Even in the midst of chaos one tries to find a sense of order. It’s the best that can be done in this turbulent season of March Madness, the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Fran Fraschilla, former college basketball coach and now an analyst on television, was asked his view of the season, prior to the Horizon League Tournament Championship game between Cleveland State and Wright State. He offered this.
“Power conferences are starting to look more and more like mid-majors,” he said. “We are starting to see less and less dominant teams at the top (of power conferences) but more teams with 14-4, 13-5 records, followed by a few more at 10-8, then a couple more at .500.”
In the end, that’s another definition of parity, which is what we have going into the Sweet 16. More and more powerhouse teams have their flaws to be exploited. Matchups (Buffalo-Arizona) can lead to upsets. And injuries (Virginia) can derail everything.
Yet also, there is order. The power conferences are well represented and there are enough blue-blood teams remaining to keep the networks happy.
- There are five conference champions; Villanova, Kansas, Loyola, Nevada and Gonzaga.
- There are seven teams seeded No. 4 or lower.
- There are nine teams seeded between No. 5 and No. 11
- There are 4 Big 12 teams, 4 ACC teams, 3 Big Ten teams, 2 SEC teams.
- The remaining teams are from outside the power conferences; the Missouri Valley, Mountain West Conference, and West Coast Conference.
What we have in this NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 is Fraschilla’s profile — a few teams such as Villanova, that have maintained a very high level of play over the course of the season, several teams such as Kansas, Duke and Purdue that have won a lot but on the razors edge. And everybody else. Teams such as Kentucky, that have found themselves now playing at a high level after a season of hit-or-miss.
The opening rounds of the tournament provided victories by teams from the SWAC, MAC, Mountain West, Big South, American East, Missouri Valley, West Coast, and Conference-USA.
And every one of those teams was from a one-bid mid-major league. Among the Associated Press Top 25 teams they beat were Arizona, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee and Cincinnati.
No doubt it has been a season of parity. But the Sweet 16, and its power conference dominance with 13 of 16 teams, shows college basketball really has not changed all that much.