NCAA Tournament: Seeding not necessarily believing


For the first time in recent memory, perhaps ever, the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn't get charbroiled for leaving out teams deemed worthy by fans and the media.

There were no obvious snubs. This time, it was the seeding in the 68-team bracket that drew an enraged reaction.

"I think the committee screwed up the seeding pretty badly," said ESPN's Jay Bilas, a former Duke star.

Complaints came from all directions. Is Wisconsin (the No. 5 seed in the West) too low? Should third-seeded New Mexico have been placed on the second line? Memphis is just a six seed? Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon a 12th seed? Miami or Duke not a No. 1 seed?

The parity that has engulfed men's college basketball has made seeding the hot topic.

"Once we got past those first two lines, the field was very balanced," said selection committee chairman Mike Bobin- ski. "Honestly, it was really difficult for us to put them in order this year. We don't see a great difference between a 6 (seed), a 4, a 7, a 3."

It will be interesting to see the mix of seeds reaching the Final Four, April 6-8 in Atlanta. Azaleas and upsets, anyone?

Look at Louisville

Few can argue with Louisville (29-5) being awarded the overall No. 1 seed. But what raised eyebrows was the Cardinals being placed in the Midwest Regional ahead of Indiana (27-6).

The Hoosiers were shipped to the East Regional despite winning the outright, regular-season championship in the Big Ten, generally regarded as the top conference this year.

Louisville is two victories from playing in the regional semifinals in Indianapolis, about 90 miles away. Indiana, located 45 miles from Indian- apolis in Bloomington, Ind., is looking to advance to the Sweet 16 in Washington.

Indiana has only itself to blame. Louisville put a bow on its season by winning the Big East Tournament with a huge second-half comeback against Syracuse while Indiana was eliminated by Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Rise of the little guys

Fans of the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences will keep a close watch on how the teams from two leagues outside the six "power" conferences fare.

The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 both placed five teams in the NCAA Tournament. That compares with four for the ACC and just three for the SEC.

Three other nonpower conferences - Missouri Valley, Sun Belt and West Coast - received an at-large bid in addition to their league's automatic qualifier.

In the eyes of the power leagues, the pressure is on the little guys to show they're worthy. The Mountain West, ranked at or near the top in conference RPI all season, enters with confidence.

"I've been blown away by the talent in this league, and the coaching," said Boise State coach Leon Rice.

Toughest regional? Try the Midwest

The Midwest Regional may as well be renamed the Legends Division (if Big Ten football hadn't already taken it).

This gauntlet features some of the legendary programs in college basketball, including No. 1 seed Louisville, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Michigan State, No. 5 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Memphis and No. 10 Cincinnati.

There are 12 national championships among that group.

Not since Carter administration

For the first time since 1977, the NCAA Tournament is without a team from the Lone Star State, which has 21 Division I men's teams.

There were high hopes for Baylor (ranked 18th in the preseason coaches poll) and Texas (tied for 24th). But Baylor finished 18-14 and Texas ended up 16-17.

The Longhorns failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, snapping a 14-year run.

"The NCAA Tournament is something we've never taken for granted. I certainly haven't," Texas coach Rick Barnes told The Associated Press. "I'm disappointed. But we are who we are. We weren't good enough."

Statistical indicators

Coaches often point to field-goal percentage defense, 3-point field-goal percentage offense and rebounding margin as three of the most important statistics when analyzing a team's strengths.

Here are the highly seeded teams that rank at or near the top in those categories nationally:

Field-goal percentage defense: 1. Kansas, 4. Georgetown, 5. Syracuse, 6. Florida, 10. Gonzaga.

Three-point shooting percentage: 3. Indiana, 4. Duke.

Rebounding margin: 9. Indiana, 14. Michigan State, 15. Kansas.

Zags or Bulldogs?

Our guess is, it depends who you ask. But this much is certain: Gonzaga is the first No. 1 seed from outside the six "power conferences" since Memphis in 2008.

Perhaps that's a good omen for the Zags, er, Bulldogs. The 2008 Memphis team, coached by current Kentucky boss John Calipari, reached the Final Four before losing in overtime to Kansas in the championship game.

Luck on St. Paddy's Day

Imagine the surprise then jubilation when the University of California basketball team learned that, as a No. 12 seed, it will be playing in San Jose, less than a one-hour drive from Berkeley, depending on traffic.

"It's going to be like a home game," said Cal guard Justin Cobbs.

That can't be good news for fifth-seeded UNLV in the Rebels' matchup Thursday. The NCAA selection committee tries to avoid putting higher seeds at a geographical disadvantage such as this.

But Bobinski said this was a case where the committee got into a bind because of other bracketing rules and had no choice but to drop Cal a slot from its natural 11 seed and to place the Bears in San Jose.


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