Keith: For the second year in a row, Gonzaga nabs the honor of being the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. What do you think about Gonzaga’s draw and how do you want the path to the Final Four to unfold?
Peter: I would’ve enjoyed seeds No. 2, 3, 6 not being teams Gonzaga has already played this season, but what can you do about it. Since they are all stuck on the other side of the bracket, it isn’t really too big of a concern. Overall, I think the Zags have a pretty decent look at the Final Four. Everyone is big on Boise State’s defense, and it’ll be a shame to potentially send Leon Rice home early, but the Zags shouldn’t have any issues until the Elite Eight. They got the No. 2 seed (Duke) that everyone thought is seeded too high. We’ve now learned that Alabama is either amazing or awful, not a good equation for the NCAA Tournament, and the Zags already defeated Texas Tech this season. Considering how these draws and placements can sometimes go, this one isn’t too bad.
Tuck: I’m trying not to be hyper-reactionary but I kind of hated it from the 16-seed reveal on? It’s the tournament and you’re going to have to beat good teams every step of the way. But even the opening round seemed off. Georgia State is not a 16-seed. They bounced back from injuries and a Covid pause to make the tournament, but when they’ve been fully healthy they’re a legit 13-seed. I would argue Boise State and Memphis are the two most impressive teams at their seed line in terms of how they’ve been playing. How does the winner of the MWC regular season and tournament get seeded worse than Colorado State and San Diego State? Memphis is a top 10 team since the end of January according to Torvik. If the Zags get to New Orleans, skeptics won’t be able to say they aren’t battle tested.
PW: Yeah, Georgia State as the No. 16 seed that faces the top overall seed was straight up disrespectful.
KY: I was a little bummed that Gonzaga is getting repeats in the #2, #3, and #6 seeds in the region too. Would it be fun to avenge the Vegas loss to Duke from earlier in the season and hand Coach K the last loss of his career? Undoubtedly yes, though I’m pessimistic that matchup will actually materialize and I would have been interested to see Wisconsin or someone else different that Gonzaga hasn’t played in some time just for the sake of variety. But really, variety is immaterial at this point in time. It’s all about getting the Natty. We’re still getting the Leon Rice angle or a really intriguing matchup between Chet Holmgren and Jalen Duren in the second round (I lean towards seeing Memphis), and Arkansas is a legitimately good team as the 4-seed in the region that Gonzaga could potentially face in the Sweet 16. I think Tech will come out of the other side of the bracket for a rematch of the 2019 Elite 8, and hopefully we’ll get the same outcome that we saw back in December and not the one three years ago.
PW: Yeah, as Tuck said, either way, it is all about playing good teams and being the better one at the end of 40 minutes. The Zags did the “easy” part by getting the No. 1 seed, now it is time to try and back it up and win that championship.
KY: It doesn’t matter who Gonzaga actually plays, they will never be battle tested enough for the haters and losers, of which there are many.
TC: Facts. And the committee placing Saint Mary’s and Sna Francisco where they did seems to have capped the ability for the so-called “high school conference” to really prove itself.
KY: We’ve already touched on some criticisms, so might as well just explore this more. What did the tournament selection committee get right and wrong? Any glaring omissions or errors in your mind?
PW: People are always going to have their gripes, but in general, I think for the most part they did alright this season. Sure, Texas A&M fans are probably bummed they aren’t included, but maybe win more games in the regular season? Even though KenPom loved Oklahoma, I’m not sure how you could have a team that went 7-11 in conference play deserving a bid. Overall, each year there will be a few snubs and a few quirky placements, but fitting together this 68 piece jigsaw puzzle isn’t the easiest task in the world.
TC: I alluded to this earlier but I truly do not understand the point of conference tournaments if the committee isn’t going to impart any wisdom from them. I’m sure Leon Rice and Boise State would rather have San Diego State’s placement or even consideration for what Colorado State earned. Tennessee as a three seed feels incredibly wild considering what they demonstrated the week heading into this Sunday. I can’t feel sorry for teams that didn’t make the tournament because as Peter said, you did this to yourself.I will say it is a crime that Murray State and San Francisco aren’t given the opportunities to really showcase that mid-major teams can play at the highest levels.
PW: Yeah that is really always going to be my biggest issue each year. Stop pitting mid-major squads against each other in the first round. Move one up or down a line and call it good. Those smaller schools taking down the most mediocre of Power 5 conference schools in the first round is basically what this whole tournament is built off.
KY: Agree with that gripe as well. I hate when good mid-major teams have to play each other in the first round. I know there are seeding and placement rules in place and all, but it still feels pretty stinky, as if the committee is protecting P5 teams from getting on someone’s One Shining Moment reel, though they always seem to find a way. Tennessee fans are right to be miffed, and Villanova fans should probably feel that way too since they got stuck with the Vols in their side of the South region pod. That’s tough.
The Gonzaga women nabbed their own single digit seed at No. 9, though their path is very different than their male counterparts with a matchup against Nebraska. If they get by the Cornhuskers, they get the unlucky draw of #1 seed Louisville. What are the biggest keys for the women as they prepare for their game, and hopefully games?
PW: Do what they did against Stanford (the first time)! These Zags have a great defense and ability to rebound. Just by that alone they are able to keep it close with just about anyone. If the Truong twins and Cierra Walker can provide enough firepower from outside, they can legitimately knock off anyone. The issue is that the Zags sometimes go brutally cold on offense and, in general, struggle with turnovers. No different than the men’s side of the Tournament. To knock off the top seeds you basically have to play your heart out and then some for 40 minutes.
TC: That win against BYU showed their potential. Both Melody Kempton and Yvonne Ejim were incredible. The Truong twins limited turnovers while hitting from deep. But most importantly, that defense held up the entirety of those four quarters. They will need to keep hitting from outside to not just win that first game but stay in a contest with one of the best teams in the country in Louisville.
PW: There was a real chance they would’ve missed the tourney without the autobid, so keep the streak running and try to grind out some wins!
KY: I think the three point shooting is so key. The offense needs more consistent production from the outside which would allow Kempton and Ejim to do their thing with a little less of the defense’s attention, while also taking pressure off their own defense and rebounding. If the team that won the WCC Championship shows up, there should be a first round win in the cards for Lisa Fortier and Louisville will have a fight on its hands.