Throwback Thursday: The 2016 Hoops HD NCAA Tournament Selection Process

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Every year since its inception, the staff members of HoopsHD (including past incarnations like CrimsonCast) gather together during Championship Week to discuss the pending NCAA Tournament. The process is threefold: 1) Select the field, 2) Seed the field, 3) Bracket the field.

The process begins earlier in the week – the first job of each staff member is to select up to 36 teams that would be in the NCAA Tournament regardless of whether or not they win their upcoming conference tournaments. (Teams that already won their conference tournaments were exempt, so conference tournament champions like Gonzaga and Northern Iowa were not included on committee member ballots). Teams that were named on at least 8 out of 10 ballots were added to the NCAA Tournament field. This is where the term first ballot comes from on our show. For other teams that did not make the initial field but were named on at least 3 ballots, they were added to the Under Consideration column on the Selection board. Below is our selection board as of Wednesday from last year:

If you look at the rest of the board, teams listed in blue already won their conference tournaments and were guaranteed entry into the NCAA Tournament. 27 teams listed in green were first-ballot teams as described above. The middle column included all other teams under consideration – teams listed in white and orange (orange teams lost in their respective conference tournaments) were included. Teams listed in red lost their conference tournaments but were not named on committee ballots. After this phase, the HoopsHD Committee had their annual pasta dinner and post-dinner ice cream.

Thursday was the first official day of deliberations for the HoopsHD Committee. Two additional teams were added to the Under Consideration board – Centenary winner Chicago State (click HERE for the Centenary Award details) and 2015-16 Team of the People Grand Canyon (click HERE for Team of the People details). Motions were made to remove teams from Under Consideration that did not have enough merit to be included in the field. (Note that teams in white still had games to play; teams in orange were eliminated from their respective conference tournaments). We then began to debate the merits of Under Consideration teams and who should be added to the at-large field. After the first wave of debates, each committee member voted for their top 8 teams to be selected. The top 8 vote-getters would then be ranked 1 through 8 by each committee member. The top 4 teams (Wisconsin, Providence, Colorado and Butler) were added to the at-large column and the bottom 4 teams “carried over” to the next wave of balloting. After more debates, each committee member individually voted on 4 more teams to be added. The top 4 vote-getters were added to the 4 carry-over teams to again be seeded 1 through 8. The next 4 teams added to the at-large pool were USC, Wichita State, Oregon State and Pittsburgh. 1 at-large spot was left open at this point, but 4 more at-large spots opened up when it became clear that the winners of the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-12 were already assured of an NCAA Tournament spot. There were also 4 more potential at-larges that could open up pending the results of conference tournaments in the Big 10, SEC, American and A-10. Below is the selection board through Thursday night:

When the committee began deliberations on Friday night, further scrubbing of the Under Consideration board took place as more results from conference tournaments were coming in. At this point, our committee began to build our master seed list. A wave of debates took place as to who the top teams would be – each individual committee member voted on their top 12 teams. (The actual NCAA Selection Committee would select 8 teams at a time, but we did 12 as a time-saving measure). The top 12 teams were seeded 1 through 12 by each individual member; the top 8 vote-getters were added to the seed list on the right-hand side of the Selection Board. Four teams carried over; our committee then debated on which 8 teams (4 by the real NCAA Committee) should be subsequently voted into the seed list. The top 8 teams (along with the 4 carryovers) were again seeded 1-12 and the top 8 vote-getters were added to the seed list. We repeated this process one more time to arrive at 24 teams on the master seed list. At that point, we went to the task of adding 4 more teams to the at-large pool; UConn, Cincinnati, Michigan and Saint Joseph’s were added to the field. We were left with 2 at-large spots to fill at the end of Friday night. Our last task was to add 8 more teams to the master seed list. Below is the selection board through Friday night:

On Saturday night, we began by scrubbing the Under Consideration column down to 8 teams plus the Centenary Award winner. This is where most of the debates took place for tonight – 3 teams were added to the at-large field – VCU, Temple and South Carolina. VCU’s inclusion opened up an at-large spot out of the A-10 – this meant that there would be 2 final teams to add to the field. They were Monmouth and a contingency pick in St. Bonaventure. The contingency arose because of the American championship – St. Bonaventure would be the last at-large if UConn won that game; Memphis would have stolen a bid had they won that game instead. The remaining teams were added to the seed list – this included contingency teams like Memphis, Little Rock and Louisiana-Monroe since the Sun Belt championship was played on Selection Sunday.

