After criticism, chairman calls choices 'good'

The coaches handled the snubs with class.


The pundits weren't nearly as kind.

Not surprisingly, the man responsible for what is widely regarded as one of the worst NCAA tournament at-large fields ever defended the decisions and predicted another fantastic version of March Madness.

"When I reflect back, I feel good about the work we did and the field we put out there," Dan Guerrero, the chairman of the NCAA selection committee, said Monday. "And I assure you, it'll be a fantastic tournament."

Which could be true, even if many of the teams making up the 65-team bracket, especially the 34 at-large teams, were less-than-inspiring.

A combination of factors led to this field, which has been roundly panned by commentators and columnists, including Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and the AP's Jim Litke. Those factors included:

- Down years by five traditional powerhouses -- UCLA, Connecticut, Arizona, Indiana and defending national champion North Carolina, all out of the tournament in the same season for the first time since 1966.

- A terrible year in the Pac-10, which placed only two teams in the tournament and none seeded above No. 8.

- Fast starts, followed by sudden downfalls of Texas and Purdue, two serious title contenders that are now considered long shots, at best.

- Upsets in conference tournaments by Houston and New Mexico State that compelled the committee to use at-large bids on UTEP and Utah State, a pair of regular-season champions from conferences that otherwise would have received only one bid to the Big Dance.

Virginia Tech and Mississippi State now go down with last year's Florida team as one of those very rare major-conference teams to win 23 games and not make the NCAA bracket.

Unlike some years past, the coaches of teams left on the bubble were docile.

"I wouldn't want to take away from any of the teams that made it and the years they had," Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg said. "It's not right, not fair."



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