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CHRIS DUFRESNE ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Something sour about this Sweet 16: predictability

With the top three seeded teams advancing in every regional, it appears the NCAA selection committee did its job a little too well. How about introducing an element of chance to the process?

March 25, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Something is wrong when a United States president, facing crises that threaten the globe, can pick 14 of the 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament.

Something is amiss a lot worse than UCLA's, uh, miss against Villanova, when a 13-year-old boy, in five minutes between finishing his homework and making chocolate milk, can nail 13 out of 16.

And his dad, the "expert," looking for nuance and romance in the bracket, suddenly seeks annulment for his ill-advised marriage to Dayton.

Note to self (not you, Bill): Never take another flier on the Flyers, especially against Kansas if it has a center named Chamberlain, Manning or Aldrich.

Coming in 2010: Basketball writer and Corky the cocker spaniel square off in NCAA tournament challenge!

Something doesn't feel right when the "feel-good story" at this stage is poor, helpless, out-of-nowhere, 12th-seeded Arizona, which is being asked to take on No. 1 Louisville this week armed with only two first-round NBA draft picks and 25 straight years of NCAA tournament know-how.

This isn't madness -- it's fairness.

This year's Sweet 16 is about as serendipitous as courtroom stenography.

All you had to do to win the office pool was know how to count to five.

The four top-seeded schools survived the first weekend -- again. Last year, for the first time, all four No. 1s made it to the Final Four.

Also for the first time, the top three seeded teams in every regional advanced:

East: Pittsburgh, Duke, Villanova.

South: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse.

Midwest: Louisville, Michigan State, Kansas.

West: Connecticut, Memphis, Missouri.

Do any of you really feel proud about advancing those teams?

The lowest-seeded surviving school after Arizona is No. 5 Purdue.

People will try to sell the breakthroughs of the three mid-majors: Memphis, Xavier and Gonzaga.

Don't buy it.

Memphis may play in a lousy conference (USA), but this is a team that should have won the national title last year. The Tigers haven't lost a basketball game since December. Saturday, in a West Regional whacking, Memphis turned Gary Williams' Atlantic Coast Conference team into the Maryland Terrible-ins.

And calling Memphis a mid-major is like calling Emeril Lagasse a cook.

"We played in the national championship game last year and the Elite Eight the year before that," Memphis senior guard Antonio Anderson said. "We know what we're capable of as a team. We don't pay that any mind."

Memphis has won 10 tournament games (and counting) since 2006; Kentucky has won two.

Xavier may seem like it fits the slipper, but its Atlantic 10 mid-major status only seems to be tied to the school's not being able to afford a football team.

"No disrespect," Xavier senior guard-forward B.J. Raymond said last week, "but I don't know what football has to do with basketball. . . . I have never known of any school that needed a football team to be a good basketball team."

With an "upset" victory against No. 1 Pittsburgh on Thursday in an East Regional semifinal at Boston, Xavier would make the Elite Eight for the third time since 2003.

Gonzaga was a cute kid 10 years ago, but now it has mutton chops, smokes like a chimney and drives a Harley.

It is almost impossible to get excited about a school, even Bing Crosby's school, that is making its 11th consecutive tournament trip.

Could it be the NCAA committee has gotten so proficient at bracket-selection it has sucked the essence out of it?

The committee works so diligently now at balancing and seeding that it may have over-baby-proofed the playpen.

It almost provides red-carpet limo service for the top teams; North Carolina gets leather seats and a driver through games at Greensboro and now Memphis.

The biggest gripe against the committee -- letting Arizona in the field with a record of 19-13 -- now looks like a master stroke.

CBS might as well be directing, with a megaphone, straight from script.

Just once, maybe next year, I'd like to see the NCAA tournament field randomly picked out of the Oklahoma State mascot's cowboy hat.

Or, maybe borrow from the NBA lottery system and fill out the entire bracket using compressed air and ping-pong balls.

After the selection process, toss 65 orbs into a giant popcorn machine and bracket your S-curve.

You could reward the top schools by weighting the draw. Give top-ranked Louisville a better chance at a higher seeding by giving the Cardinals more balls.

Put the head coach's picture on every ball and start picking.

Allow the one-in-1,000 chance UCLA has to play Duke in the play-in game on Tuesday in Dayton.

Forget about protecting teams and logistical concerns.

Do they care about that in college football?

Notre Dame played against Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl in December and didn't once complain about the host team's home-island advantage.

There were seven football bowl games played in Florida, yet Miami was shipped all the way to San Francisco's Emerald Bowl.

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