UConn did the NCAA Tournament selection committee a lot of favors by losing to Syracuse yesterday. Defeating the Orange would have been a signature win, the Huskies would be on a roll and you would start to hear a lot about how Jim Calhoun's return and new-found stability had unleashed the Huskies potential. People would not be talking about the Huskies as a bubble team, or as a team destined for the 8/9 game, but rather as a dangerous squad that needed to be seeded that way, no matter what their resume said.
But of course UConn did not beat Syracuse so we're not having that debate. In a normal year, one where bubble teams acted like they wanted to make the NCAA tournament and won games, UConn's resume would probably wind up as an 11 or 12 seed. That's what happened in 1991 when a 18-10 UConn team received an 11 seed. But this isn't a normal year, which should bump up UConn a line or two to the 9 or 10 seed line. That makes UConn tricky for the committee, because your average 8 or 9 seed doesn't have two lottery picks on its roster, and whether they acknowledge it or not, you have to think there will be serious questions about the practical implications of pairing UConn with one of the top seeds in the tournament.Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner summed this up perfectly on twitter yesterday:
UConn is the prohibitive favorite to win "9-seed that the 1-seed won't be happy is in their subregional but the 8-seed is" award this year.
I think that the impulse to keep us away from a 1 seed probably will bump UConn down to the 10 line, which is something I'm very open to. In fact, if the committee wants to keep dropping UConn down to the 11 or 12 line (they won't) I would be thrilled. It is entirely possible UConn will lose its first-round game, but when it comes to the second round I want the Huskies as far away from the top teams in the country as possible (especially Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Ohio St.). Just take a look back at the 1991 season I mentioned. UConn, as an 11, upset an LSU team featuring Shaq. They got a lucky break too because the 14-seed, Xavier, upset the 3 before losing to UConn and giving the Huskies a very respectable trip to the Sweet 16. The next year a better Huskies team won its opening round matchup in the 8/9 game, but their reward was a date with 1 seed Ohio St. UConn lost by 23.
So yeah, seeding matters. It's not the only important factor though, in fact I'd argue it's the 3rd-most important thing you find out on Selection Sunday. The two more important things? Location and matchup, which I'll get to in another post.