This past Thursday, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi and college-basketball analyst Seth Greenberg made themselves available for questions from the media about “March Madness,” the upcoming NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. The games will begin on Tuesday, March 19.
One of the disappointments in college basketball seemingly all year has been the Kentucky Wildcats, which won the 2012 NCAA Championship, but then lost its whole starting five to the NBA draft. This year’s team went 21-11, including an embarrassing 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament. Lunardi said on the call that it would be close, and that he thought Kentucky would get into the NCAA Tournament, but then he changed his mind after the Vanderbilt loss.
Lunardi projected Gonzaga, Indiana, Louisville, and Duke as #1 seeds. Kansas was his next best bet if one of the other teams don’t perform well
in their conference tournament. Indiana’s spot, he said, was maybe the most protected because they won “the best league in the country” outright. Of that group, Duke’s conference-tournament effort (losing to Maryland on Friday) was the most disappointing, but that isn’t to say that they still won’t receive a #1 seed.
Questions on the conference call ranged from specifics about regional teams around the United States to the macro state of college basketball. There has been a growing perception, particularly this year, that the quality of the college men’s basketball game is down.
This theory stems from the amount of “one-and-done” players leaving early for the NBA (with Kentucky as a case-in-point), lower-shooting percentages from players over the course of a season, the amount of lower-scoring and low-possession games, and the lack of truly elite, clear favourites going into the tournament. Lunardi even joked about making a rule that teams should get eliminated from NCAA-Tournament contention if they failed to score 50 points in a conference-tournament game.
But Greenberg in particular staunchly resisted the idea that the quality of the game is down. “I think it’s good for college basketball,” he said. “The concern over the one-and-done thing is so overblown. I don’t think the game’s in shambles. Scoring is down because scouting is just so sophisticated.”