Who's hot and who's not heading into the NCAA tournament
The bracket is set, leaving only two options for anyone who cares about college hoops: rejoice or complain.
Sunday's selections brought plenty of cheer to all but one of the power conferences, but they cast a pall over the mid-majors. Meanwhile, Mississippi State's upset of Tennessee in the SEC Tournament final wreaked havoc in every corner of the bracket. As the dust settles on Selection Sunday, we'll examine who's hot and who's not.
The Cardinals weren't even in the discussion for a No. 1 seed two weeks ago, but they certainly deserve the No. 1 overall seed after winning the regular-season title and the tournament title in the nation's best conference. Coach
Since a loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 12, the Cardinals have won 10 in a row. Louisville, which fell to North Carolina in the Elite Eight last year, has a potentially tricky matchup with Wake Forest in the Sweet 16. If the seeds hold in the Midwest Region, an Elite Eight matchup between Louisville and No. 2 seed Michigan State should provide an interesting contrast in styles.
The Virginia Commonwealth coach's team knocked off Duke in the first round two years ago, and Florida athletic director
This year, Grant's 11th-seeded Rams are a trendy upset pick against a team that has cachet because of tremendous success in recent years and not necessarily because of a great 2008-09 season. If VCU beats UCLA on Thursday in Philadelphia, Grant will have his choice of job opening this offseason.
The Blue Devils are 8-1 since
The jacked-up Utah State mascot, who looks like the poster bull for
After order was restored, Utah State's
The same conference that had a February game between a tourney team and a bubble team end with a 38-33 score put as many teams in the tournament (seven) as the Big East and the ACC. It seems the selection committee rewarded the Big Ten bubble teams that scheduled challenging non-conference opponents. Michigan beat UCLA at home, split a pair of games against Duke and lost at Maryland. Wisconsin went 18-12, but the Badgers played UConn, Virginia Tech, Marquette and Texas in the pre-conference season. Minnesota (21-10) probably made the field based on the strength of a Dec. 20 win against No. 1 overall seed Louisville. That Nov. 29 win against North Dakota State isn't looking so bad, either. "We tried to deliver the message this year that it's your entire body of work," selection committee chair -- and SEC commissioner --
We probably can put to rest the myth that the conference affiliation of selection committee members affects the number of bids each conference receives. Slive runs the whole darn thing, and his league received just three bids -- and it would have received only two (LSU and Tennessee) if not for Mississippi State's upset of the Volunteers in Sunday's tournament final.
We knew the SEC was bad, but it wasn't clear whether the committee would punish the league for mediocre play and abysmal out-of-conference scheduling. It did. Regular-season champ LSU is a No. 8 seed. Eastern division champ Tennessee is a No. 9 seed. Mississippi State, the big-conference bracket buster, is a 13. Auburn (22-11) was one of the nation's hottest teams down the stretch, but remember what Slive said: It's about the body of work. Auburn lost to Dayton and Northern Iowa on a neutral floor and lost at Xavier. The Tigers' only decent non-conference win came at Virginia. South Carolina, which went 10-6 in SEC play during the regular season, is home because its toughest non-conference opponents were Clemson, Baylor, Princeton and College of Charleston. Had the Gamecocks scheduled some decent competition, they might not be trying to win their third NIT title since 2005.
Only four teams from non-BCS leagues received at-large bids Sunday, down from 12 in 2004. Thanks to Mississippi State, St. Mary's, Creighton or San Diego State probably fell out of the bracket. St. Mary's is the most interesting case. The Gaels (26-6) were 18-1 before star guard
A hastily scheduled game against Eastern Washington on Friday apparently didn't help the Gaels enough; they were passed over in favor of the likes of Minnesota and Maryland. Slive said the committee is conference-blind when assembling the bracket, but considering the drop in at-large opportunities for teams from non-BCS conferences, maybe that blindness only applies to the big boys. This year, the abundance of money-conference teams will deprive us of the chance to watch potential All-Namers Patty,
In a live shot on CBS just before the selection show, Tigers coach
Did the Tigers (31-3) deserve a No. 1 seed over UConn, North Carolina or Pittsburgh? That's a tough sell. But know this. Inside his locker room, Calipari will turn that No. 2 seed into the slight to end all slights. And it will provide motivation for a group that has as much raw talent as any team in America.
Remember when Marquette looked like a potential Final Four team? It wasn't that long ago. But after guard
Illinois players can sympathize. Guard
The Dow Jones rose a little last week, but expect the nation's economy to head south again this week as office drones across the country worry more about their brackets than whether they put that new cover sheet on their most recent TPS report. CBS is doing its part to aid in the slacking; the network has brought back March Madness On Demand, which allows viewers to watch every tournament game streamed live on the network's Web site.
This year, CBS is adding a high-quality option, which will provide a picture that comes close to HD quality. The network also is bringing back the Boss Button, which, when clicked by a slacking employee, will call up a dummy spreadsheet and hide North Carolina-Radford.