And this is where the fun began for Saturday night – committee member Joby Fortson (author of the HoopsHD Nitty Gritty Rankings – click HERE for those rankings) lobbied heavily to remove South Carolina from the field and proposed Syracuse in their stead. St. Bonaventure’s merits were also called into question at the same time. 8 votes were needed to support this motion – the motion was to rank South Carolina, Syracuse and St. Bonaventure. Syracuse was #1, St. Bona #2 and South Carolina #3. This meant that Syracuse was now in the field and that St. Bonaventure would remain as a contingency team. Our last task of Saturday night was to scrub the seed list and move teams around depending on Saturday’s results. Below is how the Selection Board looked as of Saturday:

Sunday was our final day of deliberations. A second scrubbing of the seed list was done as Sunday results began to come in. With the late starting time of the American championship, 2 contingency brackets were built based on the final seed list. This was the final bracket from our committee that took into account UConn’s win:

This was the end result of our work from last season; we will convene again 2 weeks from now to begin building this year’s NCAA Tournament bracket as well.

Throwback Thursday: 90 Years of the Palestra

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Very few places in college basketball can match the history of Penn’s Palestra in Philadelphia. Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym is older, but the Palestra has played home to countless Penn Quaker games, Big 5 games, and the occasional 1-game playoff in the Ivy League.

Tuesday night, Penn celebrated the 90th birthday of the Palestra during their game against Ivy League archrival Princeton. Unfortunately for the locals, Princeton crashed the party with a 64-49 victory. It won’t be the last time Princeton visits the Palestra this year – for the first time in league history, a 4-team tournament will take place at the Palestra during Championship Week. Penn has a long way to go just to make the tournament in its inaugural season, however.

But there have been plenty of good times for Penn since the opening of the Palestra in 1927. They have won or shared the Ivy League regular season title 32 times (the last title was in 2007). They have 23 NCAA Tournament appearances to their credit, including 5 Sweet 16s, 3 Elite 8s,  and a Final 4 team in 1979 (click here for a recap of their unlikely run to the Final Four in Salt Lake City that season). Many of their notable coaches include Jack McCloskey, Chuck Daly, Bob Weinhauer, Craig Littlepage and Fran Dunphy. Notable players include Matt Maloney, Ugonna Onyekwe, Michael Jordan (not former Washington Wizard Michael Jordan), and Jerome Allen.

The Big 5 in Philadelphia goes back to 1955 – this is the annual round-robin series between Penn, Villanova, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle. Temple leads the way with 27 titles (shared and outright), Villanova has won 25, Saint Joe’s has won 20, Penn has won 13 times and La Salle has won 11 times. For many years, there were 2 national title banners that were also promiently displayed at the Palestra – La Salle’s 1954 NCAA Championship and Villanova’s 1985 NCAA Championship. There was a period from 1992 through 1999 where the full round-robin was not played; each team has played the full round-robin since 2000.

As for other postseason tournaments, the Palestra has also been home for a number of Atlantic 10 Tournament games. All of the games except the championship games were played at the Palestra from 1989 to 1995; the championship games were played at the respective campus sites of the time (i.e. Penn State, Temple, UMass). The MEAC also had their tournament at the Palestra in 1985 – North Carolina A&T defeated Howard for the title that season.

As for the NCAA Tournament, the Palestra played host to the East Regional 5 times (the last one being in 1977) and East sub-regionals 13 other times (the last one being a set of play-in games in 1984). The Palestra at the time had hosted the most NCAA Tournament games of any facility – they would later be surpassed by UD Arena when they became the annual host of the Opening Round/First Four games beginning in 2001.

As stated earlier, other schools have also played games at the Palestra. Saint Joe’s played their home games at the Palestra in the 2008-09 season when Hagan Arena was being renovated for the Hawks. In the 2014-15 season, the Palestra was the site of a 1-game playoff between Harvard and Yale – Harvard defeated the Bulldogs 53-51 to win the Ivy League and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Earlier this season, Penn State also defeated Michigan 72-63 at the Palestra as a homecoming game for numerous players on the Penn State roster.


Throwback Thursday: The Crosstown Shootout

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Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati are separated by about 3 miles within the city of Cincinnati, and since 1928 they have played each other in the annual Crosstown Shootout. UC leads the series 49-34, although Xavier has had the upper hand in recent memory (winning 14 out of the past 20 meetings).

This rivalry has included coaches like Chris Mack, Mick Cronin, Sean Miller, Thad Matta, Bob Huggins, Skip Prosser and Pete Gillen. Only Ed Jucker has gone on to win two national titles – he was the head coach for Cincinnati during their 1960s heyday that saw 2 national titles and multiple Final 4 appearances. Famous players in recent memory include Sean Kilpatrick, Semaj Christon, Lance Stephenson, Derrick Brown, Lionel Chalmers, Jason Maxiell, David West and Kenyon Martin.

After the early days of the rivalry saw Cincinnati hold a slight 12-10 edge in the series, UC would win a whopping 22 out of 24 games from 1957 to 1979. Xavier would win 6 out of the next 10 Shootouts under the leadership of Bob Staak and Pete Gillen.

Cincinnati also had a second heyday in the early to mid-90s after Bob Huggins took over a dormant UC program that struggled throughout the Tony Yates era. (Yates’ teams did have one shining moment – a Joe Stiffend buzzer-beater at then-Riverfront Coliseum gave UC a 75-73 win over a Xavier team that would advance to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.) After Huggins lost his first Shootout to Xavier in a 90-88 OT thriller at the Cincinnati Gardens, the Bearcats would win 5 out of the next 6 Shootouts. Xavier’s only win in that stretch was an 82-76 win in overtime that was hotly contested; Gillen and Huggins had what can best be described as a contentious postgame display over the behavior of the coaches and benches during the game. This was also a time in which UC went to the Final 4 in 1992 and also to the Elite 8 in 1993 and 1996.

A funny thing happened in the 1996-97 season – UC was ranked #1 in the preseason. They couldn’t even get to Thanksgiving undefeated thanks to Lenny Brown’s legendary buzzer-beater (click here for the shot) to give Xavier a 71-69 win at what was then the Shoemaker Center for the first time. That would not be the only time Cincinnati would come in to the Shootout with a #1 ranking – history would repeat itself 3 seasons later. UC was #1 in the country (including a thrashing of North Carolina in a made-for-TV game in Chicago) and had an excellent core of players in Kenyon Martin, Kenny Satterfield and DerMarr Johnson. Xavier had a couple of veteran players and a superb freshman (David West) – they would win the final Shootout played in the Cincinnati Gardens by a 66-64 score.

Since that time, Cincy’s most notable win was in 2002 when they blasted Xavier 75-55 thanks to Steve Logan’s leadership. Xavier fans will say that West was injured in that game, but that Cincinnati team would go on to dominate Conference USA en route to an eventual #1 seed. However, they were sent to Pittsburgh (a place where top seeds like South Carolina in 1997 and Villanova in 2015 were upset early) and ended up losing to UCLA in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.

Another milestone win for Xavier was in 2004 – after a shot by Lionel Chalmers in the final 10 seconds of the game gave Xavier a 71-69 win at the Cintas Center, Xavier went from 10-9 to a team that would become white-hot along the way, winning all but one game up to an Elite 8 appearance. They blasted then-#1 Saint Joe’s en route to an A-10 title, and would also beat Louisville, Mississippi State and Texas in the NCAA Tournament.

