NCAA men's tournament: Start your engines

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2007 - 11:31 PM

The driver's seat: Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida drew theNo. 1 seeds.

The phrase NCAA tournament selection chair Gary Walters used repeatedly was "body of work." Pulling out that always-handy NCAA-to-English dictionary, "body of work" means what happens over the course of the entire season, rather than a single game or within the past month.

While college basketball has increasingly become a sport in which the three weeks between Selection Sunday and "One Shining Moment" is all that matters, the NCAA went a little old-school in determining the 65 teams for this season's tournament.

The committee repeatedly looked at performance in conference games, something that has been often overlooked in this talk-radio/Internet-message-board world.

The common thread among the tournament's four No. 1 seeds -- Florida, Ohio State, Kansas and North Carolina -- was that they won their conference regular-season titles and their conference tournaments.

The other two candidates for top seeds couldn't make that claim.

UCLA won the Pac-10 regular-season title but was bumped off early in the league tournament. Wisconsin won neither.

For the Gators, landing a top seed -- and a reasonable draw -- should only help as they attempt to become the first team to repeat as champions since Duke did it at the Metrodome in 1992.

If there was a surprise among the top seeds, it was the NCAA's geography. The Gators are the top seed in the Midwest, where regional games will be played in St. Louis.

Ohio State, however, was placed in the South regional and could end up in San Antonio.

That whole "body of work" thing was also in play when the tournament committee determined which teams secured those precious final spots in the 65-team field and those that were left out.

Walters, the athletic director at Princeton, said this year's selection process was more difficult than the previous four he was involved with. But there did appear to be some method to the madness.

Syracuse was bounced in part because the Orange didn't play a nonconference game outside the state of New York and it went 3-5 against the Big East's NCAA tournament teams.

Texas Tech got in because of a sweep of Texas A&M and a victory over the Jayhawks. That carried more weight than the Red Raiders' 21-point loss to an NIT-bound Kansas State team.

Old Dominion was selected over Drexel in part because the Monarchs finished two games ahead of the Dragons in the Colonial standings and beat them twice during the season.

While there will be whining from parts of the Big East and Big 12, the power conferences were certainly among Sunday's winners.

A year after the Missouri Valley had two teams advance to the tournament's Sweet 16 -- one more than the Big Ten and Big 12 combined -- and George Mason came out of the Colonial to advance to the Final Four, the number of midmajor at-large selections actually dropped, from eight to six.

If not for upsets in the Western Athletic Conference and Atlantic 10 tournaments, that number might have been smaller.

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