Is it fair Wichita State was a No. 10 seed? Not necessarily. You could argue it was a slight to the Shockers. You could make an even stronger argument it was unjust to the rest of the bracket.
However, if you have a better way to seed the NCAA Tournament, let’s hear it.
The truth is Wichita State, Middle Tennessee and others put the Selection Committee in an impossible spot. If you follow basketball, you can clearly see that Wichita State was playing better than a 10-seed, but what did the Shockers actually accomplish this season that was worthy of anything better? WSU’s only decent victories heading into the tournament came against an Illinois State squad that didn’t even the field.
That’s not entirely Wichita State’s fault — putting together a non-conference schedule is tricky, especially if you belong to a mid-major league — but there’s not a lot the committee can do about it either.
“How many years do we have to do this to make people respect our program,” a frustrated WSU coach Gregg Marshall asked Sunday after his Shockers narrowly lost to No. 2 seed Kentucky. “I don’t know. That’s up to you guys.”
You can get where Marshall is coming from, but nobody is disrespecting Wichita State either. Everyone knew his team was capable of making another deep NCAA Tournament run, but is he suggesting the seeding be done based on past seasons? That doesn’t work either, unless you want to automatically grant Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and a few others the top eight spots each year.
The committee simply can’t seed the NCAA Tournament based on reputation or the eye test.
We all know life isn’t fair for the mid-majors. Wichita State wants power conference teams to schedule home-and-home series, but not many have incentive to do so.
Even then, however, the Shockers had opportunities to beat Louisville, Oklahoma State and Michigan State this season. They lost two of those games by double figures, and the truth is if they’d won just one, the committee would have taken the opportunity to bump Wichita State up a few seeds.
Gonzaga isn’t guaranteed quality opponents in its conference schedule either, so the Bulldogs boosted their resume by beating Arizona, Florida and Iowa State.
All of the advanced metrics and computer ratings have their own strengths and flaws. In the end the best way to seed NCAA Tournament teams is to simply sit down and look at whom they beat and who beat them.
While Marshall may not see it in the aftermath of a tough loss, the Shockers are cultivating the same kind of respect a program such as Gonzaga has earned. Wichita State is getting invited to the premier holiday tournaments. Power conference teams are putting WSU on the schedule.
It’s not exactly fair the schedule is often so front-loaded, but that’s life, at least until a potential move to the American Athletic Conference happens.
It’s all part of the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. The body of work built over an entire season matters, but in the end there is one last opportunity to dictate how that season is remembered… regardless of seeding.