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NCAA Tournament: A small gathering for Texas


Highlights

Baylor, SMU, Texas Southern are only state schools.

Kansas State barely squeezes into field as 6th Big 12 team.

North Carolina beats Duke for a No. 1 seed; Syracuse is out.

On a Selection Sunday when Northwestern made history, Villanova lined itself up for a shot at defending its national championship, North Carolina beat Duke in a game of bracketology and the Big 12 slipped its bubble team into the field.

Las Vegas quickly weighed in and made the ACC Tournament champion Blue Devils the favorite at 5-to-1. The Tar Heels are 6-1, followed by Nova, Kentucky and Kansas, each at 8-1. At least they have odds.

Traditional power Syracuse, a Final Four team a year ago, and Illinois State, a team that won 27 games and went 17-1 in its conference, were left at the altar.

Meanwhile, it’s going to be a lonely NCAA Tournament for the Lone Star State. Only three teams from Texas were invited to the 68-team party:

• Baylor — the Big 12’s third-place team — pocketed the No. 3 seed in the East Region and will open against WAC Tournament champion New Mexico State on Thursday in Tulsa, Okla.

• SMU, which swept the AAC regular-season and tournament titles, is the No. 6 seed in the East and also will play Thursday in Tulsa. The Mustangs face the winner of Wednesday’s First Four game between Providence and USC.

• Texas Southern, the state’s other rep, is the No. 16 seed in the South and gets — oooffff — North Carolina on Friday in Greenville, S.C. The Tigers are the SWAC automatic qualifier. No 16-seed has ever beaten a No. 1.

Texas State came up just a touch short. The Bobcats, chasing their first NCAA berth since 1997, lost to Troy 59-53 in the Sun Belt Tournament final Sunday in New Orleans.

Last year the Lone Star State landed five teams in the NCAA’s, including Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

The Big 12 also experienced a dropoff, from seven bids in 2016 to six in ‘17, but was relieved that Kansas State made the cut — by a whisker.

The Wildcats, one of the last teams in, were assigned a First Four game Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, against Wake Forest. The winner will be the 11th seed in the South and play Cincinnati on Friday in Sacramento, Calif.

Kansas, the 13-time defending Big 12 regular-season champ, held onto the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. The Jayhawks often disappoint in March, but they’ll have every geographical advantage this time.

The Jayhawks have first-week games in Tulsa, and the Sweet 16 is in Kansas City. Louisville and Oregon are the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the Midwest. What could get really interesting for Kansas is that Big 12 Tournament champ Iowa State or Big Ten regular-season winner Purdue lurks as a regional semifinal opponent.

Big 12 runnerup West Virginia pulled down the No. 4 seed in the West, where 32-1 Gonzaga is the No. 1 and Pac-12 Tournament winner Arizona the No. 2.

Oklahoma State, which had a 10-1 stretch in the second half before losing its last three, was dealt the No. 10 seed in the Midwest and has a first-round date with Big Ten Tournament champ Michigan in Indianapolis.

Northwestern is the national feel-good story this year. The Wildcats, the only major conference school to never reach the NCAAs, finally punched their ticket. They will play fellow journalism giant Vanderbilt in a high-IQ 8 vs. 9 game in the West, the winner likely getting Gonzaga.

North Carolina was made No. 1 in the South over hard-charging Duke, which beat the Tar Heels two out of three times.

“Duke entered the week on the four line,” explained selection committee chairman Mark Hollis. “They had the largest jump, going up to the two line. But they got stopped there. Duke had three Top 25 wins in the ACC Tournament, but we’re considering the entire body of work. North Carolina won the regular-season title.”

Villanova is trying to become the first team to repeat since Florida in 2006 and ‘07, and Duke stands in the way of the Wildcats in the East.

Syracuse, which posted six Top 25 wins (all at home), is the biggest name left out.

“Syracuse was 2-11 on the road and that became a theme,” Hollis said. “They struggled away from home, and their non-conference schedule was not that difficult yet they still struggled with that.”

There were some seemingly glaring seeding issues, particularly with mid-majors, which the committee has dumped on in recent years.

Wichita State, a 30-game winner, was slapped with a 10 seed despite a No. 20 national ranking and No. 8 in the Ken Pomeroy index.

Middle Tennessee, another 30-game winner, was saddled with a 12 seed despite a 35 RPI for a veteran team that knocked out Michigan State in last year’s tournament.



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