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Chris Dufresne / On College Basketball

A different kind of bluegrass statement on Selection Sunday

Louisville gets No. 1 NCAA tournament seeding after winning rugged Big East, and rival Kentucky doesn't even make the field, a year after winning national title.

March 17, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Louisville players celebrate as the Cardinals close out a victory over Syracuse in the Big East Conference tournament final on Saturday.
Louisville players celebrate as the Cardinals close out a victory over… (Elsa / Getty Images )

Kentucky is the top-seeded team entering this year's NCAA tournament that tips off Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, and ends on a Monday in Atlanta.

Check that: A team from Kentucky, coached by a former Kentucky coach, is top-seeded entering the NCAA tournament.

Sorry, it's easy to mix that up.

Louisville deservedly and emphatically garnered this year's top overall seeding after elbowing its way to the Big East tournament title.

Kentucky, the defending national champion, didn't make the cut. But the Wildcats did get a No. 1 seeding for the NIT.

We will dearly miss the in-tournament dynamic of a rivalry that last year produced a fan fight in a dialysis center before the Final Four matchup won by Kentucky.

You can't call Louisville's sensational 2013 seeding payback for last year, but it is fun to note Rick Pitino's team will open NCAA tournament play in . . . Lexington.

This turned out to be a not-very-controversial Selection Sunday in a wide-open year when it was tough to find 68 qualified applicants.

The heckling was mostly "inside bracketology" stuff about seeding and geography and matchups.

Joining Louisville (Midwest Regional) on the top line are No. 1 club members Kansas (South), Indiana (East) and Gonzaga (West).

Kansas has come a long way from a February loss at Texas Christian, after which Coach Bill Self lamented "it was the worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor."

Miami can reasonably gripe it deserved a No. 1 over Gonzaga because the Hurricanes won the ACC regular-season and tournament titles.

Mike Bobinski, chairman of the selection committee, indicated on CBS' post-selection show that Gonzaga got the last No. 1 by a sliver and it was partly because of the Bulldogs' decades-long tenacity.

The committee basically pulled out an old song from Gonzaga's own Bing Crosby and asked the Bulldogs: "Would you like to swing on a star?"

The arguments this year aren't so much about which teams were left out. Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia and Iowa all had their chances.

There were plenty of questionable calls, though, within the bracket.

It seems obvious the selection committee, like a lot of us, had DirectTV in the room and couldn't get access to the Pac-12 Networks.

The NCAA released its seeding list 1-through-68 and the Pac-12 Conference didn't have a team in the top 20. Arizona, which lost three times to UCLA, checked in at No. 21, followed by UCLA (24), Colorado (36), California (42) and Oregon (43).

Arizona and UCLA earned ho-hum No. 6 seedings, Colorado was a 10, and Oregon and Cal ended up on the No. 12 line.

Bobinksi conceded Cal and Oregon should have been on the 11 line but were bumped like passengers on an oversold plane to comply with bracket "mechanics."

We interrupt regular programming to remind everyone Oregon won the Pac-12 tournament title Saturday night in Las Vegas.

It is true Oregon suffered through a rough patch playing without injured guard Dominic Artis this season, but it's also true Artis was back in time to score 14 points in Saturday's win over UCLA.

The committee theoretically is supposed to reward teams playing well at the end of the season.

"They looked a lot more like themselves last night," Bobinski admitted to CBS regarding Oregon. "But at that point we had evaluated their entire season's worth of work."

There have been plenty of years the Pac-12 deserved to be ignored at tournament time, but was this one of them?

UCLA got a tough draw against No. 11 Minnesota in Austin, Texas. If the Bruins survive they'd probably face Florida, a team they've met only three times in the NCAA tournament . . . since 2006.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland reportedly was so miffed he asked to borrow Bobinski's jacket so he could throw it.

Oregon received favorable first-week routing through San Jose but faces a very tough opener against Oklahoma State.

Teams aren't supposed to meet in regular-season rematches if at all possible, yet that didn't stop the committee from pairing California against Nevada Las Vegas in San Jose.

"Trust me," Bobinski said, "we didn't try to make that rematch."

Blame it on Bobinski's bracket mechanic.

The Big East, making a last stand before being subdivided into conference condominiums, led all conferences with eight NCAA bids. The Big Ten had seven and four leagues had five.

The committee showed it had a collective sense of humor by setting up a potential second-round South Regional meeting between Kansas and North Carolina in Kansas City, Mo. That would pit Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams against his former team in a matchup that has always been good for a laugh . . . or a cry.

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