“And the beat goes on, the beat goes on.
East coast bias it never seems to stop,
Stanford was denied a Football Playoff spot,
McCaffery’s Heisman dreams had no real shot,
An Alabama back stole Christian’s deserved slot.
And the beat goes on, the beat goes on.
Is the Pac-12 on the far side of the Moon?
Or back east does it get late far too soon?
7 out of 12 Pac teams in the Tourney field,
But the Champ being seeded 3rd is no big deal?
And the beat goes on, the beat goes on.”
Sonny & Cher – 1967
The guru of ESPN’s (Extolling SEC Prowess Night and day) College Basketball Bracketology is Philadelphia’s own Joe Lunardi. Philly is the home of great cheese steaks, but it is also a place where Eugene, Oregon, is at best a mere rumor, a modest blip on the radar, if that. As of March 6, 2016, Mr. Lunardi projects that the Pac-12 with 7 entrants will tie the ACC, B1G and Big 12 as the conference having the most teams in the NCAA 2016 Basketball Tournament field. Joe the Philly guy is no doubt down with cheese steaks, but based on his Tournament projections, he is most definitely not enamored with pressed duck or Ducks that press.
The most frequently referenced and accurate college basketball ranking, the RPI, currently has the Oregon Ducks ranked at No. 4. Yet Mighty Joe Philly projects Oregon as a 3-seed. For a Pac-12 fan, this means that once again there is nothing new under the east coast sun.
Joe’s projected No. 1 seeded teams and their respective RPI rankings are: Kansas (1), Villanova (3), Virginia (2) and North Carolina (8).
(I guess that the NCAA’s investigation of the rampant decades-long academic fraud at UNC may be concluded by 2050 with a nasty letter to follow? In fairness, USC’s investigation did take four years. SC was dinged 30 scholarships, two bowl games and the forfeiture of many a game. My guess is that UNC will be docked three scholarships against its Swimming and Diving program, with myriad apologies to Dean Smith for having had the nerve to investigate in the first place. That’s how the Right Coast rolls and the Left Coast gets rolled.)
On the second line, our man Joe has Xavier (6), Miami (7), Oklahoma (5) and Michigan St (13).
Indiana (let’s hear it for The Hooisers, Joey Chitwood and Gene Hackman) and not Michigan State, won the regular season B1G title. Miami is the 3rd-place team in the ACC. Oklahoma finished behind Big 12 regular-season champ Kansas. Virginia is a regular season runner-up to UNC. But No. 4 and regular season Pac-12 champion Oregon is a Joey Cheese Steak/ESPN 3-seed? The same seeding as he awards a good Utah team, but nevertheless a Ute team Oregon defeated in Salt Lake City. Utah is slated to play as the No. 3 seed in Denver. The DUCKS as a No. 3 seed in Spokane.
Again, no offense to our conference brethren, but why run the race and win it if the reward is the same?
I guess what the SEC is to college football idiot savants as the ACC is to college basketball idiot savants? It’s not that Tobacco Road does not have a great basketball tradition and an impressive Tournament pedigree, but three of the projected top eight seeds in 2016 seems to be based more on history and not on performance in a year when the ACC has not been as dominant as in the past.
Kansas, in my opinion and more importantly in Joe’s opinion, definitely deserves the Tournament’s top seed. Among other bench marks the Jayhawks have 14 wins vs RPI Top 50 teams. But guess who comes in at No. 2? The Ducks – with 10 such wins. North Carolina, as of March 6, 2016, has four such wins. I guess this makes the Tar Heels worthy of a No. 1 seed?
Joe? Joe? Where are you, Joe? As we oft hear from the boys back east when Pac-12 football teams are devalued, I guess that instead of metrics, Joe’s so-called eye test, smell test and Philly cheese steak test are most definitely at work.
In fairness, other rankings besides those of Joe’s and the worldwide-leading college sports hegemony headquartered in Bristol, Connecticut, are somewhat kinder to Oregon. In the March 6, 2016, release of the CBS/RPI Nitty Gritty Poll, adjusted from the RPI to place more emphasis on current results against better competition and the projected Top 8 Tournament seeds based on this index are as follows:
- North Carolina
In this poll, authored by the network that broadcasts the Tournament, Lunardi’s projected 2nd-seed Oklahoma comes in at 12, and his projected 2nd-seed Michigan State is ranked at 26.
But wait a minute. The primary results are in, but in this crazy sport the final elections await.
Starting next week we will journey down the Conference Tournament Rabbit Hole. A place where teams that failed to win a championship contested from November of 2015 to March of 2016, can cop a Hooka the Smoking Caterpillar trophy in less than a week’s worth of effort. Where an Under-the Mendoza-Line team can come out of nowhere to be “Dancing With the Stars” on CBS in March.
The Power 5 and likely another 10 or so regular season conference champions are in, immune from the Mad Queen’s Tournament curse. Even if Washington State comes out of nowhere to win the Pac-12 Tournament, the Ducks are in. But in this case the Beavers would likely be out. These conference tournaments, while not determinative regarding a big-time regular season champ being left out of the field, are all or nothing for the MEAC, SWAC, MAC, etc. champs that prevailed during the long regular season, will most certainly be left at home if a lower-ranked team wins its conference tournament.
The Ivy League champ is not so threatened, as the smart boys and girls send its real champions to the NCAA Tournament without their having to prove it over again. Perhaps the rest of the NCAA should follow the lead of the Ivies and not go grubbing after a few extra post-season bucks? (Of course, not many are as well endowed as the Ivies; this has nothing to do with small hands!) What, indeed, is the purpose of deciding what is the best team in a conference in one week instead of over the preceding four months of home and away play but for the desire to score more bank?
In this respect the Pac-12 Tournament is perfectly located in the desert gambling oasis of Las Vegas. A place in which Philly Joe Lunardi is likely familiar and a place where a loser – no matter how bad the odds and with but a single turn of a card or one roll of the dice – can end up a winner.
But it should matter not how this Ducks team, at 25-6 and the regular season champion of one of the four best college basketball conferences this season, finishes in the Vegas extravaganza. Oregon, without a scintilla of doubt, should be seriously considered by the Playoff Committee as having well earned a No. 1 seed. At the very least, whether or not the Ducks win the Pac-12 Tournament, this Oregon team more than deserves to be the No. 2-seeded team and playing in Spokane in the opening round of the West Regional. Anything less will indeed be a gross injustice.
But even should the Ducks complete the double and win the Pac-12 Tourney (as well as the regular season), will any of us Left Coasters be completely surprised if Oregon is seeded third? Probably not for those of us who have seen the Pac-12 teams routinely kicked to the curb before. Young Left Coast fans, you best prepare because the Pac-12 beat down is more than likely to continue.
But who, in the long run, cares? I’ll take living in Oregon over residing in Philly – those righteous cheese steaks and Rocky Balboa notwithstanding.
Top Photo from ESPN Video