to reach a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan, Kansas must first defeat Western Kentucky — not a problem — and then the winner of Villanova vs. North Carolina.
The Tar Heels head into the tournament on an 8-2 roll with the only losses coming to a pair of No. 2 seeds, Miami and Duke.
Complaints from KU backers about their team’s path to the Elite Eight have merit, but suspicions that the NCAA intentionally put Kansas coach Bill Self and his predecessor, Roy Williams, in each other’s path do not. A potential third meeting in six years between the coaches ranks as no better than the third-best story line Kansas could have drawn from the 8/9 seeding line, which was where Missouri, in the Midwest, and Wichita State, in the West, landed.
The Self-Williams storyline can’t compare with a Border War reunion one year after “the last game ever” between the bitter rivals.
And if the selection committee wanted to get into the business of matches made in TV heaven, it could have put Wichita State in Kansas City and interviewed the Kansas legislators who want to pass a law forcing the Jayhawks and Shockers to play each other. Better yet, they could have put Wichita State against Missouri, ensuring major drama. That’s not how it works.
And despite what you might have heard on your television, here’s how else it doesn’t work: When bracketing, the committee no longer follows what is known as an “S” curve, wherein the top seed on a line faces the worst seed on the next line and the worst seed on a line faces the best on the next line. It used to work that way.
Now, one-by-one, the committee places a team on the bracket, starting with No. 1 and working backward, and the school that is, so to speak, the batter up is sent to its most geographically friendly position.
When the mouse is put over a site, the mileage from that school pops onto the screen on the wall, but the decision isn’t purely based on miles. For example, Lawrence is 527 miles from Indianapolis and 526 miles from Arlington, Texas, a virtual tie. Indy is in Big Ten country, Arlington in Big 12 country, where Kansas has a much bigger footprint, so KU was placed in the Arlington region, known as “North Texas” so as not to offend the tall hats in Dallas.