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Powers pack Heels' region
Overall No.1 UNC tops a tough bracket that has the Vols No.2 and angry about it.
Published March 14, 2006
North Carolina was rewarded for its near-perfect season with a No.1 seed, but in an unthinkably tough bracket. Connecticut's bumpy ride earned the Huskies a No.2 seed that essentially puts the five-time champions in front of a home crowd.
The six-time champ Tennessee Vols, who played the hardest schedule in the land?
They're just plain angry.
Tennessee drew a No.2 seed Monday in the tough Cleveland Region that includes the Tar Heels, the overall No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; third-seeded Rutgers, who finished the Big East regular season unbeaten; and Big 10 power Purdue, the fourth seed.
"It's like the Final Four!" Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I don't know how any bracket can get tougher than our bracket. ... But hey, that's just the way it is. We have to go play those games."
The other top seeds were Ohio State, LSU and Duke.
As North Carolina was lamenting its tough road to the Final Four, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was simply disgusted at not getting a top seed. The Vols beat LSU to win the Southeastern Conference tournament, played the toughest schedule in the nation and was ranked second in the RPI.
"That's a slap in your face," Summitt told her players after they watched the selection show. "It's a slap in our program's face. I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out. But as far as I'm concerned we got no respect and I don't understand it."
The Vols get No.15 seed Army, a tournament newcomer and Patriot League champion, in the first round Sunday in Norfolk, Va.
By way of explanation, Joni Comstock, chairwoman of the NCAA selection committee, suggested that the traditional powers aren't the only good teams these days.
"I don't know that there's been a year where there's been greater parity," Comstock said. "Strength of schedule is something we do look for, and it's important to the committee. The schedule Tennessee played this year and plays most years, however, as close as it was, we felt that Tennessee this year was a No.2 seed."
All the No.1 seeds have started atop the brackets before, but the overall top seed Tar Heels are the only ones with a national title, which they won in 1994.
Duke has been a No.1 seed five times and LSU three times. Ohio State received its second top seeding and first since 1993.
"Every draw's tough. Everybody speculates, but at this stage of the season most teams are on spring break. The good ones are still playing," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said.
The ACC and Big East had the most teams in the field with seven, followed by the SEC and Pac-10 with six each.
The field was notable also for who wasn't in.
Indiana State, which won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season but lost in the conference tournament final to Missouri State, was left out. Also sitting at home is Western Illinois, the Mid-Continent regular-season champ, which lost in the conference final to Oakland, Mich.
The committee also snubbed Western Kentucky, the Sun Belt East Division champ. Texas missed the tournament for fourth time in 25 years, and Texas Tech saw its streak of 16 appearances snapped.
Duke's road to the Final Four runs through Connecticut. The Blue Devils were assigned to the Bridgeport Region, as were the five-time national champion Huskies.