JAY KAPLAN: Oh, this is the appetizer to the Main Course for me. This is where all the back-and-forth and Bracketology dissection finally comes to a head. The Rubber meets the Road today. The interesting thing for me this year, is that unlike most years, the Committee will not really have to deal with much in the way of Bid Thievery.
SR: This is one of those years where the Bubble is very small and there's still a tiny discussion we need to have on that but let's start with the cream of the crop: the #1 Seeds. Jay, Villanova will be a consensus #1 overall, and despite Kansas losing in the Big 12 tourney, they look like a #1 as well. The other 2 top seeds are in question, which is shocking. Some people are saying Duke should get a #1 (which I think is ridiculous) over Carolina, and there's always that question about Gonzaga. What say you, especially to the former since you're an expert in all things Tobacco Road?
JK: Well Duke has impressed over the last 4 days. First team to ever win 4 games to win the ACC tournament en route to the tournament title. I understand where the argument comes from that they should be a #1 seed. However, I don't see that UNC losing to Duke in the ACC tournament as the reason they lose their #1 seed. The question for me regarding Duke as a #1 is not whether that knocks UNC off the Top Line, but does it knock Gonzaga off the Top Line? That being said, I think you also have to take into account whether Arizona is more deserving as a #1 seed based on how things played out last night in the PAC-12 Tournament Championship game.
SR: I think overall, if the Zags get knocked down to a #2 in the WEST, they'll take it and say thank you. Gonzaga actually beat Arizona early in the season on a neutral court so, to take into account that you have a one loss team, who won the regular season and post-season conference titles and you're telling me they are worse than the team that only won in the postseason tourney, and the fact that Arizon has 3 more losses? Doesn't fly for me. As for Duke? The body of work in the regular season PLUS the fact that they looked inferior to Carolina until Berry went out on Friday, makes me think they're a #2. Love the ACC to death, but I'm not putting someone who was the FIFTH best team in their conference in the regular season on the Top Line. By the way, the true nightmare for Gonzaga would be if UNC was the #2 in THEIR region. It'd be the ultimate Screw You from the NCAA.
JK: I have the utmost respect for what Mark Few and the Zags have done, but I would not be surprised if Gonzaga gets knocked down to the #2 line and Arizona moves up to the #1 line. Top tier teams of the PAC-12 are up there with the top tier teams in any of the Power 5 conferences. I have a feeling that even if Gonzaga holds on to their spot on the #1 line, whomever the #2 in their region turns out to be will be a team that is likely deserving of a #1. I agree with your premise that Duke's overall resume is not #1 seed-worthy and I agree that Berry being forced to sit that very long stretch with foul trouble was what turned the tide in Duke's favor. Granted, Justin Jackson being MIA didn't help, but as I said to you during the game, Berry is the engine that drives the Carolina offense.
SR: Yeah, I kind of wouldn't be surprised if Gonzaga dropped to the #2 line (especially since they were the last overall #1 four weeks ago on the mock bracket the committee revealed), but I think if it comes to Arizona over Gonzaga, I do have a problem and would almost be a bad precedent set by the committee. Bubble talk is always the other major talk around this time of year; and it's a very small bubble. Joe Lunardi (and others) have a group of 6 that are in that scary territory: Wake Forest, Syracuse, Rhode Island, USC, Illinois State, and Kansas State. Which 2 of these teams shouldn't get to go dancing (and remember, Rhode Island is playing today so they might be off this line anyway).
JK: Well, I think that Rhode Island can get in even if they don't win today, but they'd prefer a "Win-And-They're-In" lock. I have to agree with ESPN's Jeff Borzello that Illinois State is a long shot. They do have a Top-30 RPI and 12 wins away from home, plus a 14-point win over Wichita State in their first meeting. On the flip side, they went 2-4 against the RPI Top 100, have 2 losses to teams outside the Top 100 and Wichita State blew them out in their next two meetings, including that 71-51 win in the MVC title game. Lunardi cannot get Syracuse right by his own admission. I cannot seem to either. Though if it comes down to them or USC, I'd lean slightly towards the Cuse due to the ACC being the best conference in the country. The tough part is that they are also being measured against a member of their own conference - Wake Forest - who would seem to have a better case for getting off the bubble and into The Dance if you compared both ACC teams against each other.
