Looking back, Ron Wellman wouldn’t change anything. The selection committee chairman was more than OK a couple hours before the championship game that featured the highest combined seeds in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky was an eight seed out of the Midwest Region, and Connecticut was the seven seed in the East.
“It showed the unpredictability of the tournament,” said Wellman, the athletic director at Wake Forest. “It showed that there is tremendous parity in college basketball.”
Wellman said the committee has to base its seeding and matchups on what a school accomplished during the regular season, not its potential.
Kentucky had bad losses to Arkansas and South Carolina at the end of February and early March before making a run to the SEC tournament championship.
“We knew that if Kentucky played up to its potential, it could end up here,” Wellman said. “There was no doubt about that, but you look at the full season and what they did throughout the season. We felt that their seed was right on target.”
The same goes for UConn. The Huskies lost to Houston, a team that went 17-16, and were also swept in conference play by Louisville and the tournament’s biggest snub, SMU.
But UConn got hot at the right time, surviving an overtime scare from Saint Joseph’s in the round of 64 and making a run to the title game.
“The goal of the committee is to create the fairest championship possible to the best of their ability,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships.
“The philosophy has been to make the seed based on the full body of work. While both of these teams have great potential and have achieved that potential in this tournament, the full body of work leading up to Selection Sunday, the committee felt like they were seeded appropriately.”
All in all, Wellman and Gavitt thought the tournament played out about as well as the committee could have imagined with several upsets and dramatic endings with seven overtime games.
“In terms of entertaining games, in terms of close games, in terms of upsets … it was an exciting tournament,” Wellman said. “I don’t think we could have asked for anything more.”
Added Gavitt: “There is a lot of parity in college basketball. So is it surprising to see a 7 and an 8 here? Historically, sure. But if you watch college basketball the last few years, you shouldn’t be totally surprised. A team can get hot this time of year and get this far.”
A Final Four record 158,682 were on hand combined for the semifinals on Saturday and the championship game on Monday.
Monday’s attendance was a championship record 79,238, and the second-highest total for a Division I men’s basketball game. The record is Saturday’s 79,444.
The previous record was 78,129 on Dec. 13, 2003, for Michigan State-Kentucky at Ford Field in Detroit.