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Jeff Eisenberg

The NCAA tourney selection committee's five toughest decisions

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You may not know the face of the man to the right, but you probably will by the end of Sunday.

That's UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, chairman of this year's NCAA tournament selection committee and the man who will sit in the hot seat on CBS on Sunday evening to explain why this bubble team got snubbed or that No. 1 seed hopeful got dropped to a No. 2.

Here's a look at the five toughest decisions the committee will have to make before the brackets are released at 6 p.m. EST:

1. Who's in and Who's out?

With Washington winning the Pac-10 tournament on Saturday and New Mexico State and Houston each stealing bids by winning their respective tournaments, the number of available at-large bids for bubble teams has shrunk to two by my count. That means that only two from a group comprised of Illinois, Virginia Tech, Florida, Minnesota, Seton Hall and Mississippi State will make the NCAA tournament. Mississippi State probably needs to beat Kentucky on Sunday and earn the SEC's automatic bid to make it, while Minnesota may be able to afford a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Assuming Mississippi State is out, I think it comes down to Illinois, Minnesota and Virginia Tech.

Prediction: Minnesota and Illinois in, the rest out

2. Who's the fourth No. 1 seed?

Assuming Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse will be three of the four No. 1s, the fourth should come down to Duke, West Virginia and Ohio State. The Mountaineers are a lock to be considered after three wins in three days to take the Big East tournament title, while the Blue Devils would probably merit more discussion than the Buckeyes if they lost in their conference tournament final on Sunday. The strongest profile of the three belongs to West Virginia, which owns a head-to-head win over Ohio State and another marquee non-league win against Texas A&M in addition to victories over all of the Big East's likely NCAA tournament teams except Syracuse. The ACC's uncharacteristic mediocrity hurts Duke, while the Sunday afternoon start time for the Big Ten final won't help Ohio State.

Prediction: West Virginia

3. Where should Purdue be seeded?

Although the Big Ten co-champion Boilermakers have the profile of a No. 2 seed, their play since star Robbie Hummel suffered a season-ending knee injury last month hasn't merited such a favorable draw. Purdue has beaten the likes of Indiana, Penn State and Northwestern, but struggled offensively with only two primary scoring options against tougher competition, falling 53-44 to Michigan State last week and 69-42 in the Big Ten semifinals to Minnesota. The selection committee set a precedent when it lowered Cincinnati from a No. 1 to a No. 2 seed after Kenyon Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Conference USA tourney. Hummel was not a national player of the year candidate like Martin, but he may have been Purdue's most essential player.

Prediction: No. 4 seed

4. Does Cal have any reason to be anxious today?

Whereas a 13-5 outright Pac-10 champ would be looking at a top-five seed in any other year, the weakness of the conference and Cal's lack of marquee non-league victories make this an interesting debate. The Bears (23-10) are No. 19 in the RPI as a result of four early-season losses against top-10 teams, but they have only beaten three likely NCAA tournament teams: Washington, Murray State and UCSB. Bottom line, I don't think Cal is going to be thrilled with its seed to today, but I also don't think the committee is going to embarrass a power-six conference like the Pac-10 by leaving its champ out either.

Prediction: Cal gets seeded in the 8 to 10 range

5. Are either Utah State or UTEP in danger after losing Saturday?

Neither Utah State nor UTEP have the marquee victories that bubble teams like Illinois and Minnesota can boast, but both were so dominant in their respective conferences that it's hard to see the committee penalizing them. The Aggies (26-5) had won 17 straight games prior to Saturday's loss to New Mexico State in the WAC title game, while the Miners swept through Conference USA with a 15-1 regular season record before Houston upset them in the finals of their tournament. In a season in which so many bubble teams staggered down the stretch in February and March, it would be criminal to leave these two out.

Prediction: Both get in, UTEP slightly more comfortably

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