Selection thoughts on the day after

March, 16, 2009
Musings on a post-selection Monday:

• Conference tournaments matter. I know they're not the deciding factors since Pitt, North Carolina and Connecticut did lose before the finals in their tournaments and still retained a No. 1 seed. But the conference tournaments were still relevant. Louisville got a No. 1 seed by winning the Big East tournament. Syracuse got a No. 3 by finishing second in the same event. Missouri landed a No. 3 by winning the Big 12 tournament.

• NCAA tournament selection chair Mike Slive was hired as commissioner of the SEC from Conference USA to bring a high standard of ethics to the conference. He has done that with his performance on the selection committee. With the way the principles and procedures work, it would have been difficult for Slive to influence the committee about his league. He can't be in the room for discussion on teams in his conference nor will his computer allow him to vote for one of the teams in the conference. Slive clearly didn't try to influence his partners. The SEC received three bids -- two at-large and one automatic. It likely would have had only two if Mississippi State had not won the tournament Sunday afternoon in Tampa. And the seedings are a clear indication that he didn't influence anyone with his own partisan beliefs. The seeds for the three SEC teams were an 8 (LSU), a 9 (Tennessee) and a 13 (Mississippi State). Slive was candid in his e-mail to late Sunday night that the SEC had to schedule better. SEC teams didn't win key nonconference games, or at least didn't win the games they needed to win (see: Auburn, Florida and Kentucky). NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen said Slive's work on the committee was outstanding, as he drove the discussion and ran the room in an efficient manner.

• The number of bids from major conferences is making it harder for the committee to avoid repeat matchups. The Texas A&M-BYU repeat from a year ago was a quirk. BYU boxes itself in because of its rule that it won't play on Sundays. The committee is hampered by this provision, and it had no choice but to set up a repeat matchup. Last year, the teams played in Anaheim. This year, they will play in Philadelphia.

There could be other rematches from the regular season, too. Kansas and Michigan State played earlier in the season in East Lansing in a game won by the Spartans. If the two teams advance, they'll meet in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis. Pitt won at Florida State in December. If those teams advance, they'll meet again in Boston. Texas beat Villanova earlier this season in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. If the two teams advance to the Sweet 16, they'll also meet in Boston.

• Slive said numerous times in a conference call that deciding on the final spots was the toughest decision. That was expected prior to Selection Sunday, and it's no surprise that's what happened. Oklahoma was debated quite a bit as a No. 1, he said, as were the at-large candidacies of Saint Mary's and Penn State.

• The injury to Patty Mills had to have been one of the toughest for a potential NCAA team in recent memory. Saint Mary's would have been an NCAA team if Mills had stayed healthy. The Gaels had their best team under Randy Bennett, even better than the one that made the NCAAs last season as an at-large. Mills will have a decision to make next month. He could be a lottery pick or return for his junior season. The Gaels won't be the same, though, with the departure of senior Diamon Simpson, who was the rock for the Gaels in the post all season.

• It's now two seasons in a row that the SEC tournament champ had a low seed. Georgia was a 14 last season. Mississippi State is a 13 this season. That speaks volumes about the conference, too.

• When we did our mock selection, the Boise regional was destined to be the one without a marquee team. Just look at the teams who are playing there: Marquette, Missouri, Cornell, Florida State, Wisconsin, Xavier, Portland State and Utah State. Slive's response is that two-thirds of Division I comes from East of the Mississippi. There is no way around shipping some teams.

• You can't ever know the last team that didn't make the field because of the way the selection process occurs. The teams are grouped together in either twos, fours and eights, and then they are voted on.

• Florida missed the NCAAs for the second straight season. That proves just how amazing the back-to-back titles were for the "04s" from Florida in 2006 and '07.

• There is no Indiana or Kentucky in this field. Just let that sink in. It hasn't happened since 1979.

• UCLA got shipped East. The Bruins had earned a protected seed in the West during all three runs to consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08.

• The last 12 games should be dismissed as a factor for a bid. The number is arbitrary, and it clearly doesn't matter in most cases (Arizona didn't finish strong and got a bid).

• Seeding for mid-majors hasn't been a problem of late. Siena and Butler got 9s. Davidson can credit its run a year ago to getting a 10.

• This is the best NIT bracket I've ever seen. I'm not sure there have been as many potential NCAA teams in the NIT as there are this season.

San Diego State, Kansas State, South Carolina, Davidson, Saint Mary's, Auburn, Tulsa, Northwestern, Baylor, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, Creighton, Kentucky, UNLV, New Mexico, Notre Dame, UAB, Florida, Miami, Providence, Rhode Island and Penn State were all at one point on the path toward a potential NCAA bid this season.

Washington State was playing its best basketball late in the season, and so too were Niagara, Duquesne, Illinois State, Weber State, Bowling Green and George Mason.

Kentucky should have a great atmosphere at Memorial Coliseum. NIT crowds tend to be vocal because fans who normally can't get into a regular-season game often can land NIT tickets. Some of the potential matchups in future rounds are intriguing, such as:

Miami vs. Florida. Miami coach Frank Haith would love to get the Gators on his regular-season schedule but it hasn't happened. It could in the second round.

If Virginia Tech and Georgetown advance, this would be a game between two regional powers that could recruit against each other.

If Davidson beats South Carolina and Saint Mary's can beat Washington State (not easy at all), then you could have a Stephen Curry-Patty Mills matchup between two likely lottery picks.

• The College Basketball Invitational released its bracket late Sunday night. On Tuesday, UTEP is at Nevada, and Northeastern is at Wyoming in the South Regional. On Wednesday, Boise State is at Stanford, while Buffalo is at Wichita State in the Midwest Regional. In the West Regional, Houston is at Oregon State and Vermont is at Green Bay, while St. John's is at Richmond and Charleston is at Troy in the East Regional. The second round will be on March 23 at sites to be determined. The semifinals will be on March 25 at sites to be determined, and then the best-of-three championship series on a home-site basis will be on Monday, March 30, Wednesday, April 1 and Friday, April 3 (if necessary).

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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