2017 NCAA Tournament: Major Bias, underseeding Mid-Majors


BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

Every season it happens, a handful of teams in the major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12) get bias toward their NCAA Tournament seed.

As a result it punishes the mid-major teams that everyone loves to root for.

Now, mid-majors should not receive preferential treatment because it would be ‘more fun.' After all, the committee would just ensure all the teams from North Carolina, Florida, and California were all in the same side of the bracket.

(That would actually be pretty fun.)

But the 2016-2017 season proves once again that in order for a mid-major to earn a favor NCAA Tournament seed, they better be able to walk on water.

A near-record number of top seeds from conference tournaments won automatic qualifiers, meaning many of the mid-and low-major teams with the best records earned a spot in the Big Dance. Place that next to the fact that this was a historically weak bubble, and the 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket should have shaped up nicely for "The Other 26."

But instead, the mid-majors got regulated to some poor seeding, and to make matters worse some of the best mid-majors will be taking each other out in the first round. It is not until one takes a look at the overall seeding when disparity becomes glaringly obvious.

It almost feels that because Gonzaga was selected to a No. 1 seed, that the committee had done a service to mid-majors.


This is where the committee should shift teams so mid-majors actually compete against the bigger teams. A majority of the mid-major champions and their at-larges could take out the first-four at-larges (all of which were from a major conference).

If the smaller teams lose, then oh well.


Looking at the overall seeding here is where each mid-major team fell:

No. 1 Gonzaga (No. 4 overall)

-One of the biggest questions of the weekend was if the Zags were going to actually earn one of the four No. 1 seeds. By what should be no surprise, Mark Few’s team earned that bid due to the plethora of upsets in the conference tournaments. Thankfully Kentucky, Duke, and Arizona, who all won a major conference tournament, did not jump the Zags. In which, Gonzaga has the argument to be ahead of each.

No. 6 SMU (No. 21 overall)

-A somewhat appropriate seed. Simply the Mustangs record from last season, (25-5) and not being eligible for the NCAA postseason, had to be a prevailing factor in how high they climbed. Outside of conference play, their biggest win was over TCU. Above the Mustangs they had the Big 12 champion, Iowa State and the ACC runner-up Notre Dame which is a problem in itself, but near impossible to pass. Ahead of two teams though, the Mustangs have an argument to be higher.

No. 6 Cincinnati (No. 22 overall)

-As a preseason favorite to compete nationally, the Bearcats slipped to a No. 6 seed. Once again this is an appropriate seed; their AAC Championship loss to SMU is what dropped them below the Mustangs and even from a No. 5 seed. This is the one mid-major at-large slot that should not be changed.

No.7 St. Mary’s (No. 25 overall)

-Three of the Gaels four losses were to the fourth best team in the tournament. If the Zags fell to a No. 2 seed then this is appropriate, but the committee rewarded the Zags and not the Gaels. Easily Saint Mary’s, led by one of the best in the NCAA Jock Landale, should be above Creighton and at the very least Maryland. Oh they play another dangerous mid-major, VCU.

No. 7 Dayton (No. 28 overall)

-Dayton is another squad that should be above the Blue Jays and the Terps, but also South Carolina. Here is another case where the committee placed a champion ahead of Dayton, which was Michigan, so that they could not climb up. No. 7 seed is not that bad but it is facing Wichita State that is an outrage.

No. 10 Wichita State (No. 38 overall)

-How the heck did the Shockers fall to a No. 10 seed? This is dumb and where some seeding starts to fall apart. Wichita State is ranked 20th nationally and 22nd in the coaches poll, not only that they won their conference in championship week. Talk about names carrying teams, Wichita State’s name did not carry them anywhere this season. On top of that, they face No. 2 Kentucky in the next round if they were to win. The Shockers could easily be a Sweet 16 team if they were not playing the No.5 overall seed.


No. 10 VCU (No. 39 overall)

-Appropriate seed, but why not have them face other No. 7 seeds, South Carolina or Michigan? Would not be an issue if they did not do this multiple times.

No. 11 Rhode Island (No. 44 overall)

-Appropriate seed, although it makes no sense to have Xavier higher than them. Providence and Wake Forest are ahead of the Atlantic 10 Champions but are in a play-in game, something Rhode Island avoided with their auto-bid.

No. 12 Nevada (No. 47 overall)

-Fair seed.


No. 12 Middle Tennessee State (No. 48 overall)

-Did the committee even watch Middle Tennessee this season? No one in their right mind would have them this low, a No. 10 seed at the lowest. The Blue Raiders are way better than many teams ahead of them but got a favorable First Round matchup with Minnesota. Their early season loss to Tennessee State greatly hurt them, but no other early bad losses by major teams hurt their respective teams.

No. 12 UNC-Wilmington (No. 49 overall)

-Fair seed and a fun team to watch.

No. 12 Princeton (No. 50 overall)

-Second longest active winning streak in college basketball (19 games) and they are only a No. 12 seed? It’s fair. Tigers did not do any work outside of conference play this year and 16 of their 19 wins in a row are against Ivy League schools.

No. 13 Bucknell (No. 51 overall)

-Fair seed.

No. 13 East Tennessee St. (No. 52 overall)

-Fair seed.

No. 13 Vermont (No. 53 overall)

-Fair seed, but maybe bump them up a spot or two becuase of their impressive record.

No. 13 Winthrop (No. 54 overall)

-Fair seed.

No. 14 New Mexico State (No. 55 overall)

-Fair seed.

No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast (No. 56 overall)

-Fair seed, but playing in-state opponent Florida State come on now. Do not expect ‘Dunk City’ to pull out another fairy tale run, but the darlings of the NCAA a couple seasons ago should have at least played a non-Florida team in the first round.

The remaining seeds are all from non-major conferences, due to their records and how they won a minor conference they are appropriately place near the bottom of the bracket. While one could argue that their place could be moved around themselves, it is near impossible to say they deserve to pass one of the at-large teams.

Here are the remaining single bid conference teams: No. 14 Kent State, No. 14 Iona, No. 15 Northern Kentucky, No. 15 Troy, No. 15 Jacksonville State, No. 15 North Dakota, No. 16 Texas Southern, No. 16 South Dakota St., No. 16 UC Davis, No. 16 N.C. Central, No. 16 New Orleans, No. 16 Mt. St. Mary's 


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