SR: Yeah, so watching Seth Greenberg this week, makes me think Syracuse won't get in over USC. Syracuse's non conference losses are remarkably unimpressive: UCONN, Georgetown, St. John's. Horrible for a Big East team rather than one from the ACC. Also, they have NO road victories in conference against anyone outside of the bottom 4 of the conference. Ridiculous. Coach Jim Boeheim wasn't there to start the season last year, but he's there now. No excuses, Syracuse is out. Illinois State also is out, only because of the fact that there's no reason other than that 27-6 record to put them in. As much as USC is unimpressive, the way that the top of the PAC-12 is allows me to put a 4th team in. Everything else seems to fall into place for me: Rhode Island is playing well late; and has a neutral court win over Cincy; and Kansas State has really played well against the top of the Big 12.
JK: USC does have a solid resume - I just took another look at it and it's better than I remembered - so if you're asking me who they knock out of those 6 teams you mentioned, I'd have to change my mind now and go with Syracuse losing out. USC's resume, like Wake's, is more worthy of getting off the Bubble than Syracuse's upon further review.
SR: OK, so, while we look at the Bubble and the Top, the middle gets tremendously overlooked. So, looking at the brackets, give me one team that you feel will be over-seeded when the brackets come out in a few hours and one that will be under-seeded.
JK: You always save the EASY question for last! I'm not as high on Baylor as some other folks are. I think that when the brackets come out they'll be off the #2 line, but even as a #3, I think that may be an over-seed. As for under-seeded? I'll be interested to see where Purdue winds up. Lunardi currently has them as a #4, but the question I have is whether the committee holds their loss to Michigan in the Big 10 tournament against them. Do they stay as a #4 or do they fall to the #5 line?
SR: Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the country, so if Purude falls, I think it'll be more because of the Big 10 as a whole, not that loss. Best game I saw this week. As for over-seeded, I can't help but not understand what the obsession over Florida State is. They have two wins against the RPI top 50 away from home: one against Miami (borderline top 50) and one against Virginia, which happened in December. As a Top 4 (they currently are a #4), FSU will get the luxury of spending the first weekend in Orlando and I don't think they deserve that. Under-seeded? How about some love for the American conference! I'll go with the double answer of Cincy/SMU. Neither are a Top 4 seed, which is shameful. SMU has one of the longest winning streaks in the country and have beaten everyone in front of them, including Cincy on the road. Meanwhile Cincy, along with their 2-loss American conference record, has wins over Xavier and Big 12 Champion Iowa State. Whoever wins deserves a #4 seed, loser deserves a #5 and can have a good case for getting a #4 as well. Remember, UCONN won the title as a #7 seed 3 years ago, and the reason they were seeded that low was their standing in the American conference.
JK: I am VERY familiar with your feeling that the AAC doesn't get the appropriate amount of respect from the committee. Cincinnati as a #5 and SMU as a #6 by Lunardi does seem to be at least one line lower than maybe they should be, but again, I think this is due to how the AAC is viewed. As for FSU, they are getting the benefit of the ACC and the fact that they are the best conference in the country. Going 12-6 in the ACC is impressive and they have an overall RPI of 12. Their Strength Of Schedule (SOS) and Opponent's SOS are both in the Top 25. I understand why they'll get a #4 seed and I'm not as adamant in my opposition to it as you are.
SR: See, it's just that outside of Tallahassee, FSU hasn't had that "show me" moment this season. I would say the same thing about Notre Dame, BUT the way they played on a neutral court against "Big Bad Duke" last night proved me otherwise. They'll be properly placed as a #4 or #5 seed.
JK: I understand where you're coming from on FSU. They don't look like a marquee team, but it's tough to be one in the ACC outside of Tobacco Road. I do agree with you about Notre Dame. Not a fan, but much respect and yes, a spot on the #4 or #5 line will be deserved. Before we sign off, I'm interested to get your take on a potential double-digit seed that could make some noise.
SR: I'm going to cheat again and give you two answers: Middle Tennessee State is going to be a #11 or #12, and after what they did as a #15 against Michigan State a year ago, I say watch out. Add to that a win vs. Vanderbilt this year, and I'd say they'll be a very popular upset in Round 1, and I think a lot of people might move them to the Sweet 16. The other one? Take a flier on Vermont. They are going to be the only team in this field that will not have lost this calendar year. This is the most talented team since the one that beat Syracuse back in the first half of the LAST decade.
JK: Vermont was the team I was looking at. They're likely to be a #12 seed and they've pulled the #12 vs. #5 upset in the past. MTSU is interesting, I'll be keeping an eye on them.
SR: All of these are things we'll be keeping an eye on when the bracket comes out in just a few hours. Please also keep a look out for our OTSL March Madness Special airing LIVE on MNN3 this Thursday, 3/16/17 at 9pm, and up online this weekend on our YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/onthesportslines. For Jay Kaplan, I am The Rabbi, Enjoy the upcoming Madness!