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Friars, Rams in seed battles for NCAA tournament

March 13, 2018 - 7:07 pm

By John Rooke

Stop agonizing over your NCAA brackets.  It’s really very simple.

16-seeded teams are 0-for-forever against #1 teams.  And while there may be some sentiment to take a shot with a team like Ivy champ Penn (high marks for offensive efficiency) in the role of David against Kansas’ Goliath in the Midwest Region this year, fuhgeddaboutit. 

Even if it is fun to think about.  Princeton almost pulled it off in 1989 in Providence against top-seed Georgetown and Alonzo Mourning, you might recall.

If you’re looking for the long shot opportunity however, you could try a 15-seed against a 2-seed.  Four times since 2012, the little guy has whipped the better-known opponent, including Middle Tennessee beating Michigan State in 2016.  Richmond knocked off Syracuse in 1991 as the first 15th seed to beat a bully in the NCAA Tournament.

It doesn’t appear, however, there are any prime candidates to tackle those two’s this year – although Friar fans will certainly be pulling for Atlantic Sun champ #15 Lipscomb in their first-ever NCAA appearance in the West Region against mighty 2-seed North Carolina in Charlotte (the Tar Heels are 33-1 all-time in NCAA play within their state border), as the winner meets the survivor of Providence and Texas A&M.

If you want higher-seeds beating lower-seeds, consider the games where 6 plays 11, and 5 meets 12.  There is very little difference in the quality of any team seeded fifth through 12th – 32 teams in the tournament that for all practical purposes can be thrown into the wind and the seeds fall where they may.   

But statistically-speaking, 6 vs. 11 has been the most volatile of late.  Six 11’s have won games in the past two seasons (a 6-2 record against 6-seeds), and 24 of 48 11-seeds that beat 6’s have advanced as far as the Sweet 16.  Dayton was an 11-seed beating 6th seeded Providence three years ago in Columbus, Ohio.  So, there you go. 

As for the 12 vs. 5 matchups, in the past 10 tournaments ten 12-seeds have managed to upset their 5th-seeded opponents.  It’s not a matter of “if,” but “how many?”  But 12-seeds seldom advance far into the tournament past their opening round conquests.

In the 10 vs. 7 games, where both Providence and URI find themselves this year, toss-ups are the rule rather than the exception.  Exceptions have come from advancing in the tournament past the opening round, as UConn won the national title as a 7-seed in 2014, and Michigan State reached the Final Four as a “7” in 2015.  7-seeds won three of four in 2017, and they split against 10’s in 2016. 

Providence is a “10” against Texas A&M, URI is a “7” against Oklahoma. 

So, while you may be stuck with some tough decisions to make, keep this in mind – picking with your heart may be just as accurate as picking with your head when it comes to the teams right in the middle of all the madness.

NCAA Tournament Notes

Rhode Island bused its team and players to New Jersey late Monday night, on their way to Pittsburgh in advance of the snowstorm hitting New England.  The NCAA team charter will carry fans, students and family members on Wednesday.  The Rams will meet the media just before Noon on Wednesday, with their game against Oklahoma set to tip at 12:15 Thursday afternoon as the first official game in the Field of 64…Providence will depart on their chartered flight to Charlotte Wednesday afternoon, with their first media obligations not scheduled until Thursday…the Friars’ first-ever meeting with Texas A&M will be broadcast on 103.7 WEEI-FM and, with pregame coverage beginning at 12 Noon ET Friday, and tip-off at 12:15.