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Andy Katz | Correspondent | March 11, 2018

Committee discusses Syracuse, Oklahoma, Arizona State

Midwest Region bracket is revealed

Davidson’s Atlantic 10 tournament title win over Rhode Island bumped out Notre Dame from the field of 68, NCAA tournament selection committee chair Bruce Rasmussen told Sunday night.

Rasmussen said the committee didn’t go any further to see who else could be in that last spot. He said there was discussion on Baylor, Saint Mary’s and USC, the other three teams in the first four out. But Notre Dame was the team the committee looked at thoroughly as a last team to make the field had the Wildcats lost.

The committee also had eight brackets ready to go Sunday based on the results of the A-10 championship between Davidson-URI, the SEC title between Kentucky-Tennessee, the American with Houston and Cincinnati and the Sun Belt between Georgia State and UT Arlington.

Cincinnati earned a No. 2 seed, and would have likely had that seed regardless of the outcome against Houston. The Bearcats won in the final game of the day. A year ago, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin had been outspoken that the AAC tournament championship on Sunday didn’t mean as much since the Bearcats and SMU both received No. 6 seeds.

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“My sense is that we felt whether Cincinnati won or lost that they would stay in the same spot,’’ said Rasmussen, who is the athletic director at Creighton.

Rasmussen said there were a number of extended conversations over the weekend, and they included the debate over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys beat the Sooners in the Big 12 tournament, but the Sooners had better overall wins, especially in the non-conference. Arizona State also got into the field on the strength of its non-conference wins.

“The message sent is that we look at games in November and December as much as February and March if they are against the same caliber of teams,’’ said Rasmussen. “Oklahoma and Arizona State struggled down the stretch and that did affect their seeding.’’

Rasmussen said unbalanced conference schedules, like Syracuse’s in the ACC, did work to the advantage of some teams. Syracuse had a tough slate in the ACC.

“It’s definitely a factor of who you play,’’ said Rasmussen. “How did you do against the teams considered to be in the tournament?’’

One of the toughest aspects of bracketing for the committee was what to do with the placement of Big East teams. There were two No. 1 Big East teams in Villanova and Xavier and a number of teams in the No. 7-10 range that couldn’t be opposite them for a possible second-round matchup. Only one, Seton Hall, ended up in an 8-9 game and it wasn’t in Villanova’s or Xavier’s region.

Rasmussen said the committee was watching Duke and North Carolina closely to see if they won the ACC tournament and beat Virginia to possibly claim a No. 1 seed.

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“Had they knocked off Virginia they might have moved onto that line,’’ said Rasmussen. Virginia was safe as the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of the outcome of the ACC tournament, he said. 

Rasmussen said there was a lot of discussion on Kentucky and Arizona, seeded as a No. 5 and No. 4, respectively, in the South region. Kentucky and Arizona won their respect conference tournaments and are playing some of the best basketball in the country. But their overall resumes were more in line with their seeding.

A year ago, the committee ended up with 15 of the mid-season top 16 on the top four lines when the bracket was revealed. This year, there were 13 out of 16. The three teams that were in the top 16 in mid-February that were outside the top four lines were Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State. The three teams that moved into the top four were Michigan, Gonzaga and Wichita State.

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