Notre Dame plays in the toughest conference in America, won 25 games this year, and took #2 seed Duke down to the wire last night in the ACC title game. So of course the Irish were screwed over by the Selection Committee with a low #5 seed given their resume. The Irish, who had the 3rd best ACC record, and went to the conference title game are the 5th highest ranked ACC team in the tournament because, you know, that makes sense right?
Heading into Sunday, Notre Dame’s run through the ACC Tournament had the Irish projected as a #3 seed by ESPN’s Bracketology. The ESPN gimmick is by no means scientific, but it is a half decent barometer for where a team should be seeded. The selection committee, however, had other ideas seeding the Irish 5th with a first round matchup against Princeton.
If you look at Notre Dame’s seed in a bubble you can make justifications for the low seed despite a 25 win season and runner up position in the toughest conference in America’s tournament. When you compare Notre Dame’s seed to other ACC teams, however, it just doesn’t add up.
Let’s start with #2 seed Louisville. Notre Dame and Louisville had similar records with Notre Dame having one more victory and one more loss given their longer run in the ACC Tourney. Louisville lost their first game in the ACC Tournament to Duke. Notre Dame played three games in the tourney including wins over Virginia and Florida State. Head to head, Notre Dame and Louisville split their regular season meetings. All of that yet Louisville got a number 2 seed and Notre Dame got a 5.
Florida State as a 3 seed makes even less sense when compared to Notre Dame at a 5 seed. Notre Dame and Florida State played each other three times throughout the season. Notre Dame won two of those three games including Friday night’s victory in the ACC Tournament semifinal. Like Notre Dame, Florida State had 25 wins this year but they had one fewer loss. You know, because they lost to Notre Dame in the semifinals and played one less game.
So almost identical record, same conference, longer run in the conference tournament, two head to head wins, and yet Notre Dame is a 5 seed and Florida State is a 3 seed in the same bracket.
Ok, so the selection committee gave Notre Dame little to no respect when they seeded them fifth. Fine. Notre Dame can overcome that and still make a run in the tournament just as they have the last two years when they advanced to the Elite 8 both years.
Guess what though? The selections committee’s lack of respect for the Irish could end up helping Notre Dame in the long run. The West bracket looks like the weakest of the four brackets on paper upon first glance. Gonzaga is the weakest #1 seed and if you have to face one of the #1’s (North Carolina, Villanova, and Kansas are the others), Gonzaga is the one you want to face.
Arizona as a #2 seed won’t be a fun matchup for anyone, but because the Irish are the 5th seed, they will be in the top of the bracket and would have to play Gonzaga before Arizona. The 3rd seed are those familiar Seminoles who Notre Dame has shown they are capable of beating on a neutral court just a couple days ago. At the 4 seed, West Virginia, on the other hand, would be a tough match up for the Irish.
The Irish will of course first have to get past their first round opponent Princeton in the historically tough 5/12 matchup. Should the Irish survive the first round 5/12 jinx, they’ll get the winner of West Virginia and Bucknell before a date with Gonzaga would loom. That is assuming the Zags get past their first contests of course.
The selection committee may not have shown the Irish any respect with their seeding, but the Irish will have a chance to do what we’ve seen them do over and over the last few seasons – earn it on the court. This team is used to exceeding pre-season expectations and making longer runs in the ACC Tourney than the “experts” predict. This March will be no different.