Monday, March 17th, 2003
Before we get into what the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee did wrong,
which there is plenty of, let's start off with what they did right. Butler,
Gonzaga, and Southern Illinois all received bids, despite not winning their
conference tournaments and failing to secure automatic bids.
It is so gratifying to see the committee use its heart and tell us that although
they could have gone the safe route and taken other big conference schools,
quite frankly, the tournament is vastly more interesting when the Salukis
of Southern Illinois play for the upset in the first round, as opposed to
So I commend the committee and it decision to reward the small conferences.
What I can't commend is just about every other critical decision the committee
Let's start with one of the largest crimes against humanity, and that is
pitting Wildcat vs. Wildcat, Arizona vs. Kentucky in the semifinals if the
two schools make it to New Orleans. Whether you follow college hoops religiously
or peripherally, you know that Arizona and Kentucky are clearly the top two
teams in the country. This isn't open to debate. And when you have a chance
to see the top two teams play for the championship, you do it, even if Kentucky
has to travel 20 miles further.
To see Kentucky in the semis was a shock for Arizona I'm sure, until that
is they looked at their own bracket. As Dick Vitale is often heard exclaiming,
"Are you #$%@ kidding me?" In order to advance from the West, Arizona will
have to get through Kansas, Duke, and Illinois.
Kansas feels it should have been a one-seed, and they probably have a point.
Kansas won the Big 12 regular season title, and advanced further in the Big
12 tournament than Texas, the same Texas that received a one-seed. The committee
thought there were five teams who deserved to be seeded one, and Kansas just
drew the short straw, although it seems they were superior to Texas.
Okay, fine. So seed Kansas two, but to put them with Arizona, one of the
obvious top two teams, is absolutely mind-boggling. And if that isn't enough,
the committee also throws ACC Tournament-winner Duke and Big 10 Tournament-winner
Illinois in the same bracket as Arizona and Kansas.
What the Committee told us this weekend was that conference tournaments don't
matter. Because if they did, Illinois would be at minimum, a three-seed.
Illinois was absolutely jobbed by the committee. If Illinois were deemed
a four-seed, do it in a bracket outside of Arizona or Kentucky. To put both
Duke and the Illini with Kansas and Arizona makes the West absolutely laughable.
You could make an argument that if Kansas, Duke, or Illinois were in either
the South or East, they could be considered favorites.
And how does Texas get the play-in game winner? Were they anointed the best
team in the land? How is it possible that Kentucky, winners of 23 consecutive
games, undefeated in the SEC regular season and tournament, not get that
privilege? Not that it really matters, because Kentucky will beat any 16-seed,
it just seems odd is all.
And I know there has been a lot of griping about Alabama, and all I can say
is, I agree with all the critics. There is no fathomable explanation justifying
the Crimson Tide's inclusion in the tournament. They were 5-9 in their last
14 games, and although they had very strong early season wins, there is no
rationale that justifies their inclusion. North Carolina had early season
wins over Kansas and Stanford, as well as Connecticut later in the year,
and no one discussed the possibility of a Tar Heel bid.
Alabama played in the subpar SEC West, which means they only played Kentucky,
Florida, and Georgia once, and still went 7-9 in conference. And lastly,
Alabama showed how much heart they have in the SEC Tournament. With their
whole season on the line, Vanderbilt beat them.
Texas Tech, although they really didn't deserve to be the recipient of a
bid, showed infinitely more heart than Alabama. After squeaking by Baylor,
the Red Raiders beat one-seeded Texas, and then lost in overtime to one-seeded
Oklahoma in the Big 12 semifinals. Going 6-10 in conference was probably
to much to overcome for Bob Knight and his bunch, but even they would have
been a more worthy choice than the Tide.
Boston College and Seton Hall, both 10-6 in the Big East, probably should
have made it ahead of Auburn and Alabama, but in the end, I couldn't care
less about seeing any four of these teams play. None of them showed me anything
in their conference tournaments that warranted getting excited, unlike Tech,
who fought and scraped for every inch of their tournament life.
If the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee really had a clue, the play-in
game would match two at-large, big conference schools instead of two conference
winners. There certainly would be more interest in, for example, Alabama-BYU
rather than Texas Southern-UNC Asheville. If a school wins their conference
tournament, give them the opportunity to play in the real tournament, and
not have to play their way in.
Then the at-large winner would receive a 12-seed, and go from there. Give
the kids from Texas Southern or UNC Asheville a chance to get demolished
by a one-seed. They've earned that right. And as for a winner, Kentucky will
cut down their first nets of the season.
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