Selection committee fills out first ballot

March, 8, 2012
Quick hitters on a Championship Week Thursday:

• The selection committee filled out its first ballot on Wednesday. That means the teams that committee members vote for are in the NCAA tournament (no matter what). The selection committee usually averages 20-plus teams. This doesn't include automatic qualifiers (so no Murray State or Saint Mary's in this exercise). That's why this is done on Wednesday of selection week when the power conference games are still ongoing.

My first ballot would be:
1. Kentucky
2. Syracuse
3. Kansas
4. North Carolina
5. Missouri
6. Duke
7. Ohio State
8. Michigan State
9. Marquette
10. Michigan
11. Baylor
12. Georgetown
13. Wisconsin
14. Indiana
15. Wichita State
16. UNLV
17. New Mexico
18. San Diego State
19. Temple
20. Florida
21. Vanderbilt
22. Gonzaga
23. Notre Dame
24. Louisville
25. Cincinnati
26. Kansas State
27. Saint Louis
28. Florida State
29. Memphis

I couldn't add a team from the Pac-12 that wouldn't have involved some sort of debate. I would love for the selection committee to reveal its first ballots one day.

• Butler would be a home run addition to the Atlantic 10 if the league wants to maintain its basketball relevance after losing Temple. The Bulldogs would fit in with their proximity to Saint Louis to the west and the Ohio schools (Xavier and Dayton) to the northeast. Adding Butler to Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis, Richmond and Saint Joseph's would offset the departure of Temple. If A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade was aggressive, she would be on the phone with Butler to gauge its interest and explore the "out" for the Horizon League. You can't compare the media markets in the A-10 to the Horizon.

• Montana coach Wayne Tinkle could barely speak on Thursday. He lost his voice cheering -- and coaching -- the Grizzlies to their Big Sky title victory over Weber State.

"It was unbelievable," Tinkle said. "The people of Missoula had been waiting a long time for this. It had been 20 years since we hosted and won it."

The Grizzlies knocked out Weber and the top point guard in the country in Damian Lillard. Montana won the Big Sky with a 15-1 league mark, and enters the NCAA tournament at 25-6 overall.

"We're riding a pretty good wave right now," Tinkle said. "We've won 14 in a row. We've got a ton of confidence. It will all come down to matchups and what seed we get."

Teams that are on a roll like Montana and Murray State can't be dismissed heading into the NCAAs. Of course, Tinkle is right. The matchup will be the difference. The Grizzlies had a stellar scorer two seasons ago in Anthony Johnson, but this team has much more balance with five scorers averaging at least nine points a game.

"We're a much better team, with any number of players [who] can jump up and explode on a given night," Tinkle said. "We had five guys in double digits [against Weber State]."

Tinkle added that the Wildcats' Lillard was a terrific competitor without the trash talk.

"He's so athletic, hard to trap and could finish over bigs," Tinkle said. "He could shoot it deep. Our guys were physical, and he got frustrated a bit. He'll show well in the next level with the guys he'll be surrounded by."

Now the onus is on Montana to do something with this bid.

"Some say we'll get a 15-[seed]; I'd hope for a 12," Tinkle said. "I'm not worried about the seed. I'm just concerned about the matchups."

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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