First things first: Do not turn on CBS at 6 p.m. Sunday expecting to see the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. For the first time in 36 years, the highly anticipated reveal of the tournament field and bracket will be shown on TBS.
And the changes don’t end there. The show will be aired in front of a live audience for the first time in history. The format of the program has also been tweaked. Rather than drag out the announcements of the invitees, all 68 teams in the field will be announced in alphabetical order at the start of the show — first the automatic-bid teams, followed by the at-large teams.
After the 68 teams have been revealed, the brackets and matchups will be unveiled.
The University of Miami, University of Florida and Florida State University are all expected to get at-large bids. Florida Gulf Coast University (23-11) had been to the past two NCAA Tournaments, but is most certainly NIT-bound this year after losing the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament final to Lipscomb.
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The Hurricanes are projected as a No. 7 seed by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi and a No. 6 by CBSSports bracket guru Jerry Palm. The Gators are expected to be a sixth seed. And the Seminoles will likely be a No. 10 or No. 11 after losing five of their last eight games, including an 82-74 loss to Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinal.
FSU is counting on its strong regular-season résumé, which includes road wins at Florida, Virginia Tech and Louisville, and home wins against North Carolina, Clemson and Miami.
“We don’t have a lot of upper-class leadership on this team, so the ones that we have, Phil [Cofer] and Terance [Mann], are guys that are going to have to give us a lot of leadership [in the NCAA Tournament[,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said after his team’s elimination from the ACC tournament last Wednesday. “But we’ve had a tendency to bounce back whenever we have come up a little short, and today I just think that we played against a team that was really dialed in, tuned in, and we weren’t quite as sharp as we needed to be.
But if we have an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament, I’m sure that we’ll play with a lot more sense of urgency to bounce back from what we thought was a poor performance.”
The Canes (22-9) and Gators (20-12) had similar season storylines. Both rose to the Top 10 early in the season — Florida to No. 5 and Miami to No. 6. Both fell out of the Top 25 later in the season, and recently climbed back in. UF is ranked No. 23 in this week’s poll, Miami is No. 24, both were seeded third and lost in their conference tournament quarterfinals.
UM coach Jim Larrañaga feels confident about his team because the Hurricanes were 8-4 on the road this season, one reason their RPI is No. 26. This year, for the first time, the tournament selection committee added an additional criterium to its formula — the Quadrant System.
Teams are rewarded most for winning Quadrant I games, which are home games vs. Top 30 RPI teams, neutral games vs. Top 50 and road games against Top 75. It is also favorable to win Quadrant II games, which includes home games against teams with RPI 31-75, neutral games against 51-100 teams, and road games against Nos. 76-135.
“There are only four teams in the ACC with winning road records, and that’s Virginia, Duke, [North] Carolina and Miami,” he said. “So, I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody, even though we’re young and we do lack experience; but this will be our third trip [in a row] to the NCAA Tournament, and that makes me and my coaching staff feel good about our chances no matter who we match up with.”
The top four seeds will likely be Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Xavier. A Virginia loss to North Carolina in the ACC tournament final Saturday night could elevate the Tar Heels to the top line.
The Hurricanes will gather at the campus Rathskeller restaurant Sunday for a viewing party with their fans.
The UM women’s team will be there Monday to await their fate in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.