Are California, South Florida, BYU and Iona, the last four at-large teams selected, better than Drexel, one of the first four teams out? We will never know because Drexel will play in the NIT.
Is it outrageous? Really depends on your perspective. I have seen Drexel a lot more than I have seen those other teams. I know the Dragons are good enough to compete. But do I know for sure they would beat those other teams? I don't. Neither, of course, does the committee. Nor do most of them look at their task that way. They just try to determine what matters to them. And vote.
I also know No. 5 seed Temple is more than good enough to compete. And I think the Owls got a terrific draw in the Midwest Region.
There are no teams with overwhelming size in their Nashville pod. They will get the Cal/USF winner on Friday. These are teams Temple can and should beat. It could, of course, have been Drexel in that First Four game. Then, we could have determined the best team in the city with a game in Tennessee.
If seeds hold and the Owls get No. 4 Michigan in the third round, that will be a coach's clinic with Fran Dunphy against John Beilein. The Wolverines are very much perimeter-oriented like Temple.
Now, if Temple gets through to St. Louis and No. 1 seed North Carolina is waiting, then size would be a serious issue. Dunphy would love to have the chance to find out, as it would mean he would have a team in the Sweet 16 for the first time.
No. 1 overall seed Kentucky is the heavy favorite as it should be. If John Calipari could have better explained to his Memphis players how to foul at the end of regulation in the 2008 championship game, the UK coach would be going for his second title. He's not, but he is going to get his first sometime. This may be the time.
Are we likely to see a Butler or VCU in the Final Four again? No. But we tune in just in case.
For the first time, the committee showed how it ranked teams from 1-68. Temple was No. 17. Syracuse, with its Philly connection, was No. 2, followed by UNC and Michigan State.
Missouri was No. 8, but is in the West bracket with No. 4 Michigan State. Why? The committee has all these arcane bracketing principles it tries to adhere to, if at all possible. In reality, you could make a pretty good argument that Mizzou is No. 5 anyway so the right teams might be in the right region but for the wrong reasons.
Trying to follow the logic of the committee was not easy because Hathaway, after days of being holed up in Indianapolis, was obviously punchy and not all that clear in some of his explanations.
We do know Drexel got hurt when Colorado won the Pac-12 and St. Bonaventure the Atlantic 10. Those teams do not make the field any other way and took away two at-large bids because California was already in from the Pac-12 and the A-10 got three at-large teams. Combine that with North Carolina State making the ACC semifinals and it was three things that went the wrong way for Drexel. Some years, there are even more for prospective at-large teams.
Six at-large teams came from the A-10 (Temple, Saint Louis, Xavier) and Mountain West (San Diego State, UNLV and Colorado State). The others from the nonpower conferences went to the West Coast (Gonzaga, BYU), Conference USA (Southern Mississippi), Missouri Valley (Wichita State) and the Metro Atlantic (Iona).
Temple was the highest seeded nonpower conference team. Which suggests what we already know. Temple is not going to have any issues competing in the Big East (whatever that might look like then) in 2013-14 and beyond.
There were 30 conference tournaments. The regular-season champion won 12. Last year, it was just eight, which was a precursor for an upside-down tournament that culminated with a Final Four without any No. 1 seeds.
There will be 67 games, starting with two First Four matchups in Dayton tomorrow night and two more Wednesday. All but one of the 68 teams will lose its final game. One team will appear on a stage not long before midnight on April 2 at the New Orleans Superdome.
This is the second tournament under the television contract with CBS and Turner Sports. Each of the games will be live on CBS, TNT, TBS or truTV.
Through Sunday, the stories will capture the casual fans, the games the cognoscenti.
Can Missouri's Kim English (26 of 33 for 69 points in the Big 12 Tournament) keep it up? Can Long Beach State's Casper Ware (33 points in the Big West title game and 92 threes on the season) stay on a roll? Can Lamar coach Pat Knight, who called out his seniors last month in a memorable rant, get his Southland champs a seventh consecutive win in a First Four game against Vermont?
As always, there are unanswered questions.
Did the committee try to match up the smart guys from an outlaw conference (Vanderbilt) with the really smart guys from the Ivy League (Harvard)? Or was that just a function of the computers?
Why did Murray State get a No. 6 seed? If it had gone unbeaten, would they have gotten any better than a No. 5?
Why does the committee keep insisting it is about who you play, where you play and how you did when so many teams (Drexel would be one) rarely get a chance to play the top teams and never get that chance at home.
If this were a level playing field, the who, where and how philosophy would be fine. But it is never going to be level.
Still, that is the beauty of this tournament. It is more level than almost anything else that could be devised, certainly more reasonable than whatever it is that football uses to determine its national championship.
This is not complicated. It is really like the games these kids played in their neighborhoods. Win and you stay on the court for another game. Keep winning and you never leave. You win six (or seven, if you are in the First Four) times and you get a championship.
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