There were not as many games that caught the eye of the nation until the 2011-12 season. After a slightly contentious win by UC in 2011, Xavier was on their way to a blowout win the following season. After some initial words were exchanged, a major brawl ensued at the end of the game that ended up with multiple players being suspended – UC had Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Ge’Laun Gwyn suspended for 6 games apiece and Xavier would have Dez Wells, Mark Lyons, Landon Amos and Tu Holloway suspended for multiple games (except Holloway) as well. Strangely, a struggling UC team would go on a run of their own to the Sweet 16 that year, but a Xavier team that was dominant went through a very turbulent season afterward until getting a last-second NCAA Tournament invite of their own (along with a Sweet 16 appearance of their own).

The next two games were played downtown at USBank Arena as a result of the melee, but moved back to both campuses beginning with the 2014-15 season. Tonight, as David Griggs alluded to in his daily writeup, another chapter will be written in this rivalry. Will Cincinnati finally hold serve at home and launch themselves closer to a top NCAA seed, or will Xavier turn a sagging season into another memorable one with a road win?

Throwback Thursday: The 2006 Atlantic 10 Tournament

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2006 was a bit of a watershed year for the Atlantic 10 Tournament. This would be the 20th season of the conference (originally started out as the Eastern 8), and the conference tournament would be held at USBank Arena in downtown Cincinnati. Charlotte and Saint Louis were newcomers to the Atlantic 10 for this season, and as expected the 49ers were a serious contender for the league crown.

However, this season saw GW run the table with a perfect 16-0 record in conference play. They would get the top seed only a year after winning the 2005 A-10 Championship (also played at USBank Arena). Temple had a much quieter outing than the previous season – in 2005, John Chaney suspended himself for the remainder of the season after he had sent in Nehemiah Ingram as a “goon” to send a message to Saint Joseph’s player John Bryant in a late season Temple-Saint Joe’s matchup at the Liacouras Center. Feeling that Bryant and other SJU players were getting away with illegal screens in that game, Ingram committed a hard foul late in the game that caused Bryant to break his arm and prematurely end his season.

9th-seeded Temple would defeat Rhode Island 74-45 in a nondescript opener, and Saint Joe’s would beat Dayton 67-55 in the next game. Dayton was the last team to qualify for the tournament; they finished ahead of Duquesne and St. Bonaventure in the conference standings.

In the nighttime doubleheader, 10th-seeded Xavier avenged their season-ending loss at UMass with a 75-66 win over the Minutemen. Noteworthy here is that this was the first win for Xavier after senior PG Dedrick Finn was dismissed from the team by head coach Sean Miller. A few hearty souls stayed around to watch 6th-seeded Fordham defeat Richmond 45-37 in the last of the opening-round games.

The 4 teams that ended up getting byes into the quarterfinals were the aforementioned GW Colonials along with the #2 Charlotte 49ers, #3 LaSalle Explorers and #4 Saint Louis Billikens. Remarkably, neither of the 4 teams would advance to the semifinals. Temple beat GW 68-53 with relative ease, and Saint Joe’s upended SLU 56-37 in the 2nd game of the afternoon doubleheader. A partisan Xavier crowd watched the Musketeers defeat Charlotte 59-55 in the first night game – this doomed whatever at-large hopes the 49ers had and relegated them to the NIT. Another remarkable result was Fordham beating La Salle 64-62 in the nightcap; this was the first time the Rams made it to the A-10 semifinal round in what was then their 12th season in the conference.

The semifinal round began with a weird delay – a bird managed to fly into a ceiling fan at USBank Arena and was killed on contact. The Saint Joe’s-Temple game was delayed for 15 minutes after the floor was cleared and the fan was cleaned up. This time, the Hawks would beat Temple 73-59 to avenge the injury to Bryant from a season earlier. Xavier would avenge their earlier loss to Fordham in the season with a 70-59 victory. This would be the 3rd straight season that Xavier and Saint Joe’s would play each other in the Atlantic 10 Tournament – the Hawks won in 2005, but Xavier blasted the Hawks in 2004 to put an abrupt end to what was a perfect regular season for the Hawks.

