Yellow Jackets Rally For NCAA Tourney Bid

By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

March 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS

(AP) — Dan Guerrero took a deep breath, sat back in his chair Sunday

night and glanced once more at the advice printed on the NCAA selection

committee’s grease board: The Pack.

If only the debate over America’s best 34 at-large teams was that simple.

Guerrero

and nine other committee members spent the past five days hunkered down

in an Indianapolis hotel room, trying to get this year’s NCAA tourney

bracket right. It was even more difficult than Guerrero anticipated.

“I

knew going in and the committee knew going in that parity was going to

get us,” the committee chairman said. “When you have teams that might

be on the bubble playing for an AQ (automatic bid) if they happen to

win that automatic qualifier, someone gets bounced. It happened last

night.”

How difficult were things for Guerrero’s group?

When

committee members arrived Wednesday, Guerrero said there were more

teams under consideration than he had seen in his five years on the

committee.

And even when it seemed as if the committee finally

had 65 teams, changes continually forced the committee to make

contingency plans.

— Guerrero acknowledged that if Mississippi

State had won Sunday’s SEC title game, it would have knocked another

team out of the 65-team field. As is customary, the UCLA athletic

director wouldn’t reveal which team would have been bumped. It’s

likely, based on seeding, Utah State or UTEP would have been out. Both

were No. 12 seeds, the lowest-seeded of any at-large team.

Utah State’s inclusion forced the committee to adapt. After waking up

Sunday, committee members learned that the Aggies had been upset by New

Mexico State in Saturday night’s Western Athletic Conference title

game. That gave New Mexico State the automatic bid that was expected to

go to Utah State and bumped another team from the field.

It was that kind of week for the committee.

“We

scrubbed the list well into the afternoon (Sunday) and then we said,

let’s start bracketing,” Guerrero said. “I got the first bracket at

about 5 p.m.”

Or an hour before the pairings were to be released on television.

But upsets weren’t the only problem.

Separating

NCAA teams from the rest of the pack created all kinds of controversy.

By winning the ACC tournament, Duke was seeded one spot higher than

Syracuse as a No. 1 seed — a surprise to some. The reason seemingly

came down Syracuse’s two losses at the end of the season, something the

committee had said would be less of a factor in this season’s pairings.

Apparently, it still made an impact.

“It’s

one of the pieces we evaluate,” Guerrero said. “So if a team, as you

indicated, is not finishing as strong, there may be other criteria that

makes a difference as to whether they get in or how they’re seeded.

There are some teams that finished pretty strong that if it didn’t get

them in the field, it helped them with the seed.”

Another issue was injuries.

No.

6 Purdue wasn’t the same without swingman Robbie Hummel, and Syracuse

lost center Arinze Onuaku with a quadriceps injury against Georgetown

in the Big East quarterfinals.

That hurt both those teams, even though Onuaku is expected to be OK.

Notre

Dame, meanwhile, may have been helped by its strong showing after

losing Luke Harangody. Clearly, it made a difference in the committee’s

mind.

“The committee had the benefit of seeing several games

after Robbie (Hummel) went down, and obviously they weren’t the same

team without him,” Guerrero said of Purdue slipping to a No. 4 seed.

“To be fair to everyone, Purdue did slip. I think everyone knows that.”