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NCAA tournament 2011: East Region analysis by John Feinstein

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Let us begin with two local teams who the committee did wrong: Virginia Tech and George Mason.

The good news for the Patriots is that they have a very winnable first-round game against a Villanova team that became the first in tournament history to get an at-large bid after losing its last five games. That’s where the good news ends.

If Mason wins that game, it gets to play Ohio State, the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament, on what will be virtually a home court for the Buckeyes in Cleveland. That’s the beauty of the pod system, which was a bad idea to begin with and remains that way. Mason would have been better off as a No. 10 seed than it is as a No. 8 seed. In fact, a 10th seed would have given them a potential second-round game against North Carolina — the same school it beat in the second round en route to the Final Four in 2006.

At least Jim Larranaga’s team is in the field. The same can’t be said for Virginia Tech. The ACC should seriously consider replacing Wake Forest Athletic Director Ron Wellman as its committee rep after he was clearly outmaneuvered by SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini in the committee room. Somehow, UAB got a second bid for Orsini’s league (Conference USA) while the ACC got just four bids — with Clemson getting sent to Dayton for the play-in round. (Sorry, NCAA, I’m not buying into this “First Four” marketing brand.)

Virginia Tech deserved a bid: It beat a No. 1 seed (Duke) two weeks ago and finished 9-7 in the fifth-rated league in the country according to the RPI. Sure, that’s a down year for the ACC, but not that down. The Big Ten gets seven bids; the ACC four? Oh wait, where is the committee chairman from again? The Ohio State AD, you say? Sure, there’s no politics in this process.

Please. As it turns out Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg is still the Job in college basketball. UAB over Virginia Tech? Virginia Tech beat Penn State head-to-head. Committee chairman Gene Smith went on and on about “body of work.” Okay how about head-to-head? Does that count in the body of work? Penn State also lost at home to Maryland. That’s not meant to pick on Penn State but to pick on the committee. UAB? Seriously?

Oh, the bracket.

The committee didn’t do Ohio State any favors. North Carolina, the No. 2 seed in the region has lost two games — both to Duke — since mid-January. Playing in Charlotte, the Tar Heels should blow through the first weekend: LIU is a good story, but will be overmatched. Washington should beat Georgia — the SEC got five bids to the ACC’s four?Is that a farewell gift to former chairman (SEC Commissioner) Mike Slive?

Anyway, North Carolina should beat Washington. Whom it will play in the round of 16 is anybody’s guess. Xavier is under-seeded as a No. 6, but faces a tough first-round game against Marquette to then play Syracuse (which gets Indiana State without Larry Bird in the first round). Don’t be stunned if Xavier beats Syracuse to get to Newark but either way it should be North Carolina-Ohio State in the region final. Kentucky should get to the round of 16 — although the over-under on Princeton backdoors against the Wildcats is 11 — and a made-for-TV rematch of last year’s Kentucky-West Virginia region final would be fun to watch. Kentucky’s certainly improving but is probably a little too young to beat Ohio State — although it will probably be younger next year. That’s the Coach Cal way.

That would set up an Ohio State-North Carolina region final. The good news is this isn’t a football game, so everyone on both rosters should be eligible to play.

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