Canzano: Pac-12 standing a little taller amid broken brackets
How did the selection committee do?
The Pac-12 Conference has to feel a little better about itself today. The conference put two teams — Arizona and UCLA — in the men’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. I’m celebrating this today because the conference only had three total teams in the entire bracket.
That’s a 67 percent bracket survival rate, folks.
I checked in with Pac-12 deputy commissioner Jamie Zaninovich this morning to see how he was feeling about things. He’s the supervisor in charge of basketball for the conference.
Zaninovich said, “Our universities continue to invest in basketball and it is great to see that paying off in annual national competitiveness in March Madness.”
A lot was made of the Big Ten landing nine teams in the men’s tournament field. It was the second straight year the selection committee over-bought the Big Ten. Last year only one of the Big Ten’s nine teams reached the Sweet 16. This year only two of the nine (Michigan and Purdue) survived the opening weekend — a 22 percent survival rate.
Here’s the Sweet 16 by conference:
Big 12: 3
Big Ten: 2
Big East: 2
The SEC, WCC, American Athletic Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference each have one team left.
SELECTIVE JUDGEMENT: I talked with two members who served on the men’s NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in the last week. UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond told me it was a time-consuming endeavor.
Said Jarmond: “It’s not something that starts with six days in Indianapolis. You’re watching games all year. Each committee person has conferences that they monitor and you do weekly calls with the conference to learn more about the teams. You’re not just watching games, you’re getting feedback from the conferences about the teams in the conference.
That little line about “feedback” is ringing in my ears today. Because right now it really looks like someone from the Big Ten did an especially nice job lobbying the selection committee and selling the strength of the conference. Or it just had an awful year — again.
Here are the remaining seeds by each region:
West: 1, 2, 3, 4.
South: 1, 2, 5, 11.
Midwest: 1, 4, 10, 11.
East: 3, 4, 8, 15.
The committee has to feel validated after how things played out in the West. The region performed as the committee expected it would — (1) Gonzaga, (2) Duke, (3) Texas Tech and (4) Arkansas all advanced.
The South wasn’t awful aside from maybe No. 11-seed Michigan knocking out No. 3 Tennessee in the second round. But the committee looks like it did some shaky work in the Midwest, where only two of the top-four seeds are still in play. The East is messy, too. The top-two seeds (No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Kentucky) were both upset and No. 15 Saint Peter’s has been a bracket wrecking ball.
The tournament results depend on matchups, injuries, and the bounce of the ball. Seeding is not easy work. The committee has to value the regular season and there’s a ton of subjectivity involved in the process. My analytics friends tell me that it’s unfair to judge the committee’s performance based on the results of the tournament.
Jerry Palm, the CBS Sports bracketology expert, dropped me a note to say: “You can’t judge the committee based on how teams (and especially conferences) perform in the tournament because they aren’t selected based on tournament performance.”
They’re selected based on regular-season performance.
Still, we can wonder can’t we?
CINDERELLA LIVES IN JERSEY: You’re going to read a lot about Saint Peter’s University in the coming days. It’s playing the role of Cinderella in the men’s NCAA Tournament. The Peacocks are a private university in New Jersey with an enrollment of 3,554. They play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Saint Peter’s beat No. 7-seed Murray State to advance to the Sweet 16. Before that it upset No. 2 Kentucky in a first-round shocker.
Saint Peter’s endowment: $37 million.
Kentucky coach John Calipari’s contract: $86 million.
Calipari’s contract also gives him a country club membership and use of two “late-model, quality automobiles.” Just throwing that out there in case you wonder what he’ll be doing with his free time in the next week or two.
FUN CONTINUES: The Pac-12 had a terrific women’s NCAA Tournament a year ago, landing two teams in the national title game. Stanford, a No. 1-seed, has already advanced to the Sweet 16 in this year’s tournament. No. 4-seed Arizona can do the same with a win today over No. 5-seed North Carolina.
Keep an eye on the Elite Eight, though. At least two Pac-12 women’s teams have made the Elite Eight every year since 2016.
There was an interesting moment that bridged the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments over the weekend. A USA Today reporter based in Portland asked Memphis coach Penny Hardaway a question he wasn’t totally prepared for in his news conference on Friday at Moda Center.
Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer has pledged $10 in humanitarian support to Ukraine for every three-point basket made in the NCAA women’s tournament. The reporter asked Hardaway if he’d match $10 per three-point basket for the men’s tournament.
Hardaway: “I didn't know about it. And it's our team? However many threes we make?”
Reporter: “No. It's however many threes are made in the entire NCAA Tournament to give a lot of money.”
Hardaway: “I need to call Tara and ask can I just give a donation. I don't know if I can commit to that because — obviously I want to be a part of it, so I'm sure I can get in touch with coach but I don't know about — I will give a donation.”
Hardaway wasn’t alone with his reaction. Gonzaga’s Mark Few got the same question a few minutes later. So did Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett and UCLA’s Mick Cronin. They all agreed to make a donation in some form to Ukraine relief.
Said Few: “Sounds like a worthy endeavor and we will look into it.”
Said Bennett: “Let me know what those numbers look like before I totally join it, but I would definitely support that.”
Said Cronin: “Yeah, that's easy, that's not even a hard one… I think we should have a charity thing every year where we donate $1 from every ticket sold from every first-round game in both tournaments. The NCAA should take $1 from every ticket from every first game including the First Four and we should decide where we're giving it.”
BEACH ENERGY: I have three daughters. The youngest two, ages 5 and 7, absolutely love playing on the beach. Maybe your kids do, too. On Sunday they got a chance to get their feet on the sand. They dug holes, climbed dunes, ran in circles, picked up sticks, collected broken seashells and bird feathers, and pretty much went wild on the Oregon coast.
They were filthy, hungry and smiling by the end. Neither of them seemed to care that it was cold and windy. My wife and I sat for a spell and watched them play.
Anna noted, “There’s just something about the beach that energizes kids and dogs.”
Ain’t it the truth.