March Madness is bigger this year. Better? Most of the Big East Conference thinks so. Colorado, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s and a few others would surely disagree.
The unveiling of the NCAA tournament bracket on Sunday included an unprecedented 11 teams from a single conference _ the Big East _ and the usual number of snubs and disappointments despite the increase from 65 to 68 teams.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said coach Tad Boyle of Colorado, widely recognized as the most aggrieved of the teams left out. “Don’t have any control over it so we won’t whine and cry about it.”
Leading the way for the Big East was Pittsburgh, seeded first in the Southeast even though it didn’t win a game in the conference’s postseason tournament.
The Panthers (27-5) will need to win six in a row to cut down the nets at the Final Four in Houston on April 4, when America’s biggest office pool will come to an end.
“What we’ve done in the past is good, but it doesn’t mean a lot once you start playing in the tournament,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We’ve got to go and play good basketball, and we’ve got to get better in these couple of days.”
Ohio State (32-2) of the Big Ten was the tournament’s top seed overall, with Kansas (32-2) of the Big 12 next.
Defending champion Duke aced out another Big East team, Notre Dame, for the fourth and final No. 1 seed.
Led by one of the country’s best guards, Nolan Smith, the Blue Devils (30-4) are trying to become the first team since Florida in 2006-07 to repeat as national champions.
The tournament looks different this year, thanks to the addition of three more at-large teams that will open play in the “First Four” on Tuesday and Wednesday. Two of those games pit the last at-large teams to make the field _ UAB (22-9) vs. Clemson (21-11) and Southern Cal (19-14) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (23-11).
Those, along with every other game of the entire tournament, will be aired in their entirety on four networks.
Before the start of the season, TBS, TNT and truTV joined CBS in signing a new, 14-year TV contract worth $10.8 billion. The games used to all be shown on CBS, with the network deciding which part of the country got which games. Now, the viewers can pick and choose from all of them.
But all the added money and TV coverage doesn’t make the second-guessing go away.
As always on Selection Sunday, there were plenty of head-scratchers.
There were teams that surprised some people by getting in: VCU, UAB and Clemson.