RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It is about as exciting as college basketball gets without the sweat and squeaking sneakers and school bands. Of course, we're talking about the televised selection shows picking the teams for the men's and women's Division I tournaments. Yesterday was Selection Sunday for the men. Selection Monday for the women is today. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now. Good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: There is, of course, Tom, usually some grumbling about seedings and who gets left out. Did that happen yesterday?
GOLDMAN: Oh, sure it did. You know, there's some justifiable griping about Monmouth and St. Bonaventure and other worthy so-called mid-major teams being left out while bigger, but not better, teams like Syracuse and Tulsa got in. But let's focus on the surprise at the top of the heat - Michigan State not being a No. 1 seed. The No. 1s in the four regions are North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia and Oregon. Michigan State was top-ranked in the nation for several weeks during the regular season. The Spartans won the Big Ten Conference tournament yesterday. Meanwhile, Virginia lost in its season-ending ACC Tournament. Many thought, therefore, Michigan State was more worthy of a top seed than Virginia.
But, you know what, Michigan State players and their head coach Tom Izzo say it doesn't matter. The Spartans have a No. 2 seed instead of a No. 1. In fact, the Spartans made it to the final four last year as a 7 seed. So this will just give Michigan State more incentive to prove the selection committee wrong.
MONTAGNE: Well, I guess it is not surprising that there was controversy since the regular season was so topsy-turvy.
GOLDMAN: You know, it was musical chairs in the rankings much of the season - no one dominant team. In fact, the four No. 1 seeds that I was just talking about - they have a combined 23 losses. Last year, the top 4 seeds had a combined 9 losses. So there's been some complaining that the tournament is going to be more of the lackluster regular season without the truly great teams or great players who'll be sure-thing NBA stars. But the positive side to that - this tournament has the potential to be wide-open, meaning there could be some true madness to this March.
MONTAGNE: But it appears that this tournament is a bit of a throwback to when older, more mature players were in the spotlight.
GOLDMAN: That's absolutely right. We are so used to the one-and-done phenomenon - freshman blowing through a season on their way to the NBA, but not this year. The freshman player everyone was talking about through the regular season, LSU's Ben Simmons - you won't see him in the tournament. His team didn't make it. You will see seniors like Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes for Michigan State, Buddy Hield for Oklahoma, Perry Ellis for Kansas and many more. More mature guys - and there's a chance you'll see better basketball because of it.
MONTAGNE: And let's get to the women's tournament which takes shape tonight. It appears, again, to be UConn versus the world.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Yeah. Here's what counts for drama this past regular season in the women's game. Notre Dame and Maryland lost to UConn by 10 points. That's the closest anyone got. The Huskies were 32-0. They won those 32 games by an average of 39.7 points. And over the past three years, UConn's won-loss record, Renee - 110-1. That's crazy.
MONTAGNE: OK. Tell us about the other talented teams.
GOLDMAN: Well, there definitely are. I mentioned Notre Dame, Maryland - also South Carolina and Baylor. But, you know, there's talented and then, again, there's UConn. The Huskies don't seem to have any off nights. They're the one team in sports you can't jinx by saying they're going to win, so I will say it.
MONTAGNE: (Laughter) OK. Said - let's count it as said. Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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