An expanded tournament doesn’t mean more teams are content with the results.
In the first season of the NCAA basketball tournament’s increased field of 68 teams, there were just as many hurt feelings and as much controversy swirling.
While few disputed the No. 1 overall seed handed to Ohio State or a record 11 teams from the Big East earning entry, the annual who’s-left-out conversation was a competition in itself.
The new-look tournament will have every game televised, including the “First Four” play-in games Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, that feature four at-large teams and four champions from smaller conferences.
Of course, some wondered, what about us?
“When we were looking at those (last at-large) teams, there were a number of quality teams on the board that we had to consider, and we just didn’t have enough slots for all the teams that were in, even though we had three more slots this year,” said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, chairman of the NCAA selection committee.
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was shaking his head.
Teams such as Virginia Commonwealth (23-11), Alabama-Birmingham (22-8) and Georgia (21-11), which lost twice to tournament outsider Alabama, were considered surprise at-large bids.
Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive year, Greenberg’s Hokies (21-11) were on the verge of making the tournament but had the door shut on them. Colorado (21-13), which beat Kansas State three times and defeated Texas and Missouri, also was snubbed, and St. Mary’s (25-8) and Harvard (23-6) were questionably absent.
“At the end of the day, when we stacked Virginia Tech’s resume up against all the other teams, we just didn’t feel like they were a team that should be in the at-large field,” Smith said. “While they significantly improved their nonconference schedule and teams that they played, it’s still about how you did.”
The No. 1 Buckeyes (32-2) play close to home in Cleveland in the first round in the East Region. The other top seeds went to Kansas (32-2) in the Southwest, Pittsburgh (27-5) in the Southeast and Duke (30-4), which edged out Notre Dame (26-6), in the West.
The top seeds own impressive resumes, but the overall field is one of the least luminous, despite its volume.