WASHINGTON — This time, the only leak was coming from the back of Mark Hollis’ skull.
How else do you explain why Minnesota is a 5 seed in Milwaukee while the Wisconsin Badgers, who beat the Gophers twice and amassed more wins away from home (10 to Minnesota’s 7) and possessed a better KenPom.com rating (23 to Minnesota’s 33), are an 8 seed in Buffalo? With top-seeded Villanova, the beast of the East, waiting on the other side of the pod?
Big Ten seeds in the 2017 tourney:
Michigan State 9
— Jeff Yuan (@jeffyuan19) March 12, 2017
Saturday: Wisconsin 76, Northwestern 48.
Sunday: Badgers get an 8, Wildcats get an 8.
Friday: Northwestern sends Maryland packing. Badgers dance on.
Sunday: Terps land a 6 and Xavier in Orlando. Bucky lands an 8 and Virginia Tech in upstate New York.
What? Did Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez leave a horse’s head in the bed of Hollis, the NCAA selection committee chair and his contemporary at Michigan State? Something smellier?
“Um, I might get in trouble if I answer that,” Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard said, tactfully. “But I said before, I don’t know exactly what goes on in those meetings, how they evaluate schedules.
“They said that they’re not looking at trends during the year, just looking at the top teams. I don’t know exactly the logic or reasoning behind that. So for me to try and throw out an opinion probably wouldn’t … we just need to get ready to play on Thursday and accept it for what it is and get ready for Virginia Tech.”
Last March, the hand-wringing was over a leaked bracket that popped up on Twitter, much to absolute rage of the bean-counters at CBS. This year, the goofiness is seven Big Ten seeds — Purdue, as a justifiable 4, notwithstanding — slotted willy-nilly across the bracket regardless of relative merit.
Or lack thereof.
‘We’ll just prepare for Virginia Tech the best we can.’
— Wisconsin coach Greg Gard
It was if they were shoved in there at the last minute, for kicks, in an attempt to try and patch the holes left by other matchups. Either that, or someone really, really, really thought a reunion between the Badgers (25-9) and Hokies coach Buzz Williams, the boss at Marquette from 2008-2014, would sell tickets to the curious in Buffalo.
Spoiler alert: It won’t.
“We’ll just prepare for Virginia Tech the best we can,” Gard continued. “That’s the best way for us to approach this.”
Skeptics will rightly point out the Badgers’ five wins over top 50 Ratings Percentage Index squads as a little on the light side, and the beatings taken at the hands of Creighton, North Carolina and Purdue away from home left the kind of bruises too big to ignore.
On the other hand, to cast the Big Ten’s runner-up as an 8 is historically spiteful, historically dumb, or historically brave.
Regardless, it’s historic: Since 2000, before Sunday, only one other Big Ten team has won at least 25 games and landed with a seed worse than a 7: 2017 Wisconsin Badgers, meet the 2008 Indiana Hoosiers.
From 2000 through 2016, the last 13 teams before this year’s Badgers that had won exactly 25 games heading into the Big Dance wound up with an average seed line of 4.2.
Wisconsin got an 8. Which means Hollis and his committee cohorts apparently know something we don’t. Either that, or they’re drinking something we sure as hell wouldn’t.