We’re here! We made it! March Madness is in full swing, with the selections for the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament being announced Sunday night. Read further for my thoughts on N.C. State and UNC’s draws (and how I think the Pack and Heels will fair), plus a major snub, and some major flubs from Sunday night’s Selection Show.
N.C. State was selected as the No. 9 seed in the Midwest region and will travel to Wichita, Kan. to face No. 8 seed Seton Hall on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Kevin Keatts exceeded expectations in his first season in Raleigh, amassing 21 victories and finishing the regular season in a tie for third in league play, despite being picked to finish 12th in preseason voting. If the Pack can win Thursday, it would set up a likely showdown with No. 1 seed Kansas.
The Pack gets a pretty tough matchup to start its NCAA Tourney run. However, I believe the team will be able to defeat Seton Hall and give Kansas a run for its money if the Jayhawks advance. Reminder, State has wins against Arizona, Duke, Clemson and at UNC this season, so anything can happen. Kansas, in my opinion, is one of the more vulnerable No. 1 seeds in the tourney so, if the matchup happens, I like the Pack's chances.
For the 49th time, Carolina will be dancing. The defending National Champions received the No. 2 seed in the West region and I was flabbergasted that the team was not placed in the same region as Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State or Villanova. There always seems to be a matchup against one of those teams in each tournament - and there still could be, but it would not be until a while down the road. UNC will face Lipscomb to open things up on Friday at 2:45 p.m in Charlotte. It's always cool to play in your home state and Carolina will get that opportunity once again. If the Heels win, they will face either Texas A&M or Providence in the next round. UNC defeated Providence in the Second Round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
If you'd asked me at the beginning of the season - and especially after the loss to Wofford at home - I'd probably tell you that I didn't have high expectations for the 2017-18 Tar Heels. I always think the teams will do well but my expectations were not high given the personnel lost from last season's National Championship squad. Regardless of what happens in the tourney, I'm very proud of this team for what it has accomplished this season. And the job Roy Williams has done with this team, to put the players in a position to compete for back-to-back championships with many who are new to the program, is incredible. If you don't believe Roy is one of the best coaches to ever coach the game, you're ridiculously mistaken.
As far as the field, the only major surprise for me was the fact Oklahoma State did not make it to the tournament yet Oklahoma did. The Sooners lost 11 of its last 15 games and just haven’t performed well as of late. The Cowboys, in my view, deserved the bid over Oklahoma by virtue of the team splitting with regular season and tourney champion Kansas and sweeping Oklahoma this season, among other factors. The news of the Cowboys' being left out of the tournament is not sitting well with fans and the media alike and rightfully so. This is just a head scratcher, folks.
Last - and definitely least - is the Selection Show. I wrote in my recent Friday Five on how Turner Sports and CBS Sports officials decided to change the format of the show and it didn't disappoint me. I knew it was going to be a train wreck and proved to be every bit of that. The show aired on TBS and got off to a rousing start as there was a horrid audio lag/delay that made it almost unbearable to watch. Next, you'd think Greg Gumble and Ernie Johnson had never hosted a show on television before. They both stumbled quite often, especially during the reading of tournament teams. And speaking of that, naming all 68 participating teams beforehand was the silliest waste of time. Nobody will remember that portion of the show. One of the biggest flubs by far was the lack of using proper alphabetical order when announcing the teams, despite saying they would be announced in alphabetical order. Bottom line, it was brutal to watch. I ended up switching over to ESPN's coverage and I'm sure I wasn't alone given the backlash the "new" Selection Show received on social media. Hopefully CBS/TBS will learn from this.
In any case, Go Pack and Go Heels! Good luck to both of my teams!