NCAA throws curveballs; Vitale screams

Columnist Dean Legge is glad that the NCAA tournament is starting, and because of CBS's exclusive coverage of the NCAA tournament none of us will have to hear Dick Vitale's screaming anymore.

The NCAA selection committee is at is again, and this time Georgia may have benefited in terms of the opponents that they play, as well as frequent flyer miles they will be gathering. 

Much of the national media will concentrate on Gonzaga's slip from what seemed to be a high seeding to a number six seed. But the local media will focus on Georgia's surprising jump to a number three seed in the East.

Although Georgia slipped up in its last two games, so did the other top SEC East schools, and for that reason, among others, the Dawgs jumped up much higher than expected. The other two top schools from the SEC East, Kentucky and Florida were seeded lower than Georgia. Kentucky was placed as the number four seed in the East and Florida ended up as the number five seed in the Midwest.

Even though Georgia is a highly seeded team, they are still forced to travel to Chicago for their first game, and if they win that one, their second game.

Of all of the number three seeds, Georgia travels the farthest of any of them. In fact, of the top 16 teams in the NCAA tournament according to seeding, Georgia and Ohio State travel the longest distance to play their games. Ohio State, the 2002 Big Ten Tournament Champions, plays in Albuquerque.

Sure, Georgia has to travel, but they were also given a very manageable path to the Sweet 16 by the NCAA Men Basketball Committee. Georgia opens up with Murray State, the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions,  in the first round, and should they win that game, would face the winner of the Texas Tech/Southern Illinois game.

Murray State has more experience of all of the four teams mentioned in Georgia's sub-bracket. They have played in the NCAA tournament quite often of late. In the last fifteen seasons, Murray State has played in the NCAA Tournament nine times.

Another intriguing match up would put the Dawgs against Texas Tech. Bobby Knight's Texas Tech Red Raiders will likely beat Southern Illinois, but The General has not faired well in NCAA tournament games recently. A possible match up of two head coaches with national championships on their vita should turn the television sets on across America.

But for that match up to happen, Georgia will have to win first. Unfortunately for Georgia, the last time they were a number three seed they lost in the opening round to Tennessee-Chattanooga in Charlotte. Many critics will say that Georgia is seeded too high and that, in fact, they deserved more like a number five seed. But Georgia can prove these critics wrong by winning their first two games of the tournament.

On top of that, I think what the NCAA was saying in regards to their seeding this season is that it matters more what you did in the regular season more than your conference tournament, at least for the power conferences. If you look at the way that Georgia, Kentucky, and Florida finished in the SEC East the official order was just that, Dawgs, Cats, Gators. The same thing is true in the NCAAs. Georgia is a number three seed, Kentucky a four, and the Gators are a five seed.

Vitale misses the mark, again

At the same time that the NCAA was impressed with Georgia's regular season record, they were not impressed with Gonzaga's. Gonzaga was given a number six seed because of the weak schedule that they played and the overall strength of their conference. There is no doubt that Gonzaga is one of the premier NCAA tournament teams of late. They have reached the Sweet 16 the last three seasons.

However, this does not mean that all other non-power conference teams should ride the coattails of Gonzaga. Gonzaga earned a post season bid no matter the outcome of their conference tournament because of their winning ways in both their regular season and even more because of their outstanding tournament record of late. That is not the case with the rest of the non-power conference teams.

To Dick Vitale's chagrin, the truth remains that the power conferences are always going to get more spots in the NCAAs; because they deserve it. Vitale would love to have a sort of NCAA-welfare system that would penalize bigger schools just because they play in power conferences. In Vitale's twisted basketball world a mid major school deserves a bid over a power conference school just because the mid major school dominate their regular seasons and win 20 plus games against substandard opponents. 

Sunday night he suggested a five team limit per conference in the NCAA tournament. That would mean that Ole Miss would not be allowed into the NCAAs just because they play in the SEC.

Why should the little schools get in just because they have 20 wins against lower tier opponents? That is not the requirement for schools like Ole Miss. Ole Miss and other teams from power conferences have to win more than half of their conference games to get considered by the NCAA. In other words they have to prove it over the whole season against power opponents like Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi State.

Nevermind the fact that Ole Miss nailed Alabama less than two weeks ago, giving them their worst loss of the season.

Get over it Vitale, you were wrong before and you continue to be wrong on this one. The selection committee made the right call on all 65 teams. Gonzaga and teams that prove themselves over the long haul are the teams that the NCAA should reward.

Damn the facts, Vitale wants it his way.

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