Committee keeps teams near home

Updated: March 12, 2012, 4:54 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The NCAA tournament selection committee stayed true to one facet of its new mantra: trying to keep teams in their region as much as possible.

That's why Kentucky was put in the South region in a natural SEC region in Atlanta instead of being put in a region closer to Lexington in St. Louis.

NCAA tournament selection committee chair Jeff Hathaway said on CBS Sunday that it wanted to put the true No. 1 Kentucky in its natural region.

"We felt that Atlanta was a natural region for Kentucky,'' Hathaway said.

Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, projected to get to St. Louis, which would give the Jayhawks a homecourt advantage over a possible Elite Eight matchup with top seed North Carolina.

Syracuse was protected as a No. 1 seed in Boston in the East region, assuming the Orange get to the second weekend. Michigan State, by virtue of its Big Ten tournament title Sunday, was the last No. 1 seed and shipped West to Phoenix in a possible Sweet 16.

Hathaway said on CBS that Missouri's poor nonconference schedule positioned the Tigers as the weakest No. 2, pitting the Tigers in the West. While Missouri didn't get a possible St. Louis region, the Tigers could reach a potential Elite Eight game against Michigan State instead of North Carolina, the top seed in the Midwest.

The most controversial at-large selection was made when Iona was selected into the field. The Gaels won the MAAC regular season title, but then lost in the conference tournament semifinals. Hathaway said on CBS that Iona's strength of schedule was what put the Gaels into the field.

Meanwhile, regular-season champs Drexel and Washington out of the Colonial and Pac-12, respectively, didn't get a bid.

Other possible bubble teams that didn't make the field, included Seton Hall, Miami and Mississippi State. The last four at-large teams in the field were BYU, Iona, Cal and South Florida. Those four will meet as listed in first-round games in Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Defending champ UConn earned a No. 9 seed and will play Iowa State in Louisville, with the winner likely getting top-seed Kentucky. Last season's surprise Final Four team, VCU, is in the same South bracket and earned a No. 12 seed but drew Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champ Wichita State in Portland.

Murray State, the final team to lose a game in the regular season, earned a favorable No. 6 seed and drew Colorado State in nearby Louisville.

Harvard, which is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946, earned a No. 12 seed but drew No. 5 Vanderbilt, the winner of the SEC tournament title Sunday, in Albuquerque. If Harvard could pull off two upsets, then the Crimson would be playing the Sweet 16 in Boston.

The most egregious bracket item may be Gonzaga, yet again. The Zags were put in for a 7-10 matchup against West Virginia in Pittsburgh. In 2008, Gonzaga was in the same 7-10 matchup against Davidson in Raleigh. The Zags lost the game.

On a conference call, NCAA interim vice president Greg Shaheen said that the nine Big East teams forced West Virginia into that position.

Shaheen and NCAA men's basketball media coordinator David Worlock said the committee didn't look at past history.

South Dakota State, which won the Summit League, was put as a No. 14 seed where it will meet No. 3 Baylor in Albuquerque. South Dakota State's inclusion means Maine is the only remaining state in the lower 48 without an NCAA tournament appearance. Alaska doesn't have a Division I men's basketball team.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com