Selection Sunday turns into Bracket Monday with all eyes on who got hosed, which draws are easy and of course the “First Four Frenzy”.  For 68 schools the dream stays alive…while another 80 move on to the NIT, CBI and CIT.   The other 303 try to figure out what went wrong and how they can get back on track.  Or if they have the right engineer.

American (20-12, 13-5 Patriot League) heads to Milwaukee as the #15 seed in the West Bracket…facing #2 Wisconsin (26-7, 12-6 Big Ten).  Yes, Milwaukee just happens to be located in the state of Wisconsin…much like facing Villanova in Philadelphia during the 2009 Tournament.  A simple technicality if you ask me.  The Badgers were bounced last year by 12th seed Ole Miss…but that was the first round of 64 loss in seven years.  Coach Bo Ryan’s team has the no-frills feel of efficiency that grinds out victories…and against an AU team that’s developed its defensive stride lately (six straight games allowing 56 points or fewer) the air may be taken out of the ball.

First Four=First Round?–  I’m begrudgingly okay with the “First Four” as much as I prefer a 64-team bracket.  I’ve raised objections of sending Automatic Qualifiers to Dayton but understand.  But do we have to call Thursday and Friday games the “Second Round”?  Complete idiocy.  When 60 teams get first round byes, it’s not the first round they’re skipping but an opening round or play-in game.   I’m just thankful there’s no “double-bye” bracket like the ACC or Atlantic 10–yet.

George Washington (24-8, 11-5 Atlantic 10) gets a #9 seed and meets #8 Memphis (23-9, 12-6 American Athletic Conference of American) in Raleigh.  I thought the Colonials deserved a 7 or 8…despite the 19 point loss in the A-10 semifinals to VCU.  Quality wins in and out of the league should have moved them off the dreaded “on deck for the top seed” line.  Kethan Savage remains an untested entity…as the sophomore guard played one minute against the Rams in his first action since fracturing his foot January 18th.  The Tigers will be stepping out with leading scorer Joe Jackson…and everybody’s favorite Memphis alum Wink Martindale.

Fun matchups–from pairing Ohio State and Dayton in the round of 64 to coupling former ACC coaches in Texas-Arizona State (ex-Clemson coach Rick Barnes against former NC State mentor Herb Sendek)…from a Big 12 reunion (Baylor-Nebraska) to potential ex-Big East (UConn-Villanova a potential round of 32 game) as well as intra-state possibilities (Kansas State-Wichita State, Nebraska-Creighton, North Carolina-NC Central) one can see the bracket as always was set up completely by the S-Curve.  As in sometimes the committee’s full of it. 

Virginia (28-6, 16-2 ACC) gets the final #1 seed (in the East) and thanks to their 72-63 win over Duke for the ACC Championship…the team’s second ever (the 1976 team won in Landover as a #6 seed in what was a 7 team league).  In a weekend where other #1 candidates Villanova, Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin came up short in their conference tournaments, UVa’s stingy defense (holding the Blue Devils to 38% shooting after limiting Pitt to 37% in the semifinals) helped deliver the school’s first #1 seed since 1983.  The reward?  A date with 16th seeded Coastal Carolina (led by ex-Auburn and former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis).  The Chanticleers are making their first NCAA appearance since 1993 (when as a #16 seed they lost to Michigan’s Fab Five by 34).  They also made the field in 1991 (as a #15 that lost to Indiana).  On nickname coolness alone, Cavaliers-Chanticleers should be something special.

Bracket Belly Aching– the beauty of Selection Sunday is even if they get it completely right, somebody will have something to complain about.  Take your pick:  did Louisville get hosed by only receiving a #4 seed?  Why are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the same Regional Semifinal bracket?  NC State instead of SMU as the last at-large team in the field?  And did Wichita State get saddled with the toughest bracket despite going unbeaten?  None of this will matter Thursday by noon.

Georgetown (17-14, 8-10 Big East) finds itself in the NIT with a First Round matchup against West Virginia (17-15, 9-9 Big 12).  The Hoyas’ bubble burst Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden when they lost to last-place DePaul in the Big East Tournament.  Most thought they needed at least two victories…and the team’s loss at Villanova to wrap up the regular season robbed them of a chance to post another quality win.    The Mountaineers slumped on their way to the finish line with 6 losses in their last 9 games…and scored 49 in a Big 12 quarterfinal loss sealed their fate.  Leading scorer Juwan Staten was held to 4 points on 1 of 11 shooting in that game…and will get plenty of attention from the Hoya D.  The game will be played on campus at McDonough Arena–which also hosted NIT games in 1993 (they reached the final that year) and 2005.

Maryland (17-15, 9-9 ACC) winds up missing the NCAA’s and the NIT…as a 67-65 loss to Florida State in the quarterfinals wraps up the schools ACC history.  The winter of “not quite” concludes with another close loss (three of their last four defeats came by two points…and the fourth came in double overtime).  As they only lose John Auslander to graduation, will the unit that just couldn’t gel be able to enter the Big Ten with the necessary experience to thrive?  Will a true point guard emerge?  Can the big men develop and make the necessary leap as the program enters a more physical league?  And will Rutgers fans chant “Not Our Rival” next winter?

Alma Mater Update– after an underwhelming finish (2-5 including baaad losses at home to Georgia Tech and Boston College) the Orange (27-5, 14-4 ACC) play the first weekend in Buffalo as the #3 seed in the South Region against #14 Western Michigan (23-9, 14-4 MAC).  The Broncos have won 12 of 13 and more importantly are from Kalamazoo.  SU?  This team has all the feeling of the 1991 unit that lost to Richmond in College Park:  after losing some key pieces from a celebrated squad they overachieved…only to skid down the stretch before getting bounced in the conference quarterfinals (punching the other team’s NCAA ticket in the process).  Was this team once 25-0?  Although if you’re at Sign of the Whale, don’t be shy about trying the tater tots.  They’re not the wings, but you can’t always have a Final Four team.

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