March 12, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS - NCAA selection committee chairman Mike Tranghese had no trouble explaining why many bubble teams didn't make the NCAA tournament's 65-team field...Their schedules simply weren't strong enough.
And Tranghese issued a warning to all schools that hope to qualify for future tournaments: play better opponents whenever possible.
"This committee and, I guarantee you, future committees will put more emphasis on non-conference schedules," Tranghese said Sunday night, after the pairings were unveiled.
Tranghese repeatedly reiterated the point.
He cited weak non-conference schedules as the reason teams such as Alabama and Richmond were kept out of the field, and Georgetown was seeded No. 10 in the West Region after entering the week ranked No. 18.
"I can tell you Georgetown got seeded as low as they did because of their non-conference schedule," Tranghese said. "I think what got Georgetown over the hump was that they went to Notre Dame late in the year and won. I think they had to win that game, and, I think, they knew it."
Other teams, however, were rewarded for playing strong schedules. The most notable was Georgia, which became the fifth team, and first since Villanova in 1991, to be chosen as an at-large team with 14 losses. They are the 11th team, and first since Texas in 1997, to be picked as an at-large with just 16 wins.
"When we looked at Georgia they were 16-14 and 9-7 in the No. 1 conference in the country," Tranghese said. "They played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, and we just thought it would be unfair not to take that into account."
The Bulldogs were seeded eighth in the East Region, setting up a first-round game against another bubble team rewarded for its strong RPI ranking, Missouri. But Georgia coach Jim Harrick thought his Bulldogs deserved the bid.
"We beat Tennessee twice, we won at Florida, at Mississippi, at Vanderbilt," coach Jim Harrick said. "Those were quality wins. We beat five teams in the top 25."
Harrick and Lefty Driesell of Georgia State joined Eddie Sutton as men who have taken four schools to the tournament.
Not every team's entries - or seedings - were determined by non-conference schedules, though.
Three of the four top seeds - Stanford in the West, Duke in the East and Illinois in the Midwest - were expected. Stanford (28-2) also was a No. 1 seed last year, while Duke (29-4) is a top seed for the fourth straight year.
Michigan State (24-4) got the fourth No. 1 seed, in the South Region, because, Tranghese said North Carolina went 4-4 in its last eight games. But little of what transpired was a surprise.
North Carolina slipped to a No. 2 spot after losing 79-53 in the ACC title game Sunday, and was joined by fast finishers Kentucky and Arizona, plus Iowa State as second seeds.
Thirty-five of the 65 NCAA bids went to teams from the six strongest conferences, and the Big Ten matched the record for most bids from one conference, seven.
Only five at-large bids did not come from the top six conferences. Those berths went to Cincinnati of Conference USA, Creighton of the Missouri Valley, Fresno State of the Western Athletic, and St. Joseph's and Xavier of the Atlantic 10.
Twenty-one teams with at least 20 wins did not make the field, including California-Irvine, which won 25 games.
Tranghese's explanation again came down to the numbers, but was not received well.
"We did everything that we could do, and we knew that gaining an NCAA at-large bid was going to be tough," said Richmond coach John Beilein, whose Spiders went 21-6. "It just wasn't to be this year."
Sutton is in the field again with Oklahoma State (20-9), a sentimental choice for many fans after playing the final month of the season following a plane crash that killed 10 people, including two players.
"We know they will be playing with a lot of emotion," Southern Cal center Sam Clancy said. "We can't let ourselves get caught up in those emotions." With Louisville failing to make the field in Denny Crum's final season, Arizona's Lute Olson takes over as the active coach with the most appearances at 23. Olson's run of 17 in a row is also the longest current streak, with Temple's John Chaney and Kansas' Roy Williams second, each at 12.
The longest current streak to end was Gene Keady of Purdue, who had been in eight straight tournaments.
Princeton made the field under first-year coach John Thompson III, who is now 19 appearances behind his father, John, who resigned at Georgetown in 1999. Duke plays Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., against No. 16 Monmouth. The other games in that East subregional are No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Utah State, No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Hofstra, and No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Georgia.
Illinois (24-7) meets the winner of an opening-round game Tuesday night between Winthrop and Northwestern State. Other Midwest Region games in Dayton on Friday are No. 8 Tennessee vs. No. 9 Charlotte, No. 5 Syracuse vs. No. 12 Hawaii, and No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Cal State-Northridge.
The other Midwest first-round games will be in Kansas City, Mo., with No. 6 Notre Dame facing No. 11 Xavier, No. 3 Mississippi against No. 14 Iona, No. 7 Wake Forest playing No. 10 Butler, and No. 2 Arizona against No. 15 Eastern Illinois.
In the other games in Memphis on Friday, No. 1 Michigan State takes on No. 16 Alabama State, No. 8 California plays No. 9 Fresno State, No. 5 Virginia faces No. 12 Gonzaga, and No. 4 Oklahoma plays No. 13 Indiana State.
The other South first-round games will be played Friday in New Orleans, with No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Temple, No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 Western Kentucky, No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 10 Providence, and No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 15 Princeton.
In Uniondale, N.Y., on Thursday, No. 6 Southern California faces No. 11 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Boston College plays No. 14 Southern Utah, No. 7 Iowa faces No. 10 Creighton, and No. 2 Kentucky plays No. 15 Holy Cross.
The final subregionals will be in San Diego and Boise, Idaho, on Thursday and Saturday.
Stanford plays No. 16 North Carolina-Greensboro in San Diego, while No. 8 Georgia Tech faces No. 9 St. Joseph's, No. 5 Cincinnati plays No. 12 Brigham Young, and No. 4 Indiana faces No. 13 Kent State.
In Boise, it's No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 Georgia State, No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 14 George Mason, No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Georgetown, and No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 15 Hampton.
The East Regional will be in Philadelphia on March 22 and 24, the same days the West Regional will be held in Anaheim, Calif.
The Midwest Regional will be in San Antonio on March 23 and 25, the same days the South Regional will be held in Atlanta.
The Final Four is March 31 and April 2 at Minneapolis.
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer