Welcome to Selection Monday, an odd concept that we'll have to get used to.
Some teams have been done with their conference tournaments for more than a week. So what's another 24-plus hours waiting to find out about the NCAA bracket, right?
Frankly, it made Sunday seem very strange, kind of like waiting for the
ball to drop in Times Square except television decided New Year's Eve would be a day later for some people.
ESPN felt that Sunday -- between big-time men's conference tournament
championship games and the unveiling of the national hysteria that is the
men's NCAA bracket -- just got too crowded for the women.
Thus, another change to the schedule for women's hoops, which due to
television decisions has seen its Final Four move in the last 15 years from
Friday-Sunday to Saturday-Sunday back to Friday-Sunday to Sunday-Tuesday.
But at least we will never have another "Breakfast at the Final
Four," as was the infamous case in 1992. The fictional Charles Foster Kane murmured "Rosebud" as he expired and who knows -- with my last breath, I may well mutter, "I still can't believe they made Southwest Missouri State and Western Kentucky play at 9 a.m.," and be somewhat as inscrutable.
Because -- hoping that day is a ways off -- who's going to know what
Southwest Missouri State is then anyway? The Springfield school here in my home state long battled the forces in Columbia for the right to get rid of
its "direction" -- and finally won that civil war last year.
It's Missouri State now, thank you very much, and once again the Maroon
Brigade has marched into the NCAA Tournament. Last year, when still SMS, the school was the top seed in the Missouri Valley tournament but got upset and landed in the WNIT. This year, as MSU -- not to be confused with Michigan State, of course -- it pulled the upset and is headed to the NCAAs.
In general, though, the conference tournaments didn't throw very many
surprises at the selection committee. I mean, sure, who could ever have
guessed that Old Dominion was going to take the Colonial Athletic
Association tournament title for the 15th consecutive year.
And then there was that one bubble team, Tennessee, that somehow salvaged its place in March Madness with a one-point victory against LSU in the SEC tournament final. Gee, just when you think injury-and-defection-depleted Tennessee just can't possibly get by with only nine players who were high school All-Americans
Meanwhile, Tennessee's twin in making the NCAA field every year, Louisiana Tech, kept up with the Oranges and made it 25-for-25, winning the WAC.
Some other weird school came out of left field to take the Big East
tourney title; oh, never mind, it was Connecticut. It gets confusing with the 27 teams in the Big East/Used To Be C-USA/Were We Almost ACC? Conference.
In the short-track speedskating/demolition derby exhibition that the
Mountain West became, Utah won the tournament and then was serenaded by BYU coach Jeff Judkins for its "lack of class" because the Utes didn't put in their water girls at the end of the MWC title game and had the gall to beat the Cougars by 24.
Let's see BYU and Utah are big rivals and the Cougars did defeat the Utes on a last-second shot earlier this year so maybe the Utes wanted to be absolutely dead-sure positive they were slamming the door and gaining their NCAA bid (considering they haven't exactly forgotten that they went 24-7 two years ago, lost the league title game and then spent the rest of March going to class).
In the Pac-10, just when you thought UCLA coach Kathy Olivier wasn't
going to be sticking around much longer, the Bruins go and win the league
tournament. And Stanford probably still thinks that whole "league tournament" thing is a bad idea.
The Big Ten final was a display of Ohio State's strength
and Purdue's ability to dig itself out of holes. Both teams could present quite a
challenge to foes in the NCAAs.
Finally, let's talk about the Big 12, which has sent a team to the Final
Four three of the past four years. League champion Oklahoma ran the table, going 16-0 in the regular season and then 3-0 in the tournament.
The concept that the Big 12 is "down" this year has been greatly
exaggerated. The Sooners are worthy of a No. 1 seed, although we can pretty much guess that won't happen.
Then again, Baylor didn't need that to win it all last year.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.