A Higher Seed is Not Always Better

Illinois Coach John Groce will not let his team back down in the big dance (USA Today)
Illinois Coach John Groce will not let his team back down in the big dance (USA Today)

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projections had placed the Illinois Fighting Illini above a #10 seed in recent weeks. In a recent scenario by Lunardi, he had the Illini as a #8 seed, and their first round game would have been against #9 Oregon (in the west region). If they won, they would have faced #1 Gonzaga, whom Illinois beat earlier this year. Most recently, he had the Illini placed as a #9 seed.

The Illini surprisingly received a #7 seed. But that high of a seed came with a heavy cost. The Illini’s opponent is #10 Colorado. Lunardi’s most recent predictions had both Illinois and Colorado as #9 seeds. This shows that the Buffaloes are no easy opponent. To make things worse, Illinois would face #2 Miami in the second round if they could get past Colorado. Although Miami is a lower seed than Gonzaga, most experts would say that the Hurricanes are a tougher opponent.

In some cases, I believe that the NCAA selection committee places a team at a higher seed than they deserve.  They do this because the committee fells that a particular team deserves to play tougher competition. I believe Illinois fell into this category. The Illini’s record (22-12) probably deserves a double-digit seed; but due to their tough strength-of-schedule, they were able to move up in the rankings.

You can expect the Illini to have more fight (note: did not say success) in the tournament with Coach John Groce. Groce was the coach of the Ohio Bobcats when they advanced to the sweet 16 as a #13 seed last season.  The Illini will have to shoot well from the outside and find some interior scoring if they hope to advance in the tournament.

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