Feb. 22, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA selection committee knows exactly whatit'slooking for. What it doesn't know, and won't until Selection Sunday, iswhichteams will measure up.
Thirty-one conference champions will send automatic qualifiers to themen'sDivision I tournament. The only questions involving those teams are how highthey will be seeded and where they will play.
It's the remaining 34 at-large teams that pose the biggest problem, andthecommittee's choices invariably leave more than a few teams disappointed.
That's the nature of the tournament, however, Big East commissionerMikeTranghese said Wednesday. Tranghese is chairman of the NCAA Division I men'sbasketball tournament selection committee.
'The only team that deserves anything is the team that wins theautomaticbid. After that, nobody deserves anything,' he said. 'We're going to takethe34 best. Wherever they come from, they come from.'
The tourney brackets will be selected on Sunday, March 11, andannouncedfrom the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
The 10-member committee will consider a variety of factors, includingRPIratings, a team's record against the top 20, the top 50, its road record,itsopponents' records, its record in the past 10 games - even injuries andsuspensions that could affect a team's performance.
Last year's seedings of Cincinnati and Arizona offer a perfect exampleofthe problem the committee often faces.
Cincinnati, ranked No. 1 for three months, appeared to be a lock for atopseed, but the Bearcats lost in the Conference USA tournament after centerKenyon Martin broke his leg, and the NCAA seeded them second in the SouthRegional.
But even with an injury to center Loren Woods, Arizona kept a No. 1seed inthe West because the selection committee felt Martin's loss hurt Cincinnatimore than Woods' loss hurt the Wildcats.
'Obviously, we have to look at the whole season,' Tranghese said. 'Butwe'll have all the information on injuries. There's a number of teams,whetherright now or earlier, that are affected by injuries. It becomes part of ourdeliberations. ... We all know what occurred last year with Cincinnati whenKenyon went down. The fact he didn't play affected their seeding.
'Any kind of situation involving an injury, we'll talk about it andmake adetermination. That's a very, very difficult thing to do,' he said.
The selection committee met earlier this month in Indianapolis for amockselection - more to work on the process itself rather than to identifyparticular teams, Tranghese said.
'The world has changed since then, because so many games have beenplayed.... There are still two weeks of games to be played, and then the conferencetournaments. What's there today won't necessarily be there tomorrow.'
In recent years, the field has been made up of 64 teams - seeded onethrough16 in each of four regional brackets. This year, a 65th team will be added,andthe two weakest teams will play each other in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday,March13. The winner of that game will play at one of the eight first-round sitesonFriday as a No. 16 seed.
Besides Dayton, which is in the Midwest Regional, the other first- andsecond-round sites are Long Island, N.Y., and Greensboro, N.C., in the East,San Diego and Boise, Idaho, in the West, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, inthe South, and Kansas City, Mo., in the Midwest.
'We're clearly not going to keep someone (close to) home and make onebracket stronger than another,' Tranghese said. 'This is a nationaltournament and we've got to balance the bracket. We've got to make itequallydifficult for teams whichever bracket they're in.'
Last year, the only top seed to get as far as the regional finals waseventual champion Michigan State. Arizona lost to Wisconsin, and Stanfordlostto North Carolina in the second round, and Duke lost to Florida in theregionalsemifinals.
And three of the No. 2 seeds last year - Cincinnati, St. John's andTemple -also lost in the second round.
'One of the things we remind everyone (on the committee) is whathappenedlast year should have no bearing,' Tranghese said. 'We can make perfectselections and have a flock of upsets, because that's the nature of thetournament.'
The regionals this year are in Philadelphia and Anaheim, Calif., onMarch 22and March 24, and in Atlanta and San Antonio on March 23 and March 25. Thesemifinals and championship will be in Minneapolis on March 31 and April 2.
By STEVE HERMAN
AP Sports Writer