One would think that after last year's great upset wins by George Mason, Bucknell, Bradley and Northwestern State, that an NCAA committee would now have enough guts to give college basketball fans more of what they really like. But unfortunately, this season only six mid-major conference teams received at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament, two less than last year.
The team that received the most disrespect was Drexel. The Dragons won 13 true road games this year, including huge victories at Villanova, Creighton and Syracuse. For some ungodly reason Arkansas was invited to the Big Dance with a 2-8 road record, and a 7-9 mark in the weak SEC West.
It's been sickening to listen to Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and his sob story. Boeheim has been everywhere telling everybody how his team got hosed out of a tournament bid. Message to Jim: Your team lost at home to Drexel, so stop whining for once and get back in line where you belong.
Also, the committee showed further disregard for the mid-major schools with the way it laid out the first round schedule. Nevada plays Creighton, and Old Dominion takes on Butler. All four teams are capable of serious damage, but sadly two of them will be quickly eliminated. (Creighton preferably being one of them, of course).
First round history - Never has a No. 16 seed won a game. Number 15 seeds have won only four times. A No. 14 seed has won in 15 out of the 22 64-team tournaments, and a No. 13 has won in 7 out of 9, including one each for both in the last two years.
No. 12 seeds have been out of this world, with at least one win in 17 of the last 18 years, and 29 total since 1985. Number 11s are close behind with 27 victories in that time.
Possible Cinderellas - All the No. 11 and 12 seeds have a shot. Davidson, Holy Cross, Wright State and Albany are also very good teams.
First round point spread wagering - Handicappers should always lean towards taking the underdogs in the first round, especially in odd-numbered years like this one. In 2001 underdogs went 17-15 against the spread. In 2003 the dogs barked to a remarkable 19-10-3 record, and in 2005 they were 18-12-2. Since 2000, there has not been a year that the favorites outcovered the underdogs.
First round spread picks - Davidson +7 1/2; Virginia Commonwealth +7; Wright State +11; Weber State +20; Eastern Kentucky +26; Long Beach State +8 and Winthrop +4.
Sweet 16 - A No. 10 seed or lower has reached the Sweet 16 in 11 straight tournaments, with an average of exactly two double-digit seeds over the last five years.
Final Four - It has never happened that all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four, and only in 1980 and last year did all four fail to get that far. Never has a No. 7 seed like Nevada got to the Final Four, and other than George Mason and the 1986 LSU squad, no team lower than a No. 8 has got there either. Two teams from the same conference have made it 8 consecutive years.
Predictions - Florida, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Kansas.
National Champion - Georgetown.