Next Score View the next score

    Joe Sullivan | NCAA Analysis

    How did Syracuse get in, and other tourney observations

    Tyus Battle (right) and Syracuse went 20-13 this season.
    Abbie Parr/Getty Images
    Tyus Battle (right) and Syracuse went 20-13 this season.

    The NCAA selection committee still loves the Power 6 teams and snubs the non-power leagues. They especially love Syracuse.

    The Orange were almost universally excluded by bracketologists, young and old, good and bad, but somehow ended up in the field again. It helps to play in the ACC, that’s for sure.

    The committee preferred the Orange over schools like Saint Mary’s (28-5) and Middle Tennessee (24-7).


    Syracuse finished 20-13 and played one true road game. They even lost five at home at the Carrier Dome.

    Get Sports Headlines in your inbox:
    The most recent sports headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    Arizona State was a borderline selection. The Sun Devils, once ranked third in the nation this season, lost five of their last six, but an early accumulation of wins saved them.

    Their fellow Pac-12 member, Southern Cal, was a big snub. The Trojans were 23-11 and finished second in both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament.

    Middle Tennessee deserved to be in the 2018 NCAA field. The so-called metrics that kept them out because the Blue Raiders were upset by Southern Mississippi in the quarterfinals of Conference USA don’t measure up. The tournament will be less interesting without Giddy Potts’ long-distance shots and double-double machine Nick King.

    Notre Dame was another bubble team that didn’t make it. Injuries can wreck a season and it did here. The Irish lost one of the best players in the country, Bonzie Colson, for 15 games and in the end that cost them a bid. The Irish were 6-9 in games without Colson. Despite that, they don’t deserve to be included even though the committee had the Irish in the field before Davidson upset Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament final.


    UMass fans have teams to root for or against, depending on how you feel. Former UMass coach Derek Kellogg got LIU Brooklyn into the tournament in his first year. His roster includes former Minuteman Zach Coleman. Former UMass players Donte Clark (Texas Southern) and Zach Lewis (Iona) are also in the field.

    Non-Power 6 teams that can pull off upsets

    Buffalo: The Bisons are a veteran unit led by guard C.J. Massinburg; they play fast, averaging 84.8 points per game.

    Nevada: Despite the fact the Wolfpack got smashed in the Mountain West championship game, they have the talent to tangle with anyone.

    New Mexico State: The Aggies’ conference (WAC) stinks but don’t judge them on that. With mercenary Zach Lofton (this is his third school) leading the way, they will match up well with most opponents.

    Power 6 schools that are ripe for upsets

    Ohio State: The Buckeyes were one of the surprises of the season, but they seem to have lost their mojo, dropping three of their last five.


    Miami: Without injured point guard Bruce Brown (Boston’s own), the Hurricanes are 7-4. His status is up in the air for the tournament.

    Kentucky: The freshmen can’t be fully trusted.

    Florida: The Gators look like a Final Four team one day and a first-round upset victim the next.

    Auburn: The Tigers are basically overachievers who could find their level and get picked off.

    Best first-round matchups

    Virginia Tech vs. Alabama: The Crimson Tide has surged late in the season. Virginia Tech is an underrated group that is well coached by Buzz Williams.

    Houston vs. San Diego State: Two teams that really improved late in the season. It will be a rugged defensive struggle. First team to 50 wins.

    Texas A&M vs Providence: The Aggies have underachieved, but this is there chance for redemption against the Friars, who had a great Big East Tournament.

    Rhode Island vs. Oklahoma: The Rams have a bunch of guards to defend the Sooners’ great point guard Trae Young.

    Can a 16 beat a 1?

    No but if you forced me to pick, Penn would have the best chance against Kansas.

    Players you’ve heard of worth watching

    Marvin Bagley, Duke: The big man is multi-talented. His agility might be his best asset.

    DeAndre Ayton, Arizona: A behemoth who can just overpower college players.

    Trae Young, Oklahoma: Teams did a better job defending him in the second half of the season, but he’s still an exciting player with the ball.

    Players you haven’t heard of who are worth watching

    Mike Daum, South Dakota State: The 6-9, 250-pound bruiser averages 23.8 ppg and 10.2 rpg plus has a high basketball IQ.

    Shaq Morris, Wichita State: Another bruiser who leaves defenders’ bodies in his wake as he powers to the hoop.

    Joe Sullivan can be reached at