Wisconsin’s seed proves the RPI has to go, Badgers are now the hunters and Lance Kendricks is coming home
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Today is Monday, March 13, and this is what’s for breakfast.
The RPI is an outdated crutch that needs go. If you take anything from the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament bracket on Sunday, it should be that, especially when it comes to Wisconsin.
The Badgers, who finished second in the Big Ten regular season and runners-up in the conference tournament, were given a No. 8 seed and will face Virginia Tech on Thursday, with a potential date with the top overall seed in Villanova waiting for them on Saturday if they win.
Someone on the selection committee hates Wisco.. even when we're a 1 seed we have the toughest road EVER to championship! What a joke
— Jordan Smith (@JTSmith222) March 12, 2017
Before we dive into the ridiculousness of the seed, let’s get this out the way first: Wisconsin made this possible by going into a funk in February, losing five of seven to close the regular season. Had the Badgers managed to hold onto the two-game Big Ten lead they had on Feb. 12, we’re likely focused on how deep they could go in the next three weeks instead of being up in arms over the brutal seeding they received.
Nonetheless, it’s difficult to comprehend how a team that won 12 games in a conference that sent half its teams to the tournament could somehow be fifth among Big Ten teams on the overall seed list. Sure, Purdue makes sense as the regular-season Big Ten champion, as does Michigan as the conference tournament champion. But Minnesota as a No. 5? That doesn’t make a lick of sense until you take a look at the RPI rankings. The Gophers were 20th and the Badgers were 36th.
Minnesota, which lost twice to UW, finished below UW in standings and didn't advance as far in BTT, a 5 seed. UW an 8. Committee loves RPI.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) March 12, 2017
The RPI, which was first put to use in the early 1980s, is a result of a formula that considers a team’s winning percentage, its opponent’s winning percentage, and its opponents’ opponents winning percentage, while also giving more credit for a road win than a home win. It was designed as a chance to compare teams across the country when every game wasn’t on TV like they are now. It’s simplistic and the committee clearly relies on it too much. That’s the only thing that can explain why the Gophers are a No. 5 and playing so close to home in Milwaukee.
— Sam Dekker (@dekker) March 12, 2017
Every other metric, as laid out here at Land of 10, suggests the Badgers should have been seeded higher than both Minnesota and sixth-seeded Maryland. They went 3-0 against those teams, finished higher in the conference than both, went further in the conference tournament than both and, outside of the RPI, were ranked higher everywhere else. It’s close to being indefensible. But even if you’re going to make Wisconsin an 8-seed, how does coach Greg Gard’s team end up in the same bracket as the defending champs? Why not the West Region with Gonzaga as the No. 1 seed, like Northwestern?
Submitting my formal application to be on the selection committee… because apparently you don't even have to watch basketball to be on it
— Frank Kaminsky III (@FSKPart3) March 12, 2017
The first sign that something was amiss should have come when, at 21-3, the Badgers weren’t among the top 16 teams in the early bracket release in February. Wisconsin is largely a victim of a schedule that looked a lot more difficult on paper then it ended up being. Playing in the Maui Invitational, Gavitt Tipoff Games and the Big Ten/ACC Challenge; hosting a 2016 Final Four team in Oklahoma; and going to Marquette should have been good enough of a nonconference schedule but it clearly wasn’t in the committee’s mind.
If Wisconsin is a No. 8 seed and Maryland and Minnesota are 7 or 8, this is a lot more palatable for fans. But those teams are two and three seed lines higher than the Badgers, respectively, and that’s doesn’t pass the eye test nor the actual results. Something needs to change in the seeding process, and the first step is to do away with an archaic RPI system that is so old it was already in use when Minnesota coach Richard Pitino was born.
Motivation a plenty
The result of what amounts to a slap in the face by the NCAA Tournament selection committee could prove valuable for Wisconsin. In a bracket that is void of a lot of controversy, the Badgers slipping to the 8-seed qualifies as one. The players’ reaction to the news was subdued but telling when CBS showed them on the Selection Show. Everyone was clapping except for one — Jordan Hill.
Jordan Hill is most Wisconsin fans right now. pic.twitter.com/UHkGzI2XJF
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) March 12, 2017
And Hill’s face is likely how everyone in that room was feeling inside when they saw their seeding; the rest just did a better job hiding it. In the locker room, after the bracket was released, players responded to their placement with a measured tone but were likely seething inside at the lack of respect for them as a team and Wisconsin as a program.
Greg Gard wouldn't say it, but the Wisconsin coach is confused with the seeding and REALLY not happy with having to play Thursday
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) March 12, 2017
It’s difficult to take any positives out of drawing the No. 8 seed in a bracket containing the last two national title winners, but if there is anything, it’s the fact they get to be the hunters now. All season — and really the last three seasons — Wisconsin has been the big dog with a target on its back. Now, outside of the game against Virginia Tech, the Badgers will likely play as underdogs, a title the program wears better than most.
There is once again a former Wisconsin player on the Green Bay Packers roster.
Tight end Lance Kendricks was signed by the team on Saturday after spending his first six seasons with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) March 11, 2017
The move was met with excitement all over the state, especially for those that watched Kendricks as a prep at Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School and in college at Madison, where he was part of Wisconsin’s 2010 Big Ten title team.
Kendricks’ signing caused a buzz for a number of reasons, largely because he’s just the type of athletic tight end that can be dynamite in Green Bay’s offense. But it’s also because the presence of a Wisconsin native that played for the Badgers has become so rare.
Aaron Rodgers' newest weapon pic.twitter.com/2XcKdEa9ya
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) March 13, 2017
The relationship between Green Bay and the University of Wisconsin is a weird one. They have a great working relationship, most recently evidenced by the Badgers playing LSU at Lambeau Field last September. But when it comes to acquiring former Wisconsin players, Green Bay has generally steered clear. When the Packers drafted Jared Abbrederis in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, it broke a streak of 12 years between Badgers being drafted by Green Bay.
In fact, some of the biggest gripes about the Packers’ draft decisions in the last 25 years have come when a Wisconsin player was available and Green Bay went elsewhere. In 1992, the Packers picked CB Terrell Buckley out of Florida State at No. 5 overall instead of Wisconsin’s top cover man, in Troy Vincent. He went two picks later to Miami and turned into an All-Pro, while Buckley was a bust in Green Bay.
Nine years later, the Packers selected Texas A&M WR Robert Ferguson in the second round, 11 picks ahead of Badgers star Chris Chambers, who went to Miami. The latter would end up with 389 more catches, 5,655 more yards, and 45 more touchdowns than Ferguson.
It hasn’t always worked out poorly for the Packers, however. In need of a running back and with Montee Ball on the board in the 2013 draft, Green Bay traded down to the 61st overall pick. By the time the Packers selected, Ball was off the board (taken by Denver three picks earlier), so they selected Eddie Lacy. While Lacy has been up-and-down, he was clearly the better choice than Ball, who is already out of the league.
Kendricks signing is unlikely to result in the Packers all of a sudden becoming Madison North, but there is something cool about seeing a dream come true for a guy who grew up cheering for both of his home-state teams and then having a chance to play for each of them.
- Sean Keeler writes the NCAA Tournament selection committee owes Wisconsin an apology for its seeding.
- Former Badgers center Frank Kaminsky was less than pleased with where Wisconsin was slated when the bracket was released.
- Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter was nearly at a loss for words when asked his thoughts on being a No. 8 seed.
- The Badgers fell in the Big Ten tournament final to Michigan on Sunday, running into a group that is playing its best basketball of the season.