- Joe Lunardi, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Here is my take on the NCAA Tournament bracket:
Biggest surprise: North Carolina State, without question. I don't know many, if any, who had the Wolfpack even among their "First four out." Before declaring whether this is a Lunardi "miss" or an NCAA "miss," I want to give the committee the benefit of the doubt and sleep on it. But my first reaction is that NC State (1-7 vs T25 and 3-9 vs Top 50) was a reach in spite of the upset of Syracuse in the ACC quarterfinals.
The following exclusions are all at least 10 spots better than the Wolfpack (No. 66) in the final KenPom rankings: SMU (No. 32, my choice), Louisiana Tech (No. 35), Utah (No. 36), St. John's (No. 38), Florida State (No. 41), Maryland (No. 43), Clemson (No. 51), Georgetown (No. 45) and Illinois (No. 56). So one could argue, fairly effectively, that NC State wasn't even the next best team in its own conference. But apparently that doesn't matter since Coach Mike Krzyzewski thinks all of them should be in the tournament.
Biggest non-surprise: Louisville not being a No. 1 seed. I tried to tell everyone, including Rick Pitino, that it wasn't going to happen. As great as the Cardinals played down the stretch, their likely win over Manhattan on Thursday will be their first over an NCAA team outside their conference. In Louisville's case (and many others, it seems), nonconference performance -- not just scheduling -- was a real factor for the committee this year.
Sunday mattered, except when it didn't: For Virginia, winning the ACC tournament lifted the Cavs all the way to No. 1 seed despite nonconference losses to a No. 2 seed (Wisconsin, at home) a No. 5 seed (VCU, also at home) and a First Four participant (Tennessee). But the Sunday games don't appear to have helped Big Ten tourney champion Michigan State (No. 4 seed), Kentucky (a No. 8 seed despite taking Florida to the wire) or A-10 champion Saint Joseph's (No. 10, the fifth-best seed in a six-bid league).
Seeding: Overall, the seeding appears much more consistent than a year ago when there was considerable head scratching in several places. No doubt the relaxed rules separating conference members helped. But I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out a tweak or two that could or should have been made.
• Overseeded: Massachusetts (KenPom No. 52), BYU (especially without second-leading scorer Kyle Collinsworth).
• Underseeded: Kentucky (KenPom No. 17), Saint Joseph's (20-5 since a 4-4 start).
But we are picking nits here (which isn't quite the same as picking the N.I.T.!). It's still a foolproof tournament and I can't wait to settle in.