|March Madness will have to wait for the games after selection committee spoils the fun|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 17 March 2008 00:00|
How are we going to spend the next two days griping about who got slighted? How are we supposed to work ourselves into a lather about teams being sent the wrong places? And how will we ever muster the appropriate outrage over clearly undeserved seedings?
How dare the NCAA?
They had a slam dunk for controversy, and they blew it.
So here, because we need something to do besides fill out those brackets, are some injustices for madness maniacs to whine about:
- Duke isn't a No. 2 seed. Certainly not at the expense of a Wisconsin or even a Stanford.
Yes, we know Duke is the paragon of college basketball and everyone else should consider themselves lucky to play with the Blue Devils. But strip the name off the front of the jersey, and this year's Blue Devils would look a lot more like a No. 3 seed.
They didn't win their regular-season conference title. Not only did they not win their conference tournament, they couldn't even deliver on that rubber match with North Carolina, getting bounced by Clemson in the semifinals. Throw in the loss to the Tar Heels in the regular-season finale, and the Blue Devils are heading to the NCAA tournament with two losses in their last three games and are 5-4 over the last nine.
True, Duke did beat Wisconsin. But that was at home way back in November. The Badgers are a different team these days, winners of 10 straight and sweeping the Big Ten titles. Wisconsin may not be the prettiest team to watch - folks on the West Coast had to be wondering just what game the Big Ten was playing this weekend - but the Badgers are effective. They lead the country in scoring defense, they take care of the ball and they have that rarity today, a balanced offense.
Stanford, meanwhile, reached the final of the Pac-10 tournament and lost by 3 to UCLA, a team many are touting for a third straight trip to the Final Four.
``These are really close decisions,'' said Tom O'Connor, athletic director at George Mason and the chairman of the selection committee.
- The wrong Arizona team got in.
The Sun Devils beat the Wildcats twice and finished with a better record in the Pac-10 and overall. Yet Arizona State is headed for the NIT while Arizona gets an all-expenses paid trip to the nation's capital.
``They were 2-7 against the top four teams in the Pac-10,'' O'Connor said. ``But in the final analysis ... the committee didn't feel they were one of the 34 best at-large teams in the country.''
- The Big East got twice as many teams as the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC had the toughest RPI of any conference in the country, and the second-highest winning percentage. It is home to the No. 1 team in the country and has two in the top seven. The Big East, meanwhile, is fifth in RPI and has one team in the top 10. Of its top four teams, three couldn't even get out of the Big East tournament quarterfinals.
And yet the Big East got eight teams to the ACC's four. Yes, that was Seth Greenberg you heard screaming from Virginia Tech on Sunday night.
If the Big East is going to be rewarded for supersizing itself, why stop at eight? Give them 10 teams or an even dozen.
What the heck, why not just send everybody?
(Actually, practically every team does get a spot in the postseason, thanks to the addition of the 16-team field of the new College Basketball Invitational. But as Florida forward Adam Allen said recently, ``Nobody wants to go to the NIT. It's like the champion of the losers if you win that. Everybody wants to play in the NCAA tournament.'')
- North Carolina's road sure looks bumpy.
As the top seed overall, the Tar Heels are supposed to get special treatment. It's like the athletic equivalent of being the teacher's pet. Nothing outrageous, mind you, but the committee gives them extra consideration when it comes to staying close to home and who they play.
On paper, it looks like the Tar Heels are living a charmed life. They have as close to a gimme as possible in the first game, playing the winner of the opening round, aka, the sacrificial lamb. They won't have to leave North Carolina until the Final Four, with their first two games scheduled for Raleigh, the next two in Charlotte.
Look a little closer, though, and the bracket isn't quite so friendly. Indiana looms in the second game. The Hoosiers might be putting the fun in dysfunctional these days, but if they get their act together, look out. The bottom half of the bracket has Tennessee, a former No. 1, and Louisville, one of the hottest teams in the country until that little hiccup in the Big East tournament.
Maybe the selection committee is as tired of Tyler Hansbrough as the rest of us.
- We appreciate the potential of an O.J. Mayo-Michael Beasley matchup, but a Tennessee-Memphis rematch would have been a whole lot more fun.
The committee swears it doesn't get cute with the brackets, and any sideshows are purely accidental. But it's managed some good ones over the years. Some young coach is always playing his former boss/mentor and looking mighty uncomfortable about it. Last year, Louisville played its first two games in Rupp Arena, home of archrival Kentucky.
And the year Dean Smith broke Adolph Rupp's record for all-time wins, North Carolina was set up to play Indiana and Bob Knight in the potential record-breaker. Knight, of course, later broke Smith's record.
The potential for Vols-Tigers redux was there. Memphis is a No. 1 seed and Tennessee a No. 2 - matching their rankings from that regular-season game. All the committee had to do was swap Texas and Tennessee's brackets.
``We really don't deal with 'What ifs?''' O'Connor said. ``They still have to play the games.''
Thanks to the committee, one of our favorites will be a lot less fun this year.
Nancy Armour is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to her at narmourap.org