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What they're saying about the NCAA men's basketball tournament

The UMBC men's basketball team is selected to play in the NCAA Division 1 Tournament as a 16th seed. They will face No. 1 seed Virginia in the first round. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

Here’s a sampling of what college basketball experts were saying and talking about after the NCAA Tournament bracket was released Sunday:

1 vs. 16

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No. 1 seeds have won all 132 meetings with No. 16 seeds, and the average margin of victory the past three years has been 28.4 points. Since 1998, only four of 80 matchups have been decided by single digits, all of which came in a three-year span (2012-14). One of those actually involved one of this year's No. 1 seeds, as Kansas struggled with 16th-seeded Western Kentucky in 2013 before winning by seven points.

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The [Villanova] Wildcats belong on the short list of championship contenders because they have been one of the best teams in the country for most of this season.

Villanova is fueled by its best offense of the analytics era, a period Sports Illustrated has previously defined as beginning in 2001–02 that happens to coincide with the start of head coach Jay Wright’s tenure.

Freshman forward Brandon Horvath (Southern) (12) averages 3.4 points for the America East champions. The 16th-seeded Retrievers face top-seeded Villanova on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.
Freshman forward Brandon Horvath (Southern) (12) averages 3.4 points for the America East champions. The 16th-seeded Retrievers face top-seeded Villanova on Friday in Charlotte, N.C. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

In a field heavy with teams that don't fit the norm — strict and suffocating Virginia, young and lottery-bound Duke, perimeter-oriented Villanova, relentlessly pressing West Virginia — the [Purdue] Boilermakers' style is as straightforward as the man at their helm. They defend well (30th nationally in adjusted efficiency) and plainly, using a man-to-man approach from which they have not varied for even one possession. They are experienced, the lone title contender to start four seniors. (The exception, 6'1" sophomore Carsen Edwards, is their leading scorer, averaging 18.5 points, and their most effective playmaker.)

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… there was one thing viewers did agree upon, no matter their rooting interests: TBS’s selection show – especially the attempt at creating artificial suspense with an unconventional approach to revealing the field of 68 teams – was poorly conceived at best. At worst? It was a mess.

The message given by its selections on Sunday night was just as clear as in years past: High-end victories matter more than anything else.

It’s why Florida State easily made it into the field, and why other teams with poor nonconference schedules got slotted in 8-vs.-9 games. And it’s why Saint Mary’s, with its 28-5 record and one of the 10 or 15 best players in the country, is heading to the National Invitation Tournament.

Toss in Syracuse’s boost from both a few notable road victories and a strong nonconference schedule, and the committee further solidified the direction it has headed in for the three previous seasons.

With an RPI of 34, the [USC] Trojans become the highest-ranked major conference team to be left out of the tournament since it was expanded to 68 teams in 2011.

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