The NCAA announced the pairings for its tournament yesterday and, now, as always, the college basketball world sits back, scratches its head and wonders what ever happened to geography and the value of a 20-victory season.
No complaints, however, are being heard from Georgetown or Maryland, which both received at-large bids to the Midwest Regional.
Georgetown (21-9), which finished second in the nation last season, is the No. 5 seed in the 13-team Midwest Regional. It will play Friday night in Louisville against the winner of Tuesday night's preliminary-round game between Xavier and Alcorn State. If the Hoyas win this subregional game, they will play fourth-seeded Memphis State (22-7).
Maryland (19-9), seeded No. 8, will play ninth-seeded Tennessee-Chattanooga (26-3) Thursday night at the Summit in Houston. If the Terrapins win, they will play Houston, the top seed. The Midwest Regional final four will be played in Kansas City, Mo.
It is Georgetown's seventh NCAA bid under Coach John Thompson. It is the fifth for Maryland under Coach Lefty Driesell; the Terrapins last appeared in the tournament during the 1980-81 season.
"We're going to have to play one more game this year than we did last year to get to the championship game," Thompson said last night. "But if we think about that, we'll never get anywhere."
Asked about the prospect of playing Xavier or Alcorn State, Thompson said, "I don't know anything about either one of them. We're in the process of getting information on them now."
Said Driesell: "I'm very excited about being selected. I don't care where or who we play, as long as we got in. That was the big thing, getting in."
No. 2 Virginia (27-4), a loser in the ACC final yesterday, received an at-large bid and is the top seed in the West Regional. The Cavaliers will play the winner of the Weber State-Washington State game in the first round, and Washington State Coach George Raveling noted, "Nobody is looking to playing Ralph Sampson. That's like a guy finishing World War I being asked, 'Are you looking forward to World War II?' "
American (20-10) and Howard (19-9), two other local teams hoping to play in a postseason tournament, did not receive a bid to the NCAA or National Invitation Tournament.
Across the nation yesterday came the standard cheers and jeers. The Big East and Big Ten conferences were cheering after each placed five teams in the tournament. Alabama (20-11) was cheering after earning an at-large bid, despite finishing in eighth place in the Southeastern Conference during the regular season. The Tide upset Kentucky in the SEC tournament before losing to Georgia in the final.
Teams like South Carolina (20-8), Alabama State (22-5) and Texas Christian (21-10) were among those jeering because they were not granted at-large bids.
Teams like Virginia and Boston College (24-6), teams whose vast talents put the "Beast" in the East, were shipped to the West Regional. Even though Louisville (29-3), the Metro Conference champion, was the top seed in the Mideast Regional, the Cardinals were jeering because they will not play on their home court, the site of the Midwest Regional's second-round games.
"I'm disappointed for our fans," said Louisville Coach Denny Crum. "They bought a lot of tickets."
Twenty-eight berths had already been decided before yesterday because of league championships. Picking the remaining 24 berths was not an easy process, according to Dave Gavitt, chairman of the NCAA Selection Committee.
"It was just unbelievable how many good teams there were," said Gavitt, who is also the commissioner of the Big East Conference. "It was the most difficult year in the five years since I have been on the committee."
Further difficulty was created yesterday when North Carolina State (20-10) won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title and Georgia (21-10) won the SEC tournament title, both earning automatic NCAA bids. Before yesterday, both teams were borderline cases.
"Upsets of the past two days had quite a bearing on the process," said Gavitt. "The SEC had eight teams considered, and I don't ever remember a time when eight teams from a conference were taken under consideration. Throughout the entire bracket, the seeding process was very difficult."
Louisville will play at Evansville, Ind., on Sunday against the winner of Friday night's Tennessee-Marquette game.
Bill Olsen, Louisville's athletic director, said, "We didn't want to host (the tournament) if we weren't going to be able to play at home. Louisville gets 250 tickets at Evansville and there will be no public sale."
Gavitt said many difficulties arose in the selection process. He said that had Virginia not been upset by North Carolina State, 81-78, in the ACC tournament title game, the Cavaliers likely would have been the No. 1 seed in the East Regional. Instead, the No. 1 seed went to St. John's.
It is ironic that the East Regional might very well be the weakest of the four regionals, since the East is considered by some to be the strongest basketball region in the nation.
This oddity developed when some of the East's premier teams were sent off to become among the higher seeds of other regionals. Besides Virginia and Boston College, the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds in the West Regional, Villanova was sent to the Midwest as the No. 3 seed.
Meanwhile, some of the nation's usual powers did not make the NCAA tournament at all. Notre Dame (19-9) and De Paul (17-11) were extended bids to the NIT late yesterday.
"I feel we're very fortunate to be in any tournament," said Ray Meyer, De Paul's 69-year-old coach. "Hopefully, the tournament bid will lift the spirit of our team."
Among the 32 teams receiving invitations to the NIT were Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, William and Mary, Wake Forest, St. Bonaventure, South Carolina and Alabama State. From the SEC, Louisiana State, Vanderbilt and Mississippi received invitations, meaning seven of the conference's 10 teams will play in the postseason.
Only two independents received at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, Southwest Louisiana (22-6) and Marquette (19-9). "I feel very, very fortunate," said Bobby Paschal, coach of Southwestern Louisiana. "I know there are a lot of good basketball teams in this state that were probably considered."
The NCAA tournament begins Tuesday night with the preliminary rounds and extends through the regional finals to the final four April 2-4 in Albuquerque, N.M. The East Regional will be played in Syracuse, N.Y.; the Mideast Regional will be played in Knoxville, Tenn.; the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, and the West Regional in Ogden, Utah.
Wichita State, which is ranked No. 11 by the Associated Press, was the only top 20 team not invited to the tournament. The Shockers (25-3) are on probation, and thus ineligible.