In one of a number of decisions that will stir controversy about the NCAA National Collegiate Basketball Championship draw, Syracuse was seeded No. 1 in the East yesterday over Georgetown, a team that has beaten the Orangemen twice in 2 1/2 weeks.
The 48-team draw that the NCAA basketball committee released yesterday afternoon was full of surprises. Georgetown, winner of 13 straight games, being seeded third in the East behind Maryland, another team it had beaten, was among the biggest.
The Terps and Hoyas, each awarded a first-round bye by virtue of being among the top four seeds, will meet in the East Regional semifinals March 14 at Philadelphia if each wins its opening game.
Maryland -- one of five Atlantic Coast Conference teams extended bids in the first year a conference could receive more than two -- plays Saturday in familiar Greensboro, N.C., against the winner of Thursday's Tennessee-Furman game.
Georgetown, which expected to get the No.1 seeding by virtue of beating nationally second-ranked Syracuse twice and eighth-ranked St. John's once in the closing weeks, returns Sunday to Providence, R.I., against the winner of Friday's Iona-Holy Cross game.
"People's opinions have been wrong about us all along, so we might as well let the issue be decided on the court," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "I can't understand the logic.You remove opinion when you have competed with people and how in the world they can see us third, I can't understand."
Wayne Duke, commissioner of the Big Ten and chairman of the nine-man NCAA basketball committee, said the seedings were determined on won-lost records and strength of schedules and that regular-season results were more important overall than conference tournaments.
"Over the full season," Duke said, "Syracuse goes into NCAA play with a 25-3 record, having lost a 52-50 decision to Georgetown that ended its 57-game home-court winning streak and an 87-81 verdict to the Hoyas in the final of the Big East tournament Saturday.
Georgetown is 24-5, equaling the Hoya's best record, accomplished last season when they lost to Rutgers in the first game of the NCAA tournament. The Hoyas have a 5-2 record against teams ranked in the wire-service polls this week; Syracuse is 2-2 against similar competition.
Maryland's Lefty Driesell, making his first NCAA appearance since 1975, had no complaints, nor does he put any immediate significance in a rematch with Georgetown in the round of 16.
"I'm just happy to be there, it doesn't matter where," Driesell said. "Georgetown? I just hope we get there. We want to win three games and get to the Final Four. That's our goal now. You can't look ahead."
The expanded field also resulted in the first bid to a team representing a predominantly black school, Alcorn State. Alcorn, of Mississippi; will play South Alabama on Friday at Denton, Tex., for the right to meet Louisiana State, the Southeastern Conference champion seeded No. 1 there after being farmed over from its Mideast locale to the Midwest bracket.
The ACC was the chief beneficiary of the new rule allowing as many teams from one conference as the committee desired to fill the at-large spots, 25 added to 23 conference champions with automatic bids to make up the 48-team field. The Big Ten and Pac-10 placed four teams each; the Big East, Southeastern and Metro conferences three apiece.
Commissioner Duke said that his committee chose the top four teams in the nation first and came up with Kentucky, LSU, Syracuse and De Paul, not necessarily in that order. They became the No. 1 seeds in each region, LSU going to the Midwest and De Paul to the West.
Next, he related, the committee ranked its top 16 teams; then it tried to balance each region. The teams seeded No. 2 -- Maryland in the East, Louisville in the Midwest, Indiana in the Mideast and Oregon State in the West -- are considered by the NCAA to be the Nos. 5-8 teams nationally, Duke said.
As a result of this format, the Georgetown indignity stands alongside other incitements to disgruntlement before the tournament starts its three-week run Thursday night leading to the national final March 24 at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis:
Why was Duke -- the university, not the commissioner -- sent to the Mideast as the No. 4 seed there after beating three ranked teams on successive nights for the ACC title while North Carolina State, the team it beat in the ACC first round, stays in the East with the No. 4 seeding?
Commissioner Duke said the NCAA decided that over the full season, N.C. State was more successful and therefore should be left in its natural region. Duke, which had been ranked No. 1 in the country into January, lost eight of its last 18 games. State finished in a second-place ACC tie with North Carolina -- shipped to the Midwest -- and won last month at Notre Dame.
Why was LSU shipped out after beating Kentucky for the second time in three games, leaving the Southeastern Conference runner-up Wildcats a possible home-court advantage in the Mideast semifinals, a draw that should pair Kentucky against Duke and St. John's or Purdue against Indiana?
The answer, according to Wayne Duke: geographic considerations. The committee determined, he said, that Denton, Tex., and Houston, site of the Midwest semifinals, are more aligned geographically with LSU than Kentucky.
Why were the brackets changed, the Nos. 9 and 12 and Nos. 10 and 11 teams changing positions published in the original bracketing?
Duke said it was a committee decision to achieve more balance and not to penalize the No. 1-seeded teams.
The strength of the East, which has 16 teams in the tournament, and the Mideast, which has three of the top four, resulted in a tournament that will be as much intersectional in scope as regional.
Assuming there is no upsets in the first round, which is like assuming a zero inflation rate soon, there are some attractive intersectional games in the round of 32 that should have NBC drooling with anticipation of good ratings.
Some possible second-round match-ups include: De Paul-UCLA, Syracuse-Marquette, North Carolina-Texas A&M, Arkansas-Louisville, Duke-Washington State, Arizona State-Ohio State, Iowa-North Carolina State and Tennessee-Maryland.
Georgetown's opening game would not be intersectional, but it could pair the teams with the nation's longest Division I winning streaks -- Iona has 16 and Georgetown 13. Georgetown won, 95-84, earlier this season at McDonough Arena.
Ray Meyer, coach of No. 1-ranked De Paul, said of the Blue Demons' placement: "I am surprised we are going out West, but certainly not disappointed. Seriously, we're just glad to be in it and you've got to win them all no matter who you play."
De Paul, which suffered its only defeat of the season Wednesday night in double overtime at Notre Dame, went West last year and gained the final four.
But Ralph Miller, coach of Pac-10 champion Oregon State, was furious: "I can't see any rhyme or reason for the pairings on the national scene. It's difficult to understand how Ohio State and De Paul come out to our region as seeded teams and yet our second-place team (Arizona State) stays in our region."
He was most upset over the prospect of playing Arizona State at Tempe in the regional final. The two teams split this season.
St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca tried to reason why Georgetown was seeded No. 3 in the East:
"Appeal has something to do with it. Tradition has something to do with it. But, to tell you the truth, I don't know what the hell they're thinking. i
"I told everybody after we played them (Georgetown) they're the hottest team going. They're sizzling. They were rebounding, shooting. They have the momentum."
Iona Coach Jim Valvano -- whose team is 28-4, winner of 16 straight games (the most in Division I) and Georgetown's probable opening opponent -- said politics plays a big part in the seedings.
"Conference affiliations are the name of the game," Valvano said. "You see Indiana and Ohio State both getting byes. I'm not real disappointed, because I didn't expect it (a bye). It points out the lunacy of college basketball.
"The ACC has five teams in the tournament. UCLA is in the tournament with nine losses. I wonder if we weren't 28-4, would we have been invited? But I'm just happy to be in.
"Georgetown? Our goal every year is to go further than the year before. So we'd like to win an NCAA game and (then) make up for the loss to Georgetown."
And that pairing, one of the few likely second-round matchups that are not intersectional, would pit the teams with the two longest winning streaks in Division I.