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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Tourney selection is about haves, have-nots

In the humble opinion of this sports writer, there is no greater event than the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

It isn't perfect, although one of its blemishes could be cleared up this year, at least for one tournament.

Before getting into that, in 20 days there are 67 games.

Cinderella's dance.

Powerhouses throw down on programs who are just happy to be there.

There will be overtimes, controversy and complaints about officiating. But in the end, it is what the NCAA does best.

No doubt the NCAA has lost power and prestige in the mightiest of sports, football, but for the most part March Madness is a month of fun.

The only trouble is the field of 68 always leaves out some deserving teams, and at the same time, because of the Power 5, some get in who don't deserve it.

OK, in basketball they call it the Power 6 because of the Big East, but it is really still the Powerful 5 especially this season when the basketball conference that was developed for ESPN's 1979 debut might only get three teams in.

Providence, Villanova and UConn (Connecticut, but who calls it that when it comes to basketball?) should get in. Marquette, Xavier and Seton Hall are definitely on the bubble.

What could make this NCAA Tournament the most exciting is the possibility of some one-bid leagues actually getting two teams invited to the basketball showdown.

The selection committee will be locked away next week in an undisclosed hotel on an undisclosed floor that will house no other guests in Indianapolis.

They will watch games until their eyeballs bounced and their eyelashes swish.

It would be easy for them to gain 10 pounds each as they are well-fed and there are a ton of sweet treats.

This 12-person committee is divided between the haves and the have-nots.

Chairman Tom Burnett is the commissioner of the Southland Conference, a league destined to have just one team. Tom is an honest, no-holds-barred guy who would not be afraid to buck the system.

The other five from that side of the tracks are Mike O'Brien, Toledo's athletic director; Chris Reynolds, Bradley's Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Vice-Chairman of the committee; Charles McClelland, the SWAC commissioner; Keith Gill, the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner; and Barry Collier, Butler's Athletic Director.

On the richer side of the table are Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle, UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond and Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne.

Byrne has no league concerns. The SEC is getting six in at least.

What this committee needs to be concerned with is teams like Murray State from the Ohio Valley Conference, the new home of Arkansas-Little Rock, if they don't win their conference tournament.

The Racers are 28-2 and have a NCAA NET rating of 24. They should be in regardless if they get upset in their tournament.

The same with Loyola Chicago from the Missouri Valley Conference, which is 22-7 with a NET ranking of 31, the best in its league.

Or what about the C-USA's North Texas, which has one conference loss and is 22-4 with a NET ranking of 38?

Of course, if you take two teams from those leagues, someone is knocked off the 36 at-large bid list.

League tournaments and the automatic bids have cheapened the regular season. Maybe it is time to expand the field to 96 and the regular-season champion is automatically in and others can earn a bid through their conference tournament.

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