ESPN analysts sound off on NCAA bracket

De’Aaron Fox (Vicky Graff Photo)

Here is what ESPN personalities thought about the NCAA Tournament bracket:

SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt

Before Bracket Release

Bilas: This is the national championship; it is a multibillion dollar event – it’s gigantic and it’s too important for us to have all these bracketing rules… All we need to do is seed this thing 1 through 68… All this messing around and essentially gerrymandering the tournament, there are reasons behind it, some of them are valid, some of them aren’t close to being valid, but we just need to seed this thing based on how good they are.

Bilas: That’s why I’ve argued for years that they need to have basketball people on the committee. Not that the committee doesn’t do a good job, they do a really good job, but the question is ‘Do they do the best possible job?’ Well the answer to that is ‘Absolutely not – they don’t’


East Bracket Seeding

Bilas: Wisconsin will be fine. It’s gonna be a problem for Villanova… That’s a game Villanova should not have to play in the second round.

Lawson: Villanova, this looks like a hard road to me, for them to get to the Final Four… The road, it could be Wisconsin, Virginia and then Duke just to get to the Final Four.

Bilas: A really good draw for Duke because in that 7-10 game, you’ve got South Carolina, a team that can really defend but can’t score against a team in Marquette, that can really score but can’t defend.

Davis: They put the best two with the No. 1 overall seed. I’m surprised to see Duke and Villanova in the same bracket.

Bilas on USC: They’re really athletic and really talented… But they only beat SMU and UCLA during the season. Talk about a team that went both ways, talk about a team that can be really good or really bad… They should be really good but they’ve been horribly inconsistent.


Midwest Bracket Seeding

Bilas: I don’t see a whole lot that’s really shocking or surprising. Miami, if Miami winds up beating Michigan State, Miami is not an easy second-round game for Kansas.

Lawson: My eyes are really looking at that 7/10 matchup of Michigan and Oklahoma State. Those are two, very, very good teams.

Davis: What jumps out at me on both brackets so far, at least on top 2 lines, they’ve favored geographic integrity… Perhaps they’ve decided there just wasn’t a lot of difference among these teams, and therefore, they acquiesced to geography if nothing else.

SVP: I’m frankly a little surprised that Michigan is a 7 given what they just did, winning four in a row.

Bilas: I thought Michigan was better than Creighton before the Big Ten Tournament. Clearly, the Big Ten does not receive a ton of respect from the Committee.

Lawson: [Iowa State] they have so much experience, they have the four guys, and Monte Morris… I love watching him play. He has had one of the great careers in Big 12 history.


South Bracket Seeding

SVP: Here’s our talking point:  We were curious what with Wichita State… Ken Pom has them as the 8th best team in the country. Wichita State is a 10 seed.

Bilas on Wichita State: I do believe it just fell that way because of.… the bracketing principles…

Lawson: This is not a good draw for me to Kentucky at any point in the round.

Bilas: UNC has struggled with teams that can slow the game down to a crawl…If the seeds hold… Butler is one of those teams that traditionally North Carolina has struggled with…because [Butler] can control tempo.

Lawson: I’ve liked Middle Tennessee all year. I think they have the potential to beat Minnesota.

Bilas: It’s interesting the way the committee treats Middle Tennessee, which the analytics don’t love. I agree with Kara, they’re really good… Last year they beat Michigan State and shot the ball really well then Syracuse beat them by 30. They clearly got respect for what happened last year than what they did this year. Because the analytics or their resume say they don’t belong on that line.


West Bracket Seeding

Lawson: I think it sets up pretty nicely in the top half…I actually like the entire region for Gonzaga to get to the Final Four for the first time.

Williams:  I wouldn’t overlook this Notre Dame team. The one thing they have going for them is their ability to spread you out and shoot the three…

Bilas: I like Arizona’s draw… I’m stunned that Florida State got a three seed. I’m stunned. And I’m surprised that Notre Dame is down on the five line… You can quibble over some of these seeds but some of these are really surprising where they put some of these teams.

Lawson: That’s my issue with Florida State; I don’t know if I’m going to get a consistent performance from them night in and night out.


