Selection Sunday: What we're missing most about NCAA tournament tradition

Sporting News

"Selection Sunday."

Those two words typically encapsulate the joy that comes from the possibilities that emerge once the NCAA men's basketball tournament is revealed. That sports holiday was canceled this year — like so many other sporting events — because of the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

The absence of Selection Sunday leaves a tremendous void in the sports world, and here all the things we will miss today without it:

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Last conference title games

It's the final day of conference championship games, and today would have been the end of the AAC, Atlantic-10, Big Ten, SEC and Sun Belt tournaments.

Would Dayton have won the A-10 tournament? Who would have won the SEC tournament? The Big Ten tournament is always special in our house, and this year that would have been as wide open as ever. Which one of those double-digit tournament teams would have taken the conference tournament?

Mostly though, we want the Big Ten tournament to be over. The 32 automatic bids are in. Then, we can get to the annual Selection Show on CBS at 6 p.m. ET.

'Just show us the bracket!'

I don't know how long Greg Gumbel has been doing the Selection Show, but once he welcomes you to March Madness, you know it's on.

Gumbel, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis do a fantastic job in the studio, and the Selection Show learned the hard way not to reveal the bracket alphabetically or to stretch the bracket to more than a two-hour format.

The presentation does not need tweaked. Have a few live look-ins for the bubble teams and first-timers. Let us know who the No. 1 seeds are. It comes down to one thing more than anything else.

How many of you have screamed in your living room, "Just show us the (expletive) teams?"

Oh wait, that's me every year five minutes in. Sorry, Greg.

Experts scrambling for upsets

No matter what coverage you follow, it's always interesting to see analysts step over each other to call the first big upset.

“I've got Belmont!”

“I've got Hofstra!”

We are guilty as charged. Earlier this week, I looked up the 30 teams seeded No. 12 or lower that reached the Sweet 16 to kind of profile the next great sleeper team. By the way, teams seeded No. 12 or lower are 1-29 in the Sweet 16 or beyond.

Not that some teams didn't get close.

Thinking about that led to memories of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2005, a team led by Ed McCants. We played against McCants in high school. He was that good. Then there is that 2012 Ohio team (my alma mater) that made a run to the Sweet 16 and lost 73-65 to North Carolina in overtime.

The Bobcats were this close to becoming the first teams seeded No. 12 or lower to beat a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16.

That player. That team. We're always looking for the next great Cinderella story, and now we have to wait another year.

Bubble, seed, location rage

For all the examples of bracketology we have — Ryan Fagan does a great job for Sporting News — we have Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm and so many others.

That's why we have most of the answers before the test starts, but the reaction to a handful of inconsistencies is always off the charts.

Why did this 13-loss team get in? Why was this six-loss team left out? Why was that team shipped to Boise? Why did that team get a home game?

Watch Michigan and Michigan State fans argue over their seeding. Listen to Kentucky coach John Calipari play the role of the villain no matter where the Wildcats are headed. Hell, the NIT bracket is disputed every year.

Does it really matter? By the time CBS would have brought on committee chairman Kevin White, we are already have the bracket anyway.

Filling out that first bracket

This is what I miss the most. This is what we all miss the most.

There is just something special about seeing the bracket in its entirety for the first time. Ever since I was in fourth grade (was Gumbel doing the show then?), I fill out a blank bracket by hand as the teams are revealed. I know it's going to be online in a few seconds. I don't care.

With a few exceptions (one year we were traveling), this is a family tradition. My wife does it. My kids do it. My sister got married on Selection Sunday last year, and I walked her down to the beach. The ceremony didn't start until the bracket was revealed, and that was because my sister understood.

It's just a part of who we are. It's a part of all of us. Every treasured memory. Every brutal heartbreak. Selection Sunday brings a sense of togetherness with my family and friends complete with that frenetic rush that makes March, well, mad. Typically you can't sleep before one of those events. I always have trouble sleeping after the bracket is out. Judging by my picks the last two years, Virginia in 2018 and Duke in 2019, it's not about me winning the bracket. You won't miss my picks.

You will miss the moments.

All of that was wiped out this year because of the coronavirus.

That was the right call now, but we can say with 100 percent certainty we can't wait for the next NCAA tournament.

The next Selection Sunday cannot get here soon enough.

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