Selection Sunday used to be fascinating but maddening. Fascinating when the NCAA revealed the bracket for its basketball tournament. Maddening when the selection committee refused to detail its deliberations.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” was the stock answer offered in 2002 by panel chairman Lee Fowler, then the athletic director at North Carolina State.
It wasn’t funny, and it was beyond unnecessary.
This year brought change. Sunday the stealth committee became transparent.
Through documents, conference calls and a television special, the NCAA identified the last six teams excluded and, by releasing its 1-through-68 seed list, the last four of the 37 at-large teams selected.
And guess what? The Earth didn’t stop rotating, and James Naismith didn’t emerge from the grave to object.
So many thanks to the folks at the NCAA’s HQ in Indianapolis. Sure, some of the information is inside baseball stuff, of interest only to mavens such as me.
But educating fans, coaches, players and media knotheads about the process is never a bad thing.
Among the insights offered Sunday night:
* In preliminary bracketing, Virginia’s opening opponent was West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion St. Mary’s instead of Florida. The Gaels and Gators are both No. 7 seeds, and the Gaels were in the West Regional playing Virginia, the Gators in the Midwest facing Purdue.
But then, as NCAA spokesman David Worlock explained in a conference call, the committee designated the winner of the Brigham Young-Iona play-in game as the South’s No. 14, in part because BYU refuses to play on Sundays and has to be sent to a Thursday-Saturday site, in this case Louisville, Ky.
The decision created the possibility of a Sweet 16 game between two West Coast Conference teams, BYU and St. Mary’s. That violates the tournament’s bracketing principles.
To solve, the committee simply flipped regions for Florida and St. Mary’s. Better yet for the panel, both the South and Midwest 7-10 games were set for Omaha, Neb.
* Based on the 1-68 seeds, the final four at-large selections were No. 45 California, No. 47 South Florida, No. 48 Brigham Young and No. 50 Iona.
Virginia is seeded 39th overall, so the Cavaliers No. 10 regional seed is spot-on.
Other overall seeds for the ACC and state: North Carolina 3, Duke 6, Florida State 11, N.C. State 42, VCU 49 and Norfolk State 62.
* Had St. Bonaventure not defeated Xavier in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 final, knocking the Musketeers into the at-large pool, where they were a certain selection, the committee was prepared to choose from among six teams for one spot.
Essentially, they were the last six out: Drexel, Mississippi State, Nevada, Miami, Oral Roberts and Seton Hall.
Some other bracket observations:
* With five teams in the field, the ACC has sent 37 teams to the tournament in its first seven seasons with 12 teams. In its last seven years with nine teams, the conference produced 31 NCAA teams. Draw your own conclusions about expansion’s affect on ACC basketball.
* The highest RPI teams excluded were No. 44 Marshall – former Virginia assistant Tom Herrion coaches the Thundering Herd – No. 51 Oral Roberts and No. 54 Central Florida.
* The lowest RPI teams included were No. 52 Virginia, No. 53 South Florida and No. 56 West Virginia.
* The worst non-conference schedules among the at-large teams were No. 241 Virginia, No. 254 Kansas State and No. 318 Cincinnati. At No. 308, Missouri would be in the mix, but the Tigers were an automatic qualifier by winning the Big 12 tournament.
* Grading Teel Time’s projected field: I missed one of the 37 at-larges, picking Seton Hall instead of Iona. And looking at the Gaels’ numbers, especially their No. 44 non-conference schedule, and recalling the Pirates losing by 28 to DePaul in their regular-season finale, I think the committee got it right.
I had the four No. 1 and No. 2 seeds correct. The only differences among the 3s and 4s was I had Michigan as a 3, Florida State a 4. The committee seeded the Seminoles 3 and Wolverines 4.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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