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NCAA: No thrills in Boulder 

End Zone

As the nation embarks on another blissful voyage into March Madness, the angst of last weekend already has slipped into the trash heap of old news.

Everybody wants to see how they'll fare this year in filling out their bracket for the office pool. They're wondering if Ohio State, Kansas or Duke was the best pick to go all the way. Some are assessing whether that East Regional really is superior to the others (sure looks that way), or whether the Southeast Regional could really be that inferior (again, sure looks that way), or what teams will create the biggest surprises (more on that later).

But because we are here, we cannot let slide the ridiculous injustice that was done Sunday to the University of Colorado, which was left out of the 68-team NCAA field. We can't simply shrug it off, figure that the Buffaloes shouldn't have scheduled so many soft nonconference opponents, and wonder how much CU's loss at Iowa State in the next-to-last regular-season game might have hurt the Buffs' case.

No, we can't just accept it and move on, because the NCAA selection committee wronged Colorado by choosing other at-large teams with far fewer credentials. So what if CU played some softies before Christmas? Add in the Big 12 games, 16 of them, and the Buffs' schedule as a whole becomes much tougher than lots of those pansy East Coast leagues that nobody hears about until conference tournaments.

Not only that, but consider: Three wins — yes, three — against Kansas State, a No. 5 seed, meaning the committee felt K-State was somewhere between 16th and 20th in the nation? Coming from 20 points down to beat Texas, a No. 4 seed now? And a victory over Missouri, which also made the tournament? Oh yeah, and just last Saturday, losing by only seven points to Kansas, a No. 1 regional seed (and No. 2 in the entire tournament)?

It was so bad, the network analysts — none with any known ties or loyalty to Colorado — spent more than 30 minutes voicing their disgust after the selection show. Dick Vitale: "It's an injustice, totally unfair. I can't take it when I see teams get a raw deal." Jay Bilas: "These are horrible decisions. It makes you wonder if some on the committee know the ball is round." Fran Fraschilla: "It's criminal, and Colorado not getting in is the biggest crime of all."

There is no defense. The fact remains that other teams made the NCAA without a single win against a ranked (or Top 50) team. CU should have been somewhere around a No. 9 or 10 seed, no matter what anyone might say. And as head coach Tad Boyle said afterward, the real victims are CU's five seniors, who were robbed of this one chance at the Big Dance. Instead, they're told that all those tremendous January and February wins weren't enough. Bull manure.

We can only hope that changes are made to the selection structure, because this was even more deplorable than the awful officiating at the end of that Big East Tournament game between St. John's and Rutgers. These were egregious errors of judgment made by people entrusted to make expert decisions. They failed, not just Colorado but Virginia Tech, Alabama and Saint Mary's.

With all that said, what do we expect now? Not as many upsets as usual, for starters. My bracket includes only two better-seeded teams losing the first weekend in the East and West regionals — and those were the 8-vs.-9 games (generally not considered upsets either way). And despite one or two early surprises, I have the top four seeds surviving this weekend in the Southwest as well.

In that weaker Southeast, though, hardly anything is certain because so many teams appear overrated (Florida seeded second, Brigham Young third, Wisconsin fourth, Kansas State fifth, St. John's sixth, UCLA seventh). Any of those could fall to the likes of Belmont (30-4), Gonzaga (24-9), Utah State (30-3) and Michigan State (19-14 but dangerous). If there are any stunners in the Sweet Sixteen, they might come from that group.

But the saddest part is that nobody will ever know how Colorado would have fit into all this. And no matter what happens in the National Invitation Tournament (CU's consolation prize), it won't make up for anything.

routon@csindy.com

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