The championship game was a very close one, and a blocked shot on the game’s final play preserved a 62-61 win for Xavier – this was their 3rd and final Atlantic 10 title. As for the NCAA Tournament, Xavier got the auto bid and a #14 seed in the West (Oakland) region, but lost to Gonzaga in a game where the Muskies had a serious opportunity for a historic upset. GW would end up as a #8 seed in the South (Atlanta) region – they beat UNC-Wilmington in overtime in the first round before falling to Duke in front of a partisan crowd in Greensboro. Saint Joe’s, Temple and Charlotte would all play in the NIT – the Hawks advanced the furthest with a Round of 16 appearance before losing to Hofstra.

Throwback Thursday (Fallback Friday Edition): The Metro Conference

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Last year around this time, we took a look at the Great Midwest Conference – they were one of the forerunners of Conference USA for its inception in the 1990s. Their older counterparts were the Metropolitan Collegiate Athletic Conference, which was more colloquially known as the Metro Conference. It was founded in 1975 with charter members Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Memphis State, Saint Louis and Tulane. Florida State would join a year later, and when Georgia Tech received an invitation to join the ACC and bolster their football side of the conference, Virginia Tech would join the Metro. These seven schools were the core of the Metro for about a decade, and they would add Southern Miss (as a replacement for Saint Louis) and South Carolina to their ranks in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

Louisville was the undisputed flagship of the Metro Conference during its existence. They were frequent hosts of the Metro conference tournament (along with Cincinnati, Memphis and other rotating sites) and won 11 out of a possible 18 titles during the conference’s existence. They won 2 national championships in 1980 and 1986, and were also part of the Final Four in 1982 and 1983 under Denny Crum’s tutelage. After the Great Midwest exodus in 1991, they would dominate the Metro with a 35-13 record in conference play along with 3 more conference titles in this timespan.

As for Cincinnati, it was the best of times and the worst of times. They actually won the first two Metro conference tournaments while Gale Catlett was their head coach for the 1976 and 1977 seasons. None of that translated into any NCAA Tournament success, however, and they would not advance that far again until the 1991-92 season (which was the beginning of the Great Midwest Conference). UC bottomed out in the 1983-84 season with a 3-25 record during Tony Yates’ first season. Not only did they finish 0-14 in the Metro that year, there were also the events of December 20, 1983 that will live in college basketball infamy. That was the day they hosted Kentucky and lost 24-11 in a game where UC played stall ball for most of the contest. This game was one major reason for a 45-second shot clock being implemented for the 1985-86 season.

Memphis State was another program that had quite a bit of success ON the court under head coach Dana Kirk. They won conference tournament titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985 that led to 3 trips to the NCAA Tournament, including an appearance in the 1985 Final Four that was dominated by the original Big East conference. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they would be stripped of those titles and appearances by the NCAA because of violations that took place in the program. Strangely, they were allowed to play in the conference tournament in 1987, but since they were ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, they ended up winning the Metro and the conference was completely frozen out of the NCAA Tournament that year. Thankfully for Memphis State, their success in the Great Midwest Conference would be free and clean.

Tulane had an even more infamous tenure in the Metro, if that seems possible. News came out of a point-shaving scandal involving players and coaches during the 1984-85 season. The university president at the time (Eamon Kelly) completely shut down the program for 4 seasons – in effect, it was the death penalty for Tulane basketball at the time. This was the second instance in NCAA history of a self-imposed “death penalty” after the University of San Francisco shut down their program after the 1981-82 season and would not resume until the 1985-86 season. This also meant that Tulane would be expelled from the Metro membership until their basketball program would be reinstated. Tulane would resume their program in 1989, and would actually win the regular season title in the Metro for the 1991-92 season.

