After top-seeded Villanova fell to eighth-seeded Wisconsin in a thrilling contest on Saturday, people were quick to claim the game shouldn’t have happened in the second round. That is absolute nonsense but falls in line with the typical hindsight mentality surrounding the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a newsflash: unless there’s a major upset, almost every team faces a tough opponent in the second round.
Being a one-seed isn’t as easy as it seems. At best, your second-round matchup is going to be a nine-seed. Eights and nines are almost always decent major-conference teams that can often play with anyone. Major conference squads aren’t going to be intimidated by anyone and are almost always game for the challenge. After all, they have played relatively tough schedules all season.
Wisconsin was a senior-laden team that plays a difficult style to prepare for. Regardless of where the Badgers were seeded they would have been a tough second-round matchup. They went 27-9 and won 12 games in the Big Ten. But, the Big Ten was down this year, Wisconsin’s strength of schedule ranked 83rd, it went 5-7 against the RPI Top 50 and just 14-9 against the Top 100. The Badgers also went just 5-4 on the road. So they didn’t have a stellar resume.
Should Wisconsin have been given a higher seed? Probably, but this wasn’t some open and shut case.
The thing is, when upsets don’t happen in the first round, everyone will face difficult matchups in the second. This year, upsets largely didn’t happen, which means higher-seeded teams are facing tougher paths than in other years. It’s that simple.
There’s plenty to complain about with the selection committee’s methodology. Trust me, I have in the past. But if you’re angry because your team had a tough second-round matchup, you’re being foolish. There are only 32 teams left in the second round, the vast majority of them will face tough games.
Only 16 teams can make it out of the tournament’s first weekend. It’s a harsh reality that virtually everyone will face a difficult matchup to make it that far.