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NCAA Tournament Selections Favor Big Teams

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NCAA Tournament Selections Favor Big Teams


NCAA Tournament Selections Favor Big Teams

NCAA Tournament Selections Favor Big Teams

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The 65-team NCAA men's basketball tournament begins this week. Defending champion Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Kansas are the top seeds. In picking this year's at-large teams, the selection committee favored clubs from the power conferences.


Commentator John Feinstein is among those who closely watched the selection of the NCAA men's basketball tournament field over the weekend.

John, Good morning.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Okay. Top seeds. The teams with the best position here: North Carolina, Ohio State, Florida and Kansas. Any surprises there?

FEINSTEIN: No. None at all, Steve. Because all four of them won their conference tournaments over the weekend and the committee looked at how strong you finished. The only other two candidates for number one seeds were Wisconsin and UCLA. UCLA lost in the first round of its tournament and Wisconsin lost to Ohio State yesterday. So that pretty much for these four to be the number one seeds, no arguments there.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about Florida, which gets the top overall seed, trying to repeat as the NCAA champion. They begin against - well, they begin against Jackson State. That's, I guess, the benefit of being the top seed, is you get to play someone like Jackson State.

FEINSTEIN: Right. Exactly. You play a 16th seed if you're a number one seed in your region. And they probably have a better chance to repeat as national champions than anyone since Duke did it in 1992 - the only team in the last 30 years to do it - because they returned all five of their starters, which as you know, Steve, is very unusual in college basketball these days when you have success. And they're playing, as I said, their best basketball of the season, going into the tournament much like last year when they caught fire in March.

INSKEEP: They're lucky that none of those starters went off to the pros, I suppose.

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's exactly right. If you look at North Carolina the year before, which had four underclassmen on their championship team, they all left for the NBA.

INSKEEP: Now which teams are not in the field that you're going to miss, John?

FEINSTEIN: Well, the two that really stand out are Drexel and Syracuse for different reasons. Syracuse is from a power conference, the Big East. Everybody thought they would get in, and two teams, Marquette and Villanova, which finished behind them in their conference, got in, and Syracuse didn't. So it's kind of a mystery what the committee was thinking there.

Drexel is a team that has the biggest complaint. Steve, they won 14 road games during the season. The Big Ten, the entire conference, other than Ohio State and Wisconsin, won 16 road games combined. And Drexel got left out of the field. That's a basketball crime that was committed there, taking Illinois and Purdue out of a weak Big Ten and leaving Drexel out. The committee should be ashamed of itself for that.

INSKEEP: How Drexel do at home?

FEINSTEIN: They did okay at home. I mean, their overall record was 24 and 8. But because they're from a mid-major conference, they're forced to play extra road games. And they won at Syracuse, they won at St. John's, at Villanova, and the committee overlooked that, took two teams from the CAA, that's George Mason's conference from a year ago, but didn't take Drexel. That's just disgusting.

INSKEEP: And you don't think that overall they did very well by smaller schools?

FEINSTEIN: No, they didn't. They only took six mid-majors this year, as opposed to eight last year and nine the year before. They went back to their old habits of feeding the rich, the Big Ten, the Big East, the ACC. It's clear the committee had a bias toward the big conferences this year.

INSKEEP: Well, no matter how much the rich get fed, there nearly always seems to be an upset or two or three or four in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament. What are you looking for this year?

FEINSTEIN: I've got several possibilities. Long Beach State. Nobody knows anything about them. They haven't been good for 35 years. A 12 seed I think could beat Tennessee. I think Winthrop, which has never won a tournament game, could beat Norte Dame. Wouldn't that be great - Winthrop beating Norte Dame? That's why this tournament is beautiful. And look out for Holy Cross at 13th seed against Southern Illinois.

INSKEEP: John, good to talk with you.

FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: And we'll be watching to see what happens. The comments of John Feinstein, whose book "Last Dance: Inside the Final Four" is out in paperback.

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NCAA Tourney Draw: Let's Hear It for Longshots

Yep, it's time to dive right into March Madness. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images hide caption

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Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Yep, it's time to dive right into March Madness.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

At this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament the biggest surprise has been a lack of really big surprises.

After all, upsets are what make the spectacle so much fun — and office pools such sweet agony.

But as the Sweet 16 took shape this weekend, some underdogs began to bark a bit.

Sunday saw a No. 2 seed fall as No. 7 seed UNLV pounced on Wisconsin, 74-68. The Badgers were briefly the top-ranked team in some of the regular-season polls before injuries and two late losses to Ohio State showed their vulnerability. They are now the highest-rated team bounced from the tournament.

Saturday — as several games went into overtime — it took two extra sessions for No. 6 seed Vanderbilt to polish off No. 3 seed Washington State, setting up a future date with Georgetown in the Meadowlands.

And let's not forget Butler and Tennessee. The No. 5 seeds handled No. 4 seeds Maryland and Virginia, respectively, to earn the chance for much bigger targets: No. 1 seeds Florida and Ohio State.

Meanwhile, the Winthrop Eagles — who many felt might fly high in this tournament — were grounded by a no-less majestic bunch of birds Sunday. Winthrop, a No. 11 seed, lost 75-61 to the Fighting Ducks of Oregon, a No. 3 seed.

Three other Saturday games featured near-misses:

No. 9 seed Xavier coulda, shoulda and woulda beaten No. 1 seed Ohio State. But the Muskateers left a tiny little window open for the Buckeyes after holding an 11-point lead late in the second half. After sending the game into overtime with a 3-point shot, OSU overpowered its deflated Ohio rival in the extra period to win 79-71.

In other near-upsets, No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth roared back from 19 points down to take No. 3 seed Pitt into overtime before the favored Panthers advanced. And No. 6 seed Louisville came within a basket of knocking out No. 3 seed Texas A&M.

Even so, this tournament is as short on stunners and shockers as any in recent memory. Only five of the 32 first-round games defied the bracket-makers' expectations.

So on to Sunday, where the game carrying the most potential for bracket-busting features No. 11 seed Winthrop testing its mettle against No. 3 seed Oregon.

Now, take a last look at the Davids — and the Davidsons — who showed up, slingshots in hand, hoping to knock a Goliath or two upside the head: