NCAA Likes Babies

By Jeff Lippman - March 17, 2008

Babies are so cute and cuddly, aren't they?

Stanford, take a good look at the two biggest reasons the No. 1 seed in the Spokane regional was torn from your grasp.


They are cute, aren't they?

Am I insinuating that the only reason that Maryland got the top seed at 30-3 after failing to win their conference tournament and getting beaten by a Duke team not in their class was because the NCAA Selection Committee has a soft spot for toddler turtles? Or is that turtle toddlers?

Of course not! I'm insinuating the NCAA committee made a mistake.

Stanford has the same overall record as the Terps at 30-3, only the Cardinal won their conference tournament. I'll give you that Cal is no North Carolina, but Stanford subdued their archrival at home, on the road and at a neutral site just for good measure. The Terps only played the Tar Heels once, and lost, and couldn't even beat the Blue Devils when it counted most in the ACC Tournament.

The Cardinal have, by far, the worse losses of the two, I'll give the committee that. Losing back-to-back games to end January and begin February in Southern California to two middle-of-the-Pac-10 teams is not my idea of a good way to make a case for No. 1. But outside of those blemishes - and they were ugly puss-filled pimples for Stanford - the Cardinal had a pristine record. Their only other loss came way early in the season at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands to Connecticut, the No. 1 overall seed in the Tournament.

Who did Stanford beat on their way to 30 wins this year? Well, they won at Rutgers, at Utah - an 8 seed - against Old Dominion, Baylor, then-No. 1 Tennessee and Cal three times. That is impressive and No. 1 worthy, and I don't care who knows it. Actually, I do care. I want you all to know it. That's why I'm writing it down in this blog.

So why did the committee feel the Terps warranted that No. 1 seed over the Cardinal? Who knows why the committee does a lot of things? It's a long, tireless process and some mistakes are bound to slip through the cracks.

Maryland has the name. Remember, only Shay Doron is missing from the group of Terrapins that cut down the nets just two seasons ago. This group already has one ring. The problem for the Terps the last two years has been, however, maybe they are complacent with just winning the one ring?

Since winning the title, the Terps have failed in every live-or-die game they've come across. They were considered big favorites last season, but failed to win the ACC Tournament or even advance to the Final Four. They didn't win the ACC Tournament this season, and couldn't pull the regular season crown from the Tar Heels, although many believed this to be the Terps' year to shine.

Maybe the babies do change things for the Terrapins. Coach Frese said going through the experience of pregnancy has changed her, and maybe it will affect her coaching and her team's play for the better. But that still doesn't change the fact that Stanford earned the right to wear the No. 1 seed this year.

The good news for Stanford is that it really doesn't matter in the long run. You could see it on the faces of Candice Wiggins and Jayne Appel and the rest of the Cardinal as they announced the No. 1 seed in the last remaining regional and it wasn't them.

Stanford doesn't care. Not really. What does it change anything? They still have to win three games to get to an Elite Eight where they will most likely face the same Maryland team they'd have faced regardless of which got the top seed. The road starts with Cleveland State, could include twists and turns with Western Kentucky or UTEP and even a possible battle with Baylor - who as aforementioned, the Cardinal have already beaten - but in the end, the road to Tampa will see a detour at Stanford-Maryland.

And when that game comes, the Cardinal will be ready to show the committee where it went wrong.

Other notes on the Spokane Regional

- UTEP grabs the seven seed as the Miners secured their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. With only three losses on the season, I felt the Miners deserved a little more credit. But maybe the committee takes tournament experience into consideration. The Miners will face a tough test in the 10 seed Western Kentucky.

- The Spokane regional is the second toughest bracket to come out of, in my estimation. Because Maryland and Stanford are both top-seed worthy, and because West Virginia and Pitt are both tough teams, it won't be easy for anyone to come out of Spokane easily.

New Orleans Regional

By far the toughest of the regionals, North Carolina is going to have to do quite a lot of work to navigate the waters in the Big Easy.

The fact that the 'Heels were given the top seed shouldn't make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside for too long. If they want to reach a third consecutive Final Four, they'll have to beat a team who is looking to make their fifth consecutive national semifinal. Oh, and that team, LSU, will pretty much be playing in front of their home crowd.

The Tigers knew they'd be a two seed and have to be happy with Carolina as the one. But their road is not an easy one, and if they aren't careful, they might not make it to that Carolina game. In their way first, after a Jackson State team they shouldn't have any problem with, is either the seven seed Marist or the 10 seed - more dangerous in my opinion - DePaul. The Blue Demons already sent UConn to the wire this season and are tourney veterans, having been here before.

If LSU successfully advances past the second round, Oklahoma State waits for them. This game would match perhaps the two most prolific players at their positions in the game. And the two players happen to be a foot difference in height in 6-foot-6 Sylvia Fowles and OSU's Andrea Riley.

The Riley vs. Fowles matchup would be an incredible battle of two of the game's best.

New Orleans' four seed is Louisville, one of the hottest teams in the nation right now after advancing to the Big East title game and losing to Connecticut. And they boast one of the nation's best overall offensive and defensive stars in junior Angel McCoughtry.

The five seed, Kansas State, won the regular season Big 12 crown, the six, Ohio State, won the Big Ten and the eight seed, Georgia, made the Elite Eight last season with basically the same group of core players. Without a doubt, New Orleans is the toughest regional.

Other New Orleans notes:

-Yours truly was correct in his estimation that Louisville would, indeed, receive a four seed after their run in the Big East Tournament.

-Perhaps one of the biggest snubs of the tournament was Wisc.-Green Bay, who at 26-5 I thought was firmly implanted into the field of 64. The NCAA Tournament committee did not feel the same as I did, however, and the Phoenix were left off the dance floor. Instead, New Orleans will host the Florida State Seminoles as the 11 seed. The 'Noles finished the year 18-13 and went 4-6 in their last 10. Their best wins came against Florida or Indiana, not exactly impressive. Maybe losing to Cleveland State in the finals of the Horizon League Tournament by 24 points wasn't a good message to send to the committee.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 07:59 PM on March 17, 2008

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