There’s only one No. 1 team in the country, as the selection committee made clear in picking Kentucky as the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament just a few hours after the Wildcats were upset by Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament final. No argument there.
Actually, there wasn’t much to scream about on any of the tournament picks, which made for some dull moments among the talking heads on television. They spent all week sharpening their claws, only to find out the selection committee left them few targets to attack.
If anything, the people who pick the field might have done their best work to date. They’ve got a formula that works, and they managed to find a way to tweak it this year to make things even more fun.
How else do you explain a possible meeting of Nevada-Las Vegas and Duke for the first time since the Blue Devils upset one of the greatest college teams ever 21 years ago in the Final Four? Even better, Duke and Kentucky could meet in the South final almost 20 years to the day since Christian Laettner hit The Shot to give Duke a thrilling 104-103 win over the Wildcats in the East Regional final.
So Drexel didn’t get in. So what. Nevada didn’t get an invite, either, and the Wolf Pack won 16 games in a row at one point during the season and lost only one conference game before falling in the WAC Tournament.
Glittering records just don’t count like they used to. Not with coaches loading up with soft nonconference games, so many so that 112 teams in the country had 20 wins or more.
Besides, there are better things to do than complain. Like look forward to some tournament storylines like these:
KENTUCKY: The Wildcats are so loaded that John Calipari’s biggest worry heading into the postseason was his players would be so busy worrying about the NBA Draft that they will forget to take care of business.
MISSOURI: There is no quieter top 5 team in the country than the Tigers. Missouri benefited from a cupcake schedule early, but the Tigers won 30 games and the Big 12 title. Their four-guard team will cause mismatch problems for anyone.
SYRACUSE: Bernie Fine won’t be on the bench for this Final Four run, and for a while it looked like Jim Boeheim might not be either. But Boeheim survived the child sex-abuse scandal surrounding his longtime assistant and his team won 31 games to get the No. 1 seed in the East.
MICHIGAN STATE: My personal favorite in the tournament, if only because I love the way Tom Izzo coaches. He schedules tough teams and isn’t afraid to take a few hits doing it, something that happened this year in opening losses to Duke and North Carolina.
His teams play hard night after night, which makes them especially difficult in tournaments, one reason Izzo has led the Spartans to six Final Four appearances in 16 years.
LAMAR: No, the Cardinals won’t make a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, though that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. Lamar hasn’t lost since coach Pat Knight ripped into them for being, among other things, quitters and drug users. Psychologists can debate the method, but no one can debate Lamar’s place in the tournament after winning the Southland Conference Tournament. Knight’s father, Bob Knight, called it his best day in college basketball.