The Notre Dame Fighting Irish made waves throughout the college basketball world on Thursday with a tremendous comeback win over Duke.
Then, the Irish got a harsh dose of reality as the eventual ACC champion Tar Heels of North Carolina gave Notre Dame its most lopsided loss of the Mike Brey era.
So, with the past few days being almost perfectly reflective of the schizophrenia that has been Notre Dame's season, where does it look like the Irish will land for Selection Sunday?
First, let's get one thing out of the way. Notre Dame is safely in the tournament, always a solid accomplishment, especially for a team that lost two NBA draft picks from last year's squad.
It looks like the Irish will be on the fence between a 6-seed and a 7-seed, no worse but no better. Anything worse than a 7-seed would require the likes of Texas Tech, St. Joseph's, Oregon State, or Pittsburgh to jump up to a level that almost literally no one expects.
So it's safe to say that the Irish will be at least a 7-seed, but what would a 6 require? It looks like the last two 6-seeds will be decided between Notre Dame, Iowa, Dayton, and Texas. Seton Hall is no-brainer 6 or better following their Big East championship, while the likes of Wisconsin and Colorado look easily stuck as a 7-seed or worse. No one else even makes sense to be in contention either way.
So, the way I read things, in order to be a 6, the committee will have to select Notre Dame over two of Iowa, Dayton, and Texas. With none of those three picking up quality wins in their conference tournaments, but the Irish defeating a ranked Duke team, this remains a distinct possibility.
Of those four, ESPN's Joe Lunardi is currently going with Iowa and Texas to be on the 6-seed line. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm is going with Notre Dame and Dayton. Yahoo's Brad Evans has Iowa and Dayton. Bracketology aggregator Bracket Matrix has Texas and Notre Dame. And SB Nation's Chris Dobberton is way out there in Notre Dame's favor, with the Irish as a 5-seed as of yesterday's update, with Texas getting a 6.
So, as you can see, it's pretty much anyone's guess how the committee choose to rank those four teams. I think the committee will rank those four in the following order: Texas, Notre Dame, Dayton, Iowa. Regardless, Irish fans can expect to be slight favorites in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, not the worst position to be in by any stretch.
Other Selection Sunday Story Lines:
- Mediocre high-majors vs. Strong mid-majors: The number of mid-major top seeds that lost in their conference tourneys is pretty shocking this year. Wichita State, Valparaiso, Monmouth, San Diego State, St Mary's and Hofstra all have a reasonable claim to an at-large bid this year.
Unfortunately, they will be competing against a set of thoroughly mediocre high-major teams, including Syracuse, Michigan, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Pittsburgh for the very few at-large bids remaining. The committee has seemingly leaned towards the tougher SOS of the high-majors in recent years, but popular opinion seems to lean towards giving mid-majors who rack up a ton of wins the chance instead.
I strongly lean towards the latter, rather than going for a high-major team that was roughly .500 in conference and couldn't beat good teams remotely with any consistency. St. Mary's, in particular, looks like a team that's going to get screwed but easily looks like one of the top 40 or so teams that deserves a bid. No one would miss Vanderbilt; they've had plenty of chances to prove themselves as worthy and continually failed. Do the right thing, committee members.
- Up-in-the-air 1-seeds: It's very unusual to have this much uncertainty regarding the 1-seeds literally on Selection Sunday. Does Virginia get one, even after losing the ACC Championship to UNC? Can Michigan State jump up to a 1 should they beat Purdue today? Does Villanova drop down? Did Oregon's destruction of Utah in the Pac-12 championship do enough to allow them to sneak up?
It's going to be pretty interesting to see who gets those 1-seeds, but after Kansas and UNC, will anyone really strike a lot of fear into the rest of their regional? I doubt it - maybe Michigan State regardless of if they get a 1 or a 2. It seems like you could look at any projected seed line and find two difficult match-ups and two beatable teams.
- "Lower" seeds that everyone picks to advance: Kentucky looks locked into a 4 or 5 seed, by virtue of a surprising lack of quality wins, but they have a lot of talent and are relatively hot these last few weeks. Cal and Seton Hall have had similarly great February's and March's and are equally deserving of some Elite 8/Final 4 projections. If you want to go really deep, I think the A-10 is underrated this year, so the trio of VCU, St. Joseph's, and St. Bonaventure's look like intriguing upset picks to make it to the second weekend and possibly beyond. I also somewhat like UNC-Wilmington to crash the Sweet 16, depending on their match-ups.
- "Higher" seeds that won't make it to the second weekend: Maryland, Maryland, Maryland. It's hard to find a metric that matches the Terrapins' hype most of this season, and they massively struggled down the stretch. Oklahoma has also struggled recently, and Xavier has plenty of skeptics. Villanova is the classic live-by-the-three, die-by-the-three team that people love to pick against, particularly given their recent tournament history. I'll go crazy and say the Pac-12 will disappoint across the board, so be careful with the likes of Arizona and Utah, and maybe even Oregon.
This season has been characterized by its parity, with many predicting this tournament to be among the craziest we've ever seen. But you look at the projected field, and who do you see as possible champions? I'll bet most of your pools will be filled with brackets having Kansas, Michigan State, and North Carolina in the Final Four with another wild card. Kentucky and Indiana will be popular picks as potential sleepers. Is this tournament really going to be upended by all sorts of crazy upsets and unlikely teams advancing to the Elite 8 and Final Four stages?
It seriously seems doubtful. In this most "balanced" and upset-heavy season, your brackets will likely be filled with many of the same blue-blood favorites as always. Perhaps the first round or two will be crazy, which would be great for the sport as always, but it's probably wise not to go crazy with your brackets. It seems just as likely as ever that we will be seeing one of the usual suspects get crowned as national champions.