CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Using the weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll as a guide, the upcoming 2017 NCAA Tournament should be a wide-open affair.
Volatility has been the norm all season with 10 or more ranked teams losing games in most weeks, and often losing three out of four over a two-week span. The NCAA Tournament selection committee will have to peel the onion several layers to justify their 68-team selections this season.
The positive look is this has been a season of parity. The negative view is a down year for college basketball. The national pundits have already been spreading word that the mid-major crop of potential at-large teams is weak, so return to the top -- the power conferences -- to fill out the field.
Yet a closer look reveals a lot of those power conference teams expected to get in -- Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Michigan, Michigan State and others -- have resumes no better than their mid-major peers, and often much worse records.
The committee consistently says it wants teams that challenge themselves on the road, and win. For one example, compare the resume for Monmouth (26-5), should it lose in the MAAC Tournament, to now No. 25 Miami (20-9).
Monmouth has 11 road wins, four in non-conference including one at Memphis. Miami, which lost Monday night at Virginia Tech, has only four road wins, one at Virginia, one in non-conference at North Florida.
Or how about Akron (23-6) vs. Syracuse (17-13). Akron lost three non-conference road games, to Youngstown State, Creighton and No. 4 Gonzaga. Syracuse played and lost one non-conference road game at Wisconsin, and has just two road wins overall.
There is one week left in the regular season, with key power conference games still to be played. No. 22 Wisconsin has a pair of tough home games, Thursday vs. Iowa and Sunday vs. Minnesota. No. 23 Virginia is at Pitt on Saturday, and No. 24 Iowa State is home to Oklahoma State on Tuesday night and at No 10 West Virginia on Friday night.
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