The NCAA ramped up a public relations campaign over the past few weeks in order to convince people that politics and television money play no part in the selection process for the men's basketball tournament.

ESPN viewers were beat over the head with this idea by Jay Bilas and the other sycophants. Clark Kellogg engaged in impressive kissing up to the committee on Sunday on CBS. The national writers found on the major dotcoms also traded their souls for access in the days leading to the 65-team bracket announcement.

And then the bracket was revealed late Sunday afternoon and we discovered the committee remains the same quagmire of politics and favoritism for the television glamour teams as has been the case in the three decades since the NCAA engaged in doubling the size of the field from 32 (1975-78) to the modern 64/65 (1985-present).

How did the Southeastern Conference wind up with six teams? Mike Slive, the SEC commissioner, was No. 2 on the committee's depth chart and will be the commissioner in 2009.

How about eight teams for the Big East? It's not so much that committee member Jeffrey Hathaway is the Connecticut athletic director but rather that Philadelphia is a very large television market.

So it's a simple task to choose Villanova from among the fringe contenders and put it in the field.

There is one puzzle when you look at the committee and the field: Ohio State didn't make it, even though Eugene Smith, Buckeyes athletic director, is among the nine selectors.

Oh, that's right: ADs on the committee must excuse themselves when their team is being discussed ... wink, wink!

The theory here is that someone on the committee was guilty of gross misconduct. When Smith had his back turned, a campaigner for the SEC or the Big East slipped in a videotape of the Buckeyes-Gophers first half at Williams Arena and people in the meeting room shrieked in horror.

There was one gentleman serving his last term on the committee who should be departing in shame. Jonathan LeCrone is the commissioner of the Horizon League. His champion of both the regular season and the conference tournament was Butler.

A year ago, Butler was 27-6, didn't win the conference tournament and was 27th in the RPI. The Bulldogs received a fifth seed and won two games to reach the Sweet Sixteen.

This season, they went to Anchorage for the Great Alaska Shootout and defeated Michigan, Virginia Tech and Texas Tech to win the tournament. They also had victories over Ohio State and Florida State.

They are 29-3 and stand 17th in the Ratings Percentage Index. And the reward was to be given a seventh seed and sent to Birmingham, Ala., to play an in-state team, South Alabama.

Butler officials, coaches, players and family members were gathered to watch the selection show. When the Bulldogs appeared on the screen as a seventh seed, headed to Alabama, there was silence in the room.

The committee also offered the usual bouquet to Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. The Blue Devils lost four of their past 10 games. The last of those came against Clemson in the ACC tournament semifinals.

No matter.

CBS and the NCAA were heartbroken when their beloved Dookies were knocked out in the first round by Virginia Commonwealth a year ago. The committee was going to make sure that another early exit did not befall Coach I Deserve Every Call.

Duke was given a second seed and placed up the road in Washington D.C. It has Belmont in the first round and the minor task of defeating West Virginia (seventh seed) or Arizona (10th) in the second round.

That was another beautiful move by the committee: Arizona State was 2-0 against Arizona and finished ahead of it in the conference standings. They both lost in the Pac-10 quarterfinals.

Yes, but CBS likes to have Arizona in the field -- even without Lute Olson on the sideline -- so the Wildcats make it, ASU doesn't, and the explanation becomes that strength of schedule is more important than head-to-head.

Quite a system for this committee:

It puts the teams it prefers for whatever reason where it wants them in the bracket, then comes up with its rationalization later.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •