I didn’t receive a phone call or text, my inbox was empty and a plane ticket never arrived in the mail. Surely, there has been some sort of a mistake.
Once again this season, the NCAA failed to extend an invitation to yours truly to serve on the committee that selects the participants for its 68-team postseason tournament. As a result we have March Madness before the first game ever tips.
Inexplicable seedings, odd first-round pairings, teams sent to strange locations. As always, mistakes were clearly made when bracketing this year’s field. And they’re mistakes that could’ve been avoided if I would’ve been in that Indianapolis hotel conference room last week to set things straight. Maybe one day the NCAA will learn.
In the meantime, here are the changes I would make to this year’s bracket if I were “King of the Committee."
1. I would make sure my fellow committee members watched Pac-12 basketball. Because judging from this year’s bracket, I don’t sense that they have a very good feel for the league. At the very least it seems as though the committee doesn’t have much respect for the Pac-12, which has made huge strides this season and is fresh off what may have been the most exciting conference tournament of the season.
Oregon as a No. 12 seed is laughable. The Ducks were the conference’s best team before taking a small slide because of a foot injury to starting guard Dominic Artis. The freshman eventually returned and Oregon finished second in the conference, one game back of champion UCLA -- the team it beat (for the second time) in Saturday’s Pac-12 tournament tilt. The Ducks also boast a win against UNLV. Oregon have been a No. 7 or 8 seed, at worst.
2. Speaking of UNLV, a screw job like the one the committee gave the Runnin’ Rebels should at least come with an apology letter. Dave Rice’s squad was given a No. 5 seed in the East Region and will open play against No. 12 Cal -- another Pac-12 squad that was seeded way too low -- in San Jose. The setup is odd for two reasons. The game will basically be a home contest for the Golden Bears, who aren’t worthy of such an advantage as a low seed. The other thing is that UNLV and Cal have already played once this season, with UNLV eking out a 76-75 win in Berkeley on Dec. 9.
3. No more Kansas-North Carolina games, please. The Jayhawks and Tar Heels will meet in the Round of 32 as long as each squad wins their opening contests. That will certainly result in more questions and storylines surrounding Roy Williams’ time at Kansas, his continued love of the school, the fact that he gets physically ill at the mere thought of facing the Jayhawks and yadda, yadda, yadda. KU advanced to the 2008 NCAA title game by defeating North Carolina in the national semifinals in 2008 and it topped Williams' squad in the Elite Eight last season. No sense pitting them against one another again.
4. Speaking of North Carolina, does anyone else feel as if a No. 8 seed is too low for the Tar Heels, who face No. 9 Villanova in the opening round? Other teams seeded too low are Pittsburgh, Oregon, Cal, Wisconsin and Florida Gulf Coast. Teams seeded a bit too high: Florida, VCU, Wichita State, Missouri and Middle Tennessee/Saint Mary’s.
5. New Mexico deserved a No. 2 seed. The Lobos are ranked No. 2 in the country in both RPI and strength of schedule. And they won both the regular-season and conference tournament titles in a league that has been the No. 1 or No. 2-ranked RPI conference all season. It wouldn’t shock me if the Lobos ended up in the Final Four.
6. Make No. 1 seed Gonzaga a No. 2 seed and replace the Zags with either Duke or Miami. Take your pick between the Blue Devils, who have lost just one game all season with a healthy roster, and Miami, which won both the regular season and conference tournament championships. Gonzaga played a somewhat difficult nonconference schedule. But Duke’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 1 in the country and Miami’s is No. 7. Gonzaga certainly passes the eye test. This may be Mark Few’s best team. But at this time of the year it should be about who you play and who you beat. Gonzaga can't match up with Duke and Miami in that area, especially considering the Zags were crushed at home by Illinois before losing on the road to Butler in a game in which Butler's leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke, didn’t even play.
7. Open the meeting up to the media. Even if it’s just one pool reporter from The Associated Press, it would be interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the selection process and to hear the discussions that resulted in this season’s field. Maybe then there wouldn’t be so many questions -- and no need for me to fly to Indianapolis next season.