If the goal of CBS and Turner was to add more drama to the selection show on Sunday night, it may have picked the right year.
In the first 10 minutes Sunday, we will know the field of 68 NCAA Tournament teams, which is where most of the drama usually exists. The next half hour will be spent revealing the brackets.
The idea, whether you agree with it or not, is to add a second reveal instead of just a single, drawn-out one over the first portion of the show.
In a March Madness in which the only consensus on Final Four favorites is that there is no consensus, a favorable draw will go longer than usual in thinning a field where the talent level is tough to differentiate.
“I am very much in the herd mentality on that one,” CBS Sports analyst and former Ohio State star Clark Kellogg said. “I don’t think there’s any real separation of teams, similar to what we’ve had in years past. There’s a cluster of 20 teams that can win it, another group of six to eight teams that can get to the Final Four.”
“It’s just that type of year,” Turner analyst and former North Carolina star Brendan Haywood said. “We don’t have the dominant teams with the traditional NBA players. Look at some of the best teams: Xavier, Virginia — those guys might not have one pro on their team. That’s not what we are used to seeing from teams that are top-five ballclubs.”
So then, on whom can you rely when the talent level is so tightly bunched? Haywood has to grit his teeth and admit his old rival Duke Blue Devils “are the most talented team in the land.” Duke’s skill does not guarantee much, but it will be part of the usual conversation when those brackets are broken down.
Even when there is no favorite, you have to pick a winner, right?
“It hurts me to say that,” said Haywood, who will be a part of a four-hour pregame selection show airing online.
“When I fill out my bracket I know I should probably have Duke in the Final Four or possibly winning the national championship. It’s going to hurt me to do it. Now we are seeing [the Blue Devils] execute defensively. That was the only thing holding them back from making a big-time run. Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] has addressed that by playing so much zone, so watch out for the Duke Blue Devils even though I hate saying it.”
If Duke is the most talented team, Michigan is the hottest. For the second straight year, the Wolverines rolled through the Big Ten Tournament and established themselves as legitimate title threats.
“They’ve played as well as anybody the past three weeks, clearly. They’ve made the biggest jump,” said Kellogg, who will be joined by Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Seth Davis, Ernie Johnson and Greg Gumbel, on the selection show that will air on TBS for the first time.
“They are not only capable of defending you well, they really embrace it now. They have an identity defensively because they can get to the ball at the point of attack with pressure and good strength. They have got length, which can create deflections. We know how good and difficult they can be to defend because of the intricate system John Beilein runs with big guys out on the perimeter who can shoot, guards that can make plays off the dribble. Certainly in the last six years or so this is the best defensive team Michigan has had and the most versatility they have defensively.”