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NCAA tournament 2010: The campaigning season is finally almost finished

Coach Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech have a more anxious wait for the NCAA selections after falling to Miami on Friday.
Coach Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech have a more anxious wait for the NCAA selections after falling to Miami on Friday. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By John Feinstein
Sunday, March 14, 2010

GREENSBORO, N.C.

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At last, Campaign '10 comes to an end Sunday night. The polls will close at 6 p.m. and the voters -- all 10 of them -- will no longer be bombarded with campaign rhetoric from the candidates.

No, control of congress is not at stake. For those who follow college basketball, the stakes are far higher than that: Who will be among the Selected 65 in the NCAA tournament bracket unveiled Sunday evening and, for those who already know that their name will be on the board, exactly where will they fit in?

Saturday afternoon in the super-secret conference room in Indianapolis where the men's basketball selection committee meets, someone's name came off the board after Houston upset UTEP to win the automatic bid from Conference USA. Because the Cougars had no shot to get into the tournament as an at-large team, their victory knocked someone out, perhaps UTEP, which at 26-6 should merit an at-large berth.

In the meantime, coaches continue to push their teams in the same way TV ads push candidates. Maryland Coach Gary Williams wasn't terribly happy with his team's loss to Georgia Tech on Friday night in the ACC tournament, but it didn't take much prodding to get him into campaign mode.

"I would hope that a team that tied for first place in one of the best conferences in the country would rate a pretty high seed," he said Friday. "I'm a little tired of hearing the ACC isn't good this year. We're good. We're very good."

Earlier Friday, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coaches the team that tied with Maryland for first place in the ACC, didn't want to hear about any of the other candidates for the final No. 1 seed in the field. "Look at our schedule," he said. "No one's played a schedule like ours and we're 27-5 [now 28-5 after the Blue Devils' win over Miami in the ACC semifinals on Saturday]. We deserve it regardless of what happens the rest of the weekend."

And of course, Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg, forced to head home to Blacksburg after his team's loss to Miami, was headed back on the campaign trail. "Going on 'GameDay,' later on," he said Saturday morning. "I'm going to point out that we played 16 games against teams in the top 100 and we've got three wins over teams in the top 50. Forget our nonconference schedule; look at the overall numbers -- that's what matters."

Even North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, fully aware that his team's 16-16 record wasn't going to get him anywhere near the 65, was hoping to find a postseason home. "If anyone asks my team to play," he said, talking about the National Invitation Tournament, "I'm going to play. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere. That's what I do."

Of course the campaigning isn't limited to the ACC.

The Mountain West made its pitch for four bids on Friday night when fourth-seeded San Diego State beat top-seeded New Mexico and third-seeded Nevada-Las Vegas upset second-seeded Brigham Young in the conference tournament. Because New Mexico and BYU were already tournament locks, their losses helped the campaigns for the underdog winners.


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