On Syracuse

Bilas: Nobody at the end of the line had anywhere near the number of quality wins than Syracuse did… I say at the end of the line, all these teams have proven one thing beyond a reasonable doubt, they can all lose to just about anybody. So, the separating factor for me is who can you beat? They say anybody can win on any given day. Syracuse had more given days than anybody at the end of the line, and last year, that got rewarded…This committee clearly didn’t value that… That’s a rough one.

Lawson: I had Syracuse as the first team on the bubble that would be in because I value top 50 wins – I value them. And they’re one of the most determining factors for me on the bubble so I’m surprised they didn’t make it in… No one’s winning a beauty contest on the bubble.

Williams: I’m absolutely shocked about Syracuse…They can beat anybody in the country. They beat Duke at home.

Bilas: The messages [the Committee] send year after year, they’re not consistent.


Bracketology presented by Allstate

Bilas: Some of the seeds didn’t make any sense, especially when you look at the two line. I didn’t think that leaving Syracuse out especially after who go in makes sense. 


Williams: I think it’s extremely unfortunate for Villanova. MSG is basically Cameron Indoor stadium north. If they made it to the Elite 8, it’ll be a tough matchup against UNC.


Vitale on Syracuse: I think there are similarities with so many teams. I cannot understand how you can go 10-8 in ACC, beat three top-10 teams and be thrown out. I know they lost to St. Johns, Boston College and Georgetown. You beat three teams from that conference that were in the top 10 at some point, and you belong in the tournament… there are a lot of teams who don’t play well away from their arena.


Bilas on Syracuse: It’s not justifiable to say they lost to this team or that team. They’re not playing bad teams in the tournament… the issue is ‘can you beat the best teams you are going to play. They had six top 50 wins. I don’t think that’s comparable. 


Greenberg: The 7/10 games across the board, if you’re looking for an upset, I like them all. Opposites attract.


Williams: The 5/12 matchups are usually the trendy upsets. I don’t have any upsets in those games


Greenberg: I think the one bracket that won’t come apart is the east region. North Carolina has a good draw. A good team that could do damage is Seton Hall. 


Vitale: I think Middle Tennessee is going to make an impressive run, and I think they could beat Minnesota. They’re a dangerous team with a chip on their shoulder. Call Tom Izzo and ask him.


Dakich: I think Rhode Island can advance to the second weekend, beating Creighton and Oregon. I see a team that’s coming in as an 11-seed and a 3-seed leaving. 


  1. Here is a comparison of the actual NCAA seeds to the seeds that I would have assigned to the teams based on adjusted net efficiency at the end play on March 12, 2017.

    You can view the table at full scale at

    [img src=”” alt=”Comparison of Seeding-NCAA v ANE”]

    Out of the 68 teams, there are 16 teams that would not qualify for this tournament IF the criteria were a top 68 ANE value. They do qualify for the tournament by virtue of their automatic conference champion bid status. That leaves 52 teams that would qualify under the aforementioned ANE based criteria, essentially seeds 1-12, and 2 of the 4 teams with 13 seeds.

    Of these 52 teams, 20 of them received a seed from the NCAA within +/- 1 spot of the projected seed level. Of these, 3 were under seeded 1 spot, and 7 were over seeded by 1 spot, leaving 10 seeded exactly the same.

    There are 10 teams that have been under seeded by 2 or more spots, with the most egregious under seeding going to Wichita State (-8 spots) and Oklahoma State (-4 Spots).

    At the other end of the spectrum, there are 22 teams that were over seeded by 2 or more spots, with the greatest beneficiaries of this NCAA generosity being Maryland (+6), Seton Hall and USC (+5), and Arizona and Minnesota (+4).

    While I believe that the committee did an overall better job this year than any recent year, I also believe it is clear that the committee still does not have a realistic grasp on this measure of team quality of play. The data is available to them is sufficient detail that they can look at this type of rating with any desired sort criteria, such as:

    Total Body of Work
    Last 10 games
    Against top 50

    I give the Committee a D+ for their results in 2017, while in recent years, I would clearly have given those committees an E.

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