Committee chief: Cards pass eye test
INDIANAPOLIS -- One letter of the alphabet may have played a huge difference in the seeding of two teams.
The NCAA tournament selection committee rewarded Virginia with a No. 1 seed in the East for winning the ACC regular-season and conference tournament titles but didn't treat AAC champ Louisville the same in reviewing its criteria and handing the Cardinals a No. 4 seed.
Louisville won a share of the American Athletic Conference title with Cincinnati and was not the top seed only because the Cardinals lost a coin flip. Louisville then blasted three opponents in the American tournament, albeit two of the three were Rutgers and Houston.
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Committee chairman Ron Wellman says his group used the body-of-work argument for Virginia -- which, like Louisville, didn't beat any of its high-profile nonconference foes. That means the Cavaliers were given a three-seed bump over Louisville by virtue of winning the ACC. Coincidentally, Louisville will join the ACC next season.
Wellman, the athletic director at Wake Forest, told ESPN on Sunday night that Louisville "passed everyone's eye test" and added that the Cardinals "are playing right now as well as anybody in the country."
Asked if Louisville looked like a 1-seed, Wellman said, "Sure."
While the Cardinals are in a loaded Midwest region, Wellman explained cases could be made for the other three No. 4 seeds as well.
Michigan State and UCLA won the Big Ten and Pac-12 tournaments, respectively, and MWC regular-season champ San Diego State lost in its tournament title game.
Wellman said the committee had to look at the entire season, not just the past three or four weeks.
He said Villanova and Michigan were also very involved in the discussion with Virginia for the final No. 1 seed. The Wildcats won the Big East regular-season title but lost in the tournament quarterfinals to Seton Hall, while Michigan won the Big Ten outright but lost to Michigan State in the tournament final Sunday.
Wellman said the committee didn't look to stack the Midwest against top-seeded and unbeaten Wichita State with brand names Michigan, Duke, Louisville and Kentucky. He said that's where the seeds fell, but when asked if it was the toughest region, he conceded, "I would say probably it is. I'll give you that."
He said the last team in the field was NC State, which beat Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament but then lost to Duke. He said the last four teams the Wolfpack beat out for that spot were SMU, Florida State, Georgetown and Green Bay.
Wellman said NC State getting three road wins against top-50 teams was a deciding factor.
"That attracts the attention of the committee," Wellman said. "NC State took their game on the road and beat three top-50 teams."
The committee couldn't avoid creating a rematch between BYU and Oregon in a 7-10 game in the West. Oregon beat BYU by four in overtime in December in Eugene. BYU was comfortably in, according to Wellman, but the Cougars pose unique problems because they don't play on Sundays due to religious reasons.
Wellman said the committee kept in touch with Kansas about Joel Embiid's injury. The freshman center missed the Big 12 tournament with a stress fracture in his back. The Jayhawks beat Oklahoma State but lost to Iowa State in the semifinals.
Wellman said the Jayhawks have a talented backup and their wins against top-100 teams were enough to secure a No. 2 seed.
"Embiid is a heckuva player, but it's not like they're falling off the map without him," Wellman said.
Asked if Kansas told the committee whether the Jayhawks would have Embiid for their first two tournament games, Wellman said Kansas did brief the committee but wouldn't disclose what was said.
If there was one bubble team that played its way into the field over the weekend with a win, it was Providence. The Friars beat Creighton for the Big East tournament title Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Wellman said the Friars weren't in the field prior to the game.
The committee did have to wait until the ACC and Big Ten tournaments finished Sunday, building four brackets as contingencies, according to the NCAA.