Feb. 22, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA selection committee knows exactly what it's looking for. What it doesn't know, and won't until Selection Sunday, is which teams will measure up.
Thirty-one conference champions will send automatic qualifiers to the men's Division I tournament. The only questions involving those teams are how high they will be seeded and where they will play.
It's the remaining 34 at-large teams that pose the biggest problem, and the committee's choices invariably leave more than a few teams disappointed.
That's the nature of the tournament, however, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said Wednesday. Tranghese is chairman of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament selection committee.
"The only team that deserves anything is the team that wins the automatic bid. After that, nobody deserves anything," he said. "We're going to take the 34 best. Wherever they come from, they come from."
The tourney brackets will be selected on Sunday, March 11, and announced from the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
The 10-member committee will consider a variety of factors, including RPI ratings, a team's record against the top 20, the top 50, its road record, its opponents' records, its record in the past 10 games - even injuries and suspensions that could affect a team's performance.
Last year's seedings of Cincinnati and Arizona offer a perfect example of the problem the committee often faces.
Cincinnati, ranked No. 1 for three months, appeared to be a lock for a top seed, but the Bearcats lost in the Conference USA tournament after center Kenyon Martin broke his leg, and the NCAA seeded them second in the South Regional.
But even with an injury to center Loren Woods, Arizona kept a No. 1 seed in the West because the selection committee felt Martin's loss hurt Cincinnati more than Woods' loss hurt the Wildcats.
"Obviously, we have to look at the whole season," Tranghese said. "But we'll have all the information on injuries. There's a number of teams, whether right now or earlier, that are affected by injuries. It becomes part of our deliberations. ... We all know what occurred last year with Cincinnati when Kenyon went down. The fact he didn't play affected their seeding.
"Any kind of situation involving an injury, we'll talk about it and make a determination. That's a very, very difficult thing to do," he said.
The selection committee met earlier this month in Indianapolis for a mock selection - more to work on the process itself rather than to identify particular teams, Tranghese said.
"The world has changed since then, because so many games have been played. ... There are still two weeks of games to be played, and then the conference tournaments. What's there today won't necessarily be there tomorrow."
In recent years, the field has been made up of 64 teams - seeded one through 16 in each of four regional brackets. This year, a 65th team will be added, and the two weakest teams will play each other in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, March 13. The winner of that game will play at one of the eight first-round sites on Friday as a No. 16 seed.
Besides Dayton, which is in the Midwest Regional, the other first- and second-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, in the South, and Kansas City, Mo., in the Midwest.
"We're clearly not going to keep someone (close to) home and make one bracket stronger than another," Tranghese said. "This is a national tournament and we've got to balance the bracket. We've got to make it equally difficult for teams whichever bracket they're in."
Last year, the only top seed to get as far as the regional finals was eventual champion Michigan State. Arizona lost to Wisconsin, and Stanford lost to North Carolina in the second round, and Duke lost to Florida in the regional semifinals.
And three of the No. 2 seeds last year - Cincinnati, St. John's and Temple - also lost in the second round.
"One of the things we remind everyone (on the committee) is what happened last year should have no bearing," Tranghese said. "We can make perfect selections and have a flock of upsets, because that's the nature of the tournament."
The regionals this year are in Philadelphia and Anaheim, Calif., on March 22 and March 24, and in Atlanta and San Antonio on March 23 and March 25. The semifinals and championship will be in Minneapolis on March 31 and April 2.
By STEVE HERMAN
AP Sports Writer