When the latest info from an FBI probe scandal encompassed more than two dozen programs last month, it seemed a given the NCAA tournament would suffer aftershocks.
Some of the biggest names in college basketball were mentioned as allegedly being involved in improper benefit cases.
But when the smoke cleared, there were no programs, players or coaches banned from the court.
The NCAA tournament will go on this year as it always has, with blue bloods looking to add to their Final Four tradition, Cinderella teams hoping to experience magic, and players and coaches rising to the occasion to become March Madness’ shining stars.
NCAA President Mark Emmert addressed the problems with corruption surrounding the game, which seem to be getting only worse, but those issues might not dominate the narrative for the Big Dance like first thought.
These are five things to watch going into Selection Sunday:
Will the No. 1 overall seed have the toughest route to the NCAA title?
How could you not feel sorry for Villanova last season? The defending champions earned the No. 1 overall seed only to be placed in the East Region with Wisconsin, which was no ordinary No. 8. The Badgers had four seniors who played in back-to-back Final Fours, including the national title game in 2015. They weren’t intimidated at all and knocked off the Wildcats 65-62 in the second round. It followed a trend: The No. 1 overall seed has won the national title only twice since 2008 (back-to-back years with Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2013).
Will tournament seeding be as egregious as last year?
When was the last time college basketball fans and experts got as worked up about questionable seeding as they did last year? The selection committee had Wisconsin as an eighth seed after the Badgers finished second in the Big Ten and reached the conference tournament final. How about Wichita State as a No. 10 seed despite a 30-4 record and a top-10 ranking by Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statistics? There were other head-scratchers, but maybe the committee learned its lesson.
Enjoy one-and-done impact while it lasts
There soon could be a day when the NCAA tournament is no longer a showcase for top freshman-age players auditioning for the NBA draft. One-and-done is a hot topic right now. The money passed around between agents, shoe company executives and coaches trying to get their hands on top recruits might be different if high school players could go directly to the NBA. For now, we get to see potential lottery picks like Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton possibly lead their teams deep into March.
Can Arizona overcome a tumultuous month?
Sean Miller has had eight tries, but he has never coached Arizona to the Final Four. This might be his most talented team, with All-Americas Ayton and Alonzo Trier, but will the distractions be too much to handle? Miller continues to deny an ESPN report that an alleged FBI wiretap caught a pay-for-play conversation between him and an agent regarding Ayton. The university backs both coach and player. But the questions will keep being asked. Trier was suspended briefly after a banned performance-enhancing substance was found in his system, but he was allowed to return.
Can the Big Ten get a fifth team in the field of 68?
For most of the season, a majority of projections had Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan as locks to make the tournament. During a 13-win Big Ten season, Nebraska played its way onto the bubble. So did Penn State, with three wins against the Buckeyes, including one in the Big Ten tournament. But it appears that won’t be enough for the Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions. They didn’t pick up any quality wins outside of the Big Ten, and it’s a down year for the league.