For the 1991-92 season, the Metro membership would drastically change thanks to football. Florida State left to join the ACC, South Carolina left to join the SEC, and Cincinnati and Memphis State left to form the Great Midwest Conference along with Saint Louis, UAB, Marquette and DePaul. In their stead, the Metro invited UNC-Charlotte, South Florida and Virginia Commonwealth as replacement schools to ensure that the conference had the minimum membership requirements to retain their automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. After the 1994-95 season, the Metro and Great Midwest Conferences ceased operations and helped to form the new Conference USA. The only exceptions were Virginia Tech and VCU – Virginia Tech would join the Atlantic 10 and VCU would join the Colonial Athletic Association.

Throwback Thursday: Farewell to the Georgia Dome

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With the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium set to open in the fall of 2016, we will be saying farewell to a venue that has hosted a number of Falcons home games, SEC football championships, SEC basketball championships, 2 Super Bowls, multiple NCAA regionals and 3 Final Fours. The first notable postseason action as far as NCAA Tournament action goes took place in 1996 – the Georgia Dome was the host site for the East regional. The participants were UMass (a spot ultimately vacated), Arkansas, Georgetown and Texas Tech. Both UMass (with John Calipari and Marcus Camby) and Georgetown (with John Thompson Jr. and Allen Iverson) would advance to the Elite 8, and UMass would ultimately beat Georgetown 86-62 to earn their school’s first trip to the Final 4.

The first Final Four to be played in the Georgia Dome took place in 2002. Maryland won the East regional, Kansas won the Midwest Regional, Indiana was the surprise winner in the South Regional (upsetting Duke in Lexington, much to the delight of the locals) and Oklahoma emerged from the West Regional. Indiana would beat Oklahoma in the first semifinal to advance to its first championship appearance since 1987, and Maryland beat Kansas 97-88 to advance to its first championship game. Thanks to a cast of players that included Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, the Terrapins defeated Indiana 64-52 for their first national title in men’s hoops.

The second Final Four would take place in 2007 – this time the 4 teams featured were the defending champions of Florida (Midwest Region), Ohio State (South Region), UCLA (West Region) and Georgetown (East Region). With Ohio State defeating Georgetown and Florida beating UCLA, it set up a championship game between Ohio State and Florida that mirrored the exact same 1-2 matchup in college football’s championship game for the first and only time in NCAA/BCS history. What was a banner year for Gator fans became even better with another win over the Buckeyes – they won both the football and basketball championships that year as well!

Next year, the SEC Tournament was played in the Georgia Dome. What made this tournament very unique was a combination of a Cinderella team in the Georgia Bulldogs and Mother Nature. During the quarterfinal game between Mississippi State and Alabama, Alabama hit a 3-point shot to tie the game and send it to overtime (click here to see it from a fan’s viewpoint). This may have literally saved thousands of fans from filing out of the Georgia Dome before the Georgia-Kentucky quarterfinal. Why? As overtime began, a line of severe thunderstorms moved over downtown Atlanta – a line of storms that included a violent EF2 tornado that damaged many parts of downtown Atlanta (including parts of the Georgia Dome). Click here to see part of the Jefferson-Pilot broadcast with Tim Brando on the call. At about the 35-second mark, there is an audible noise coming from the roof, and at the 45-second mark, fans begin to evacuate after a stoppage in play to take cover. Remarkably, no one inside was killed or injured. After an hour-long delay, the Alabama-Mississippi State game was completed, but the Georgia-Kentucky game was postponed to the following day. Because of structural damage to the Georgia Dome, the remainder of the tournament was played at Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Georgia would win twice on Saturday and in the championship on Sunday to win the SEC title and a very unlikely #14 seed.

The third and last Final Four was played in 2013 – the four teams to advance to Atlanta were Michigan (South Region), Wichita State (West Region), Syracuse (East Region) and Louisville (Midwest Region). Louisville was playing the remainder of their tournament in honor of Kevin Ware – he suffered a gruesome leg injury in the regional final against Duke. Michigan quietly advanced to their first national title game since the Fab Five era (1992 and 1993). Louisville would win the national title with an 82-76 victory, and Luke Hancock became the first ever Most Outstanding Player in a Final Four to not have started either of the Final Four games.