INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- It's all about timing.
Even with an injury to star center Loren Woods, Arizona kept the No. 1 seed in the West. But Cincinnati, stunned by an injury to star center Kenyon Martin, dropped to No. 2 in the South.The difference? The 10 members of the NCAA selection committee felt Martin's loss hurt the Bearcats more than Woods' loss hurt the Wildcats, as evidenced by Arizona's victory over Stanford even without the 7-foot-1 Woods.
"We talked about Cincinnati very early and came back to them a couple times," Craig Thompson, chairman of the selection committee, said of the decision to drop the Bearcats. "But when you lose a potential player of the year, that's going to affect your team."
The NCAA on Sunday announced the pairings for the 64-team men's tournament that begins on Thursday and ends at the Final Four in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on April 1-3.
Arizona, Stanford, Michigan State and Duke were seeded No. 1. The injury to Martin was the only reason Cincinnati wasn't seeded No. 1, Thompson said, but Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins didn't buy the argument.
"It's ridiculous, totally ridiculous," Huggins said. "We must be the first team in history to be No. 1 in the RPI and not get a No. 1 seed. That's a historical thing those guys just did. How do they know how good we'll be without Kenyon?"
That's where the poor timing comes in.
Arizona played five games, including a victory over Stanford, after Woods injured his back. But Martin broke a leg early in a Conference USA tourney loss to St. Louis last week, the same day the NCAA committee began making its selections.
"We didn't have an opportunity other than one span in one game to judge how they play without Martin," Thompson said. "They're clearly a different team without Kenyon Martin. The issue we had was, how different?"
In Arizona's case, he said, "There was a test there."
Thompson said every school was asked to notify the committee by Friday if any player would not participate in the tournament, and Arizona told them Woods would not play. That was news to coach Lute Olson, however, who said doctors hadn't told him Woods would be out the whole tournament.
Even so, he said, Olson wasn't surprised by the committee's decision.
"I frankly didn't see any way they could not put our guys as the No. 1 seed in the West," Olson said, "particularly because we've played so long without Loren Woods."
Arizona will open the tourney Thursday against 16th-seeded Jackson State at Salt Lake City. Stanford wound up as the top seed in the South and will play South Carolina State on Friday at Birmingham, Ala.
Michigan State (26-7), which has the most losses ever for a No. 1 seed, will open in the Midwest against Valparaiso on Thursday at Cleveland, and Duke was picked No. 1 in the East and will play Lamar on Friday at Winston-Salem, N.C.
Lamar (15-15), an automatic qualifier as Southland Conference champion, has the worst record among the 64 teams.
Michigan State and Duke also were No. 1 seeds last year. Connecticut, which beat Duke for the title a year ago, was seeded fifth in the South and will play Utah State on Friday at Birmingham.
"This was the most difficult selection process, with injuries, suspensions, tourney upsets," Thompson said.
"It seemed like every new game brought a different result to make us reconsider. It brings back in perspective the whole college basketball landscape and how comparable the teams are. It got to a position that those were factors we had to constantly look at and sometimes change our thinking a bit."
Three schools -- Central Connecticut State, North Carolina-Wilmington and Southeast Missouri State -- are making their first appearances in the tournament. The field also includes Hofstra, which had not been in the tournament since 1977; St. Bonaventure, making its first appearance since 1978; and Appalachian State and Indiana State, which made their last appearances in 1979.
Among the teams on the bubble were North Carolina, which made it for the 26th straight year, and Virginia, which did not make it even with two victories over North Carolina.
"That was a tough one," Thompson admitted. "But Virginia's nonconference schedule probably was the determining factor. They were 1-4 against top-rated opponents and played a number of people in the lower third of the rankings. ... One of the key indicators is head-to-head, but it's not the sole factor. You needed to distinguish yourself in your conference ... or play a very strong nonconference schedule."
Another bubble team that didn't make it was Notre Dame, whose 18-14 record included two victories over Connecticut and one over Ohio State.
"In Notre Dame's particular circumstances, we compared some quality wins, some unfortunate losses against lower ranked people, and the fact they did not finish the Big East schedule with a winning record," Thompson said. "It was a tough decision."
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern each had six teams, and the Big East had five. Conference USA and the Pac-10 had four teams each, while the Atlantic Coast Conference had only three teams selected for the second straight year.
Temple, which was given consideration by the committee as a possible No. 1 seed, was seeded No. 2 in the East and will play Lafayette on Friday in Buffalo, N.Y. The other teams seeded No. 2 were Cincinnati in the South, Iowa State in the Midwest and St. John's in the West.
The other games in Winston-Salem will be No. 4 Illinois against No. 13 Pennsylvania; No. 5 Florida against No. 12 Butler; and No. 8 Kansas against No. 9 DePaul.
The rest of the schedule in Buffalo will be: No. 3 Oklahoma State-No. 14 Hofstra; No. 6 Indiana-No. 11 Pepperdine; and No. 7 Oregon-No. 10 Seton Hall.
In addition to Stanford-South Carolina State and Connecticut-No. 12 Utah State, the other games in Birmingham will be No. 4 Tennessee-No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 8 North Carolina-No. 9 Missouri.
The other South bracket will be in Nashville, Tenn., where Cincinnati plays No. 15 North Carolina-Wilmington; No. 3 Ohio State faces No. 14 Appalachian State; No. 6 Miami goes against No. 11 Arkansas; and No. 7 Tulsa plays No. 10 UNLV.
In Salt Lake City, No. 4 LSU plays No. 13 Southeast Missouri State; No. 5 Texas faces No. 12 Indiana State; and No. 8 Wisconsin goes against No. 9 Fresno State.
The other West bracket, in Tucson, Ariz., features St. John's against No. 15 Northern Arizona; No. 3 Oklahoma-No. 14 Winthrop; No. 6 Purdue-No. 11 Dayton; and No. 7 Louisville-No. 10 Gonzaga.
In addition to the Michigan State-Valparaiso game in Cleveland, No. 4 Syracuse faces No. 13 Samford; No. 5 Kentucky goes against No. 12 St. Bonaventure; and No. 8 Utah plays No. 9 Saint Louis.
Iowa State plays No. 15 Central Connecticut State in Minneapolis; No. 3 Maryland faces No. 14 Iona; No. 6 UCLA goes against No. 11 Ball State; and No. 7 Auburn plays No. 10 Creighton.
On March 23 and 25 the West Regional will be in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Midwest will be in Auburn Hills, Mich. On March 24 and 26 the East Regional will be in Syracuse, N.Y., while the South will be in Austin, Texas.Comment on this story
Among the other teams that did not get at-large bids, but were under consideration were: Vanderbilt, which would have given the SEC seven teams and might have been knocked out when Arkansas went on a surprise run to the conference tournament title; Villanova of the Big East; Brigham Young of the Mountain West; and Southwest Missouri State of the Missouri Valley Conference.
The selection of Indiana, Purdue and Indiana State -- along with automatic qualifiers Valparaiso, Butler and Ball State -- tied a record for the most schools in the tournament from one state.