Headaches for the NCAA selection committee

NCAA tournament logoWhile the weather problems at the SEC tournament in Atlanta have the potential to cause a headache for the NCAA committee, the Big Ten tournament is already guaranteed to be a problem.

The NCAA has previously told tha Big Ten that their tournament wraps up too late for the final game to be considered in their seedings. That’s usually not a big deal because both teams are typically in the tournament so the committee just seeds as if the game isn’t being played.

They won’t be able to do that this year however. The committee will have to have some plan for what to do if Illinois or Minnesota wins the title. One team that should be worried is Ohio State. The easiest scenario for the selection committee is to work out the brackets as if the MSU/Wisconsin winner wins the title. If that happens, five Big Ten teams would be in the Dance – Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, and Ohio State. If the Illinois/Minn winner claims the title you just bump OSU from the tournament and insert the Ill/Minn into OSU’s spot. In theory, that shouldn’t happen because the team that should get bumped would be the last at-large bid, which shouldn’t be Ohio State. However, the selection committee could just point to the Big Ten and say that the Big Ten was warned about scenarios like this.

The SEC tournament presents a somewhat similar scenario. Tonights game between Kentucky and Georgia has been moved to Saturday. Neither of those teams have an NCAA bid locked up. Kentucky is close and a win against Georgia MIGHT put them in. That could solve the NCAA’s problem because all four remaining teams could be considered in the dance.

A Georgia win thought would really muck things up. The only way Georgia gets in is by winning the tournament. An upset against Kentucky puts the selection committee into a bind just like the Big Ten tournament. That bind could be solved by having the Geo/KY winner play their semifinal game against Mississippi State tomorrow night – a move that I think is unlikely.

What I see the SEC doing is playing the Kentucky/Georgia game Saturday and postponing both of the semifinal games until Sunday. The Kentucky/Geo winner would meet Mississippi State winner in one semifinal while Arkansas would face Tennessee in the other. The finals would be canceled and the winners of the semifinal games would be considered co-champs.

That would work except for one very unlikely scenario, that being Georgia as one of the co-champs. People will want to know if that earns them an NCAA bid. From the NCAAs perspective, that should be a resounding NO. I see it as very unlikely that the NCAA would award a bid to anyone as a co-champion. If the SEC goes through with a plan like the above the NCAA should rule the auto-bid void.

Having said that, I could see one backroom deal being concocted. It’s quite possible that the NCAA could work out a deal with the SEC where something akin to the above mentioned Illinois/Minnesota deal is structured. The NCAA could put Kentucky on the hot seat. Basically an off the record deal could be made where Kentucky is assumed to be in. A Kentucky win over Georgia Saturday morning and everyone’s problems are solved because all four remaining SEC teams would have bids. But if Georgia were to beat Kentucky, then NCAA then tells the SEC that if Georgia wins the semifinal game they would claim Kentucky’s spot and the Wildcats would be left out. While it’s a possibility, I really can’t see it happening and from the NCAA’s perspective it shouldn’t.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the SEC announce the co-champion routine tomorrow and leave open the question of who gets the auto-bid by simply saying that they are negotiating with the NCAA to determine that. Then they just pray that Georgia loses the game and solves the problem for them.