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NCAA basketball: 10 questions facing the NCAA tournament selection committee

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By Eric Prisbell
Sunday, March 13, 2011; 7:05 PM

IN LAS VEGAS After five days of critiquing, evaluating and debating the merits of college basketball teams across the country, the 10-member NCAA tournament selection committee will emerge from a luxury bunker at an Indianapolis hotel on Sunday ready to unveil this season's 68-team NCAA tournament bracket.

This season has been defined by the dearth of can't-miss NBA prospects and by the parity - or mediocrity - that has been prevalent in several prestigious conferences that have seen better days. The pool of so-called bubble teams - those contending for some of the last of the 37 at-large berths - has been deemed as weak as ever.

"I don't understand why some teams are in the picture," New Mexico Coach Steve Alford said.

An expanded field - three additional teams will play in the tournament this season - means a handful of teams that typically would not be in the picture are now in strong contention to sneak into the field. Just which schools will make the cut is one of the many pressing questions that will be answered Sunday night.

1) Will the Big East get a record 11 bids?

The Big East, the nation's deepest and largest conference, is expected to break its own record (eight bids) by sending 11 teams to the NCAA tournament. And eight of those 11 are likely to earn top-six seeds in the NCAAs.

The weakest link is Villanova, which has been in free fall this month. The other 10 teams are well deserving of invites. Because the teams play one another, four Big East teams rank among the nation's top 10 in schedule strength. And there's enough parity throughout the top three-quarters of the league that all 11 managed at least .500 conference records.

"It is not outrageous," ESPN's Joe Lunardi said of the 11 expected bids, "but it could feel outrageous to some people Monday."

2) Are all the No. 1 seeds secured?

Ohio State, likely to be the tournament's top overall seed, and Kansas are well positioned to earn No. 1 seeds. Pittsburgh is likely to earn a No. 1 seed, as well. The fourth remains in question.

Notre Dame, which has six wins against teams ranked in the top 25 of the RPI, a measure of teams' strength used by the committee, had been in the driver's seat until a loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament semifinals opened the door for two other schools, Duke and North Carolina, to have a chance to squeeze in if one can beat the other in Sunday's ACC tournament final.

3) Which teams are most likely to play at Verizon Center this week?


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