INDIANAPOLIS – If the process of seeding the top teams is any indication, this could be one big buzzer-beater of an NCAA Tournament.
As expected, Illinois, once-beaten and top-ranked in the polls, was given the No. 1 overall seed.
The rest wasn’t so cut and dried: Less than an hour before announcing the brackets on national television, the 10 committee members were still debating in an Indianapolis hotel suite, and two of the four No. 1 seeds were still undecided.
It wasn’t until the last two conference tournament games ended, about 45 minutes before the selections went public, that the committee finally gave the top seeds to the Illini, North Carolina, Duke and Washington – the surprise of the group.
“I don’t know if it’s a record, but my blood pressure was going up every five minutes we were waiting,” selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby said.
Bowlsby acknowledged there were about a half-dozen contingency plans considered, and many of those were being sorted out in conference tournament championships.
Had Kentucky beaten Florida for its third straight Southeastern Conference title, it would have been a No. 1 seed. The Wildcats lost – and were dropped to a No. 2.
Had Duke lost to Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference final, Wake Forest could have sneaked in as a No. 1.
Bowlsby’s committee eventually picked Washington, the Pac-10 champ, as a No. 1 seed.
The Huskies (27-5) joined some elite company. Big Ten champion Illinois (32-1) was assigned to the Chicago Regional and North Carolina (27-4), the ACC regular-season champ, the Syracuse Regional.
It’s the sixth time in eight years two teams from the same conference were seeded No. 1. The last time was 2003, with Oklahoma and Texas of the Big 12.
(1) Illinois 54, (23) Wisconsin 43: At Chicago, the Illini (32-1) dominated defensively to build a big lead, then held on to beat the Badgers (22-8) in the Big Ten tournament finals for their school-record 32nd win.
(5) Duke 69, Georgia Tech 64: At Washington, J.J. Redick scored 26 points, Shelden Williams had 16 points and 13 rebounds and the Blue Devils (25-5) squeaked past the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets (19-11) in the ACC championship.
(10) Oklahoma St. 72, Texas Tech 68: At Kansas City, Mo., John Lucas scored 19 points and the Cowboys (24-6) earned their second straight Big 12 tournament championship with a victory over the Red Raiders (20-10).
Florida 70, (4) Kentucky 53: At Atlanta, Matt Walsh scored 26 points leading the Gators (23-7) to a rout of the Wildcats (23-5) and their first SEC tournament title.
SE Louisiana 49, Northwestern St. 42: At Natchitoches, La., Ricky Woods scored 16 points to lead the Lions (24-8) to its first NCAA Tournament berth. .
Alabama A&M 72, Alabama St. 53: At Birmingham, Ala., the Bulldogs (18-13) won the SWAC tournament final and earned their first NCAA tournament bid.
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