Gordon: Making sense of March Madness Live

So the NCAA Tournament bracket is set. The Atlantic 10 felt much love and the Southeastern Conference felt much scorn.

So A-10 regular season champion Saint Louis University got a solid No. 5 seed despite its late-season fade and Missouri didn't get a sniff. Another indicator of the SEC's weakness: Tennessee was forced into a play-in game despite its strong finish.


The Billikens will face the winner of the North Carolina State/Xavier in Orlando, Fla. After that, they could see Louisville -- a talented team that cannot be pleased with its No. 4 seed.

There were no real surprises at the top of the seeding and only modest griping about the last few at-large teams to make field.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski waged a successful campaign for North Carolina State, which got in ahead of SMU. Mid-major schools Green Bay and Louisiana Tech also fell short in their bids.

Kansas got a No. 2 seed, as expected, and a trip to St. Louis to face No. 15 Eastern Kentucky in a South Region game.

Wichita State got a No. 1 seed, as expected, and a ticket here to face the winner of the Cal Poly/Texas Southern winner in the Midwest Region.

FAILING THE EYE TEST

Mizzou’s computer numbers improved long after they returned home to Boone County from the SEC Tournament. They rose to 49 in the RPI computation, ahead of NCAA Tournament teams like Xavier, N.C. State (which lost to Mizzou at home), Kansas State and Iowa.

What happened? UCLA upset Arizona to win the Pac-12 tourney and made MU’s home-court victory over the Bruins even more notable.

Western Michigan, another loser at Mizzou Arena, won the MAC Tournament and to earn a NCAA bid while rising to 69 in RPI.
 
And North Carolina State became an ever better road victory by beating Miami and Syracuse at the ACC Tournament, moving up to 53 in
RPI ranking. The Wolfpack lost to Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tourney, but they earned an endorsement from Krzyzewski.

“They won at Tennessee.
They probably should have beaten Syracuse twice,” Krzyzewski told reporters. “I think they've played a really good schedule, and they've got one of the best players in the country.

Maybe that is why the selection committee threw them a bone with a No. 12 seed.

Alas, those improved calculations could not get the Tigers in. Nor could powerful commissioner Mike Slive, who really, really wanted to get more than three NCAA berths.

The Tigers looked terrible at the end of the season. They imploded at Tennessee, they nearly lost to undermanned Texas A&M twice and they faded badly against Florida in the SEC Tournament.

The selection committee obviously disliked what saw. The Tigers weren't even one of the first four teams out of the bracket. On to the NIT for them!

WHO’S WHO OF MISSING TEAMS


Missouri wasn't the only familiar name missing from the bracket. Indiana, Illinois, Georgetown, St. John’s, Marquette, Purdue, Washington, Arkansas, Maryland and West Virginia were some of the other schools off the board.

All of those schools spend a lot of money on their programs. Tough business, college basketball.

AAC’s FISH IN BARREL

While the SEC deserved criticism for its lack of quality depth this season, but what about the American Athletic Conference? Louisville, Cincinnati, U-Conn, Memphis and SMU all flourished because the bottom five teams were terrible: Houston (143 CBSSports.com RPI), Temple (176), Rutgers (192), (UCF 220) and South Florida (231).

How could those teams not post gaudy records against those doormats? The selection committee came to that conclusion while dumping Louisville into a No. 4 seed.

THE ACC SUFFERED TOO

Besides lobbying the NCAA selection committee on behalf of N.C. State, Krzyzewski also talked up Clemson to reporters at the ACC Tournament.

“I'll get in trouble probably for saying it. Like the Atlantic 10, they're a really good conference. I hear people saying there are six teams in there. Come on. I mean, they're good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through.” Coach K said.

“But really . . . our league should get more respect. The fact that Pitt comes in here and people are saying they have to do something, come on. Come on, man. I don't get it. The Clemson team we played [Friday] night is a heck of a basketball team.

But Maryland, Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame. Boston College and especially Virginia Tech were not very competitive this season.

A-10 SCHEDULING REWARDED


Why did the A-10 get so many berths? Its top schools scheduled aggressively and won enough of those non-conference games.

U-Mass set the pace by beating Boston College, LSU, Nebraska, New Mexico, Clemson, BYU and Providence. Dayton beat Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, California and Ole Miss. George Washington beat Miami, Creighton, Maryland and Georgia.

You get the idea. The A-10 had another strong season despite suffering major defections through conference realignment. SEC schools should take note.

THE WAC STILL EXISTS?

Once upon a time the Western Athletic Conference was an excellent brand name in basketball. Today its members include Utah Valley, Grand Canyon, Chicago State, Idaho, UMKC, Cal-Bakersfield, Seattle and Texas-Pan American. That is the Darwin’s Waiting Room of D-I basketball.

So New Mexico State’s triumph in the WAC conference tourney was hardly an historic achievement.

THE NOT-SO-BIG WEST


Another unfortunate by-product of conference shuffling is the Big West, where only UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii finished over .500. And Cal Poly (13-19, 6-10 in conference) won the league tournament and automatic berth. Yeech!

Here is how the Twitterverse reacted to the bracket:






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