"This is a good (NCAA) committee. They're all basketball people. They all understand the game. I'm sure they'll create some interesting matchups." -- Dean Smith

Interesting television matchups would have been more accurate, Dean. And the skeptics among basketball thinkers after today's NCAA pairings would put question marks where you put periods.

A good committee?

All basketball people?

There are a gym full of doubters at the moment, reasonable people who wonder if these wizards can count, why they penalized several winners and gave one loser -- Kentucky -- too easy a path to the Final Four: w

In the East, the NCAA had the simplest logic imaginable for choosing the top seed. Georgetown had beaten Syracuse twice in the last two weeks, ending a 57-game home-court winning streak the first game and capturing the Big East Conference championship the second.

The Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, even gave the NCAA the answer ahead of time, saying Saturday: "Georgetown has proven twice this year they are a better team than we are."

So who does the NCAA choose as No. 1 in the East?


Perhaps grown men should not be allowed to play with child's math.

The reasoning for what the NCAA did with Duke is nearly as twisted. The Blue Devils are the Atlantic Coast Conference champions. They won that distinction Saturday night, by a point over Maryland. They split during the regular season against Maryland.

So the NCAA makes Maryland the No. 2 seed in the East -- and has the nerve to move Duke to the Mideast. Almost no one here late Saturday night even considered that possibility. A championship is a championship, the reasoning went, so of course Duke would return here for the regionals.

Coliseum officials even went so far as to ask Duke Coach Bill Foster where he wanted the team to stay, assuming the obvious.

"I don't understand this at all," Foster said. "We won three games in three days against three ranked teams. If there were polls coming up (today), we'd certainly shoot up."

They shoot west, to a probable collision with Kentucky in the round of 16. Is that coincidence? Or did someone from NBC remind someone from the NCAA about that having been the tipoff game of the collegiate television season and what a wonderful rematch it would make?

A Terrapin might well snap his head from within his shell about now and bark that his team had a better overall record than Duke, in fact played better longer the entire season.

And a Devil would raise his pitchfork and scream: "But what about N.C. State? We beat them two out of three this year -- and they stay in the East while we move. Can't anybody here play this rating game?"

One wonders, especially when De Paul -- which lost just once all year, in double overtime to Notre Dame in South Bend -- is moved to the West Region. And when LSU, which beat Kentucky for the Southeastern Conference championship and split their two regular-season tests, is sent to the Midwest.

Generally, there is a penalty for losing. But not for Kentucky. It did not win the SEC title. It lost two of three during the regular season to LSU. It not only stays in its region -- and LSU moves -- but it gets to play on its home court, Rupp Arena.

That assumes the Wildcats beat the winner of Florida State-Toledo in a second-round game at Bowling Green. And assumptions such as that have been made here before -- and been wrong.

In prior years, I have belittled NCAA selections that have seemed awful but in fact beat teams that clearly belonged in the tournament. Some Cal State Fullerton alumni still scowl.

So I will not be outraged that the ACC has five teams in the tournament and a long-time NCAA foe, 20-6 Nevada Las Vegas, is out of it. Would the NCAA hold a grudge?

In truth, the Georgetown-Syracuse fuss is not as overwhelming as it might appear. Both play comparably tough opponents, although Hoya victim and prospective foe Iona is better than most fans realize.

This entire process is exceedingly subjective, of course, and the committee is quite correct in trying to offer as much balance as possible. It has strange ways of trying to achieve that goal.