Indiana faces most difficult region in the NCAA Tournament

Indiana faces a Murderer's Row of a region in the NCAA Tournament, but the potential matchups are salivating. Full story.

It was clear very early in CBS' drawn out, irritating Selection Show on Sunday night that the committee didn't have a whole lot of respect for the Big Ten. 

Maryland ... No. 5 seed. Iowa ... No. 7 seed. But most surprising? Michigan State -- playing as well as any team in the country with a Big Ten tourney title and a non-conference win over Kansas on a neutral floor -- didn't get a No. 1 seed.

Say what!?

I knew they wouldn't be, but I thought the Spartans should have been the top overall seed. I knew the committee would give it to Big 12 champ Kansas, which is fine. But like I mentioned, Michigan State beat Kansas on a neutral floor. Just sayin'. 

The committee's lukewarm perception of the Big Ten led them to give Indiana -- the Big Ten's outright regular season champion -- a No. 5 seed. It was the first time since 2004 that a Big Ten outright champ received lower than a 3 seed.

And not only that -- the selection committee went ahead and threw Tom Crean and the Hoosiers in the most loaded region in years. 

  • North Carolina
  • Xavier
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • Indiana
  • Notre Dame
  • Wisconsin
  • Providence

No, that's not my projected Elite Eight. Those teams are all on the same Murderer's Row we call the South Region. In a word: Loaded.

Five of the top 15 teams in KenPom's final rankings are in that region, and one of the top 15 teams (Louisville) isn't eligible for the postseason. That means the other 9 teams are scattered across the other three regions.

It's brutal, and probably unfair to several of the teams involved. (Hey, North Carolina! Great season! Congrats on a No. 1 seed! Here's your reward. Enjoy!]

But this is going to be fun. Lots and lots of crazy fun for us media members and you fans. For the coaches and the players, not so much. 

If Indiana beats 12-seed Chattanooga on Thursday, it will likely face a salivating matchup with rival Kentucky. Both teams expected to be seeded higher than 4 and 5 seeds, but pitting them against each other in the round of 32 shows that the committee has a sense of humor.

They're essentially saying: 'Hey Mr. Crean and Mr. Calipari, you guys can't figure out a way to continue this rivalry on an annual basis? Well, allow us to help.'

If you are naive enough to think the committee didn't do this on purpose ... stop it. Whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not, it is clear that the selection committee seeds teams a certain way and places them in regions based on the matchups they could create. 

Crean and Calipari have joked ever since the annual Indiana-Kentucky series ended that the committee would pit them against each other. And they were right in 2012, the year of the WatShot at Assembly Hall. America wanted to see that game again -- Big Blue Nation certainly did -- and the committee gave it to them. Had Indiana been in another region, the Hoosiers likely make the Elite Eight or the Final Four.

Instead they faced the eventual national champion Wildcats in the Sweet 16, and lost the rematch. That selection was no accident, and neither is this one. 

The difference is this: In 2012, both teams were seeded properly. They were simply placed in the same region. This year, both teams were seeded a line too low and then placed in the same region. 

Kentucky should have been a 3 seed. Indiana should have been a 4 seed. You can disagree if you want, but the numbers back that up. But what fun is that? Three and 4 seeds can't see each other until the Elite Eight at the earliest. 

And such is the flawed selection process. It's a fundamentally unfair way to pick the NCAA Tournament field because the committee changes what they consider important every year, and when teams follow their advice on how to make the Big Dance, the committee fails to reward them.

Neither Crean nor Calipari was particularly pleased with the selection. Calipari wouldn't address the potential Indiana matchup when he appeared for an interview on ESPN.

"You have to play the games," he said.

Crean, speaking to the media at Assembly Hall 30 minutes after Calipari's television interview, echoed that sentiment.

"I was smart enough to bring our Big Ten Championship trophy down to the team room," Crean said. "I'm glad it was down there because we needed a quick visual reminder that we were the Big Ten champion. So I'll leave that for other people to talk about. 

The last couple of years, I know we were a 1 seed after we won it. I know Michigan was a 2 seed after they won it. I know Wisconsin was a 1 seed after they won it. I don't have much more to add other than that. I saw John Calipari's interview with ESPN. He said, 'You've got to go play the games.' He's exactly right, so here we go."

The selection committee had lots and lots of respect for the Pac 12. It had no respect for the Big Ten. But the great thing about the NCAA Tournament is, now both conferences -- and all the teams in the field -- can prove the committee right or wrong.

And man, it's going to be fun.


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