Cards seeding committee's most egregious error

The NCAA Selection Committee's decision to deal fourth-ranked Louisville (29-4) a No. 4 seed in the Albuquerque bracket was the most egregious error during the seeding process. Perhaps it's time the committee, whose proceedings take place behind closed doors, were held accountable for their decisions.

Shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted. Baffled. Upset. Disappointed. Angry.

Those are just a few of the words that probably best describe how the Louisville Cardinals felt Sunday evening when the NCAA Selection Committee handed the 2004-05 Conference USA Champions a – drum roll please – four-seed in this year's Big Dance.

How Selection Committee Chairman Robert Bowlsby (Iowa AD), and committee members Christopher Hill (Utah AD), Craig Littlepage (Virginia AD), Gerald Myers (Texas Tech AD), Karl Benson (WAC commissioner), Michael Slive (SEC commissioner), Floyd Kerr (Southern AD), Gary Walters (Princeton AD), Thomas O'Connor (George Mason AD), and Jonathan Le Crone (Horizon commissioner) decided Louisville's 29-4 season warranted a four-seed is beyond explanation – and my comprehension.

I've tried to understand the committee's decision. As hard as I try I can't figure it out.

Louisville is ranked 4th nationally in the USA Today/ESPN poll, yet the selection committee, headed by Bowlsby, concluded they knew more than the college coaches who vote in that poll and came to the conclusion that there were at least 12 teams more deserving of higher seeds than the Cardinals. While I'm unable to explain how Louisville got slotted with a 4-seed, I am certain that the ten members of the selection committee should never serve again - ever.

Even though there's no rational explanation, I thought I'd at least try to figure out the committee's train of thought on this one. Maybe they felt C-USA was too weak; or Louisville's non-conference schedule didn't stack up against higher seeded teams?

One of the standard arguments I keep finding given to explain the Cardinals seed is that its league, C-USA, simply didn't measure up this season when compared to, say, the ACC, Big East, or Big 12. If that were the case, why invite four C-USA members to "Dance?"

Fact is, Conference USA was a pretty strong league this season – at least as strong as the PAC-10, a league that also sent four teams to the tournament, including No. 1 seed Washington. And it's not like Louisville had an easy road to win both the regular-season and C-USA tournament titles. After all, the Cardinals had to beat NCAA teams Cincinnati and UAB twice, Charlotte – and also managed to beat a talented - yet underachieving – Memphis squad twice on the Tigers' home court.

Top-seeded Washington's "body of work," looks
very similar to fourth-ranked and No. 4-seed
Louisville's. In fact, the Cardinals had a better
road record and record against the NCAA
Tournament field than the Huskies.

So then I decided to compare Louisville's "body of work," against the Albuquerque bracket's top-seeded Huskies to see if I could determine what separated Washington from Louisville in the selection committee's collective mind.

You have to credit Lorenzo Romar for playing Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Gonzaga and N.C. State outside of their PAC-10 schedule. But I'm not sure that list is more impressive than Louisville's non-conference schedule of Iowa, Stanford, Florida, and Kentucky. By the way, Stanford, whom the Cardinals beat handily in Maui, knocked off Washington by 10 points just one week ago. Overall, Washington was 9-4 against the NCAA field, Louisville 8-2. Surely non-conference competition didn't separate these teams by three seeds.

Yes, Washington won their league tournament title over the weekend by beating Arizona, but you can't argue the Huskies are playing better basketball than Louisville down the stretch, either. Besides a 10-point loss to Stanford last week, consider the 17-point setback Oregon State handed the Huskies in mid-February. The Huskies are entering the tourney having won 14 of their last 18, and that's an impressive feat. But is that more impressive than Louisville's 18 wins during their last 19 games – 5 of those coming against NCAA invitees? Don't think this factor gives the Huskies an edge either, much less a three-seed advantage over Louisville.

Oh, one more comparison between the No. 1 seeded Huskies and No. 4 seeded Cardinals. Washington was 5-6 on the road this season, while the Cardinals lost just once in ten road games, beating three NCAA teams in the process. Can't see how that one tipped the balance for Washington, either.

That's why what happened to Louisville Sunday evening was so terribly wrong. It wasn't supposed to happen like that, not after Rick Pitino's team assembled a more deserving resume.

This is what should have happened. Louisville should have been either a No. 1 or 2 seed, even a three-seed seemed too low after the Cardinals 75-74 win over Memphis at the FedExForum Saturday afternoon.

The NCAA selection committee is supposed to reward teams like Louisville. A team that wins their conference's regular-season and tournament titles, especially one that sent four teams to the NCAA tournament, is supposed to be rewarded. A team that won their final nine games, and 18-of-19 entering the NCAA tournament is supposed to be rewarded. A team that won 9-of-10 games on the road this season – three of those against NCAA tournament teams, including SEC champion Florida, is supposed to be rewarded. And a team that finished 8-2 against the field picked by the NCAA selection committee is supposed to be rewarded.

Louisville wasn't rewarded – not by having to face a tough Louisiana-Lafayette team in the first-round or, should they advance, ACC runner-up Georgia Tech or this year's giant-killer George Washington in round two. That's why the Cardinals and their loyal fans feel jilted – or better yet – slapped in the face. That's what makes this the committee's most egregious error.

Just like the NCAA as a whole, the selection committee simply isn't accountable for their actions and decisions. Their proceedings are top secret, and their decisions are shielded from the public's view. They meet behind closed doors, they render their verdicts – or in this case a team's seeding, and they never have to answer for what they do. They don't have to answer to Louisville or the fans or to anybody.

Perhaps that should change. If Louisville gets a four-seed after accomplishing so much this season, it seems apparent to me the NCAA selection committee could use some outside help. Surely a little accountability in the process wouldn't hurt anyone.

Maybe, if the committee knew they had to answer for their actions, Louisville would have received what it had earned instead of the four-seed they were dealt yesterday.

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