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Bubble teams paying attention this weekend

March 14, 2014
The Altoona Mirror

The power conferences still have a couple of days before they reach the semifinals of their conference tournaments. That doesn't stop the chatter of who will get what seed when the 68-team bracket for the NCAA tournament is revealed Sunday at 6 p.m.

What has fueled the latest seed talk is the injury to Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid. A second opinion on his back from a specialist in Los Angeles confirmed the initial diagnosis of a stress fracture. He was told the best prescription is rest and rehabilitation.

That means he will definitely not play in the Big 12 tournament this week and the first weekend of the three-week NCAA tournament.

It isn't even sure he'll be back for the regional weekend should the Jayhawks get there.

What should the Selection Committee do? Do they seed Kansas based on the way the Jayhawks played with Embiid's inside presence or do they try and see what the Jayhawks might be like without him? It's hard to not be impressed with a team that went 23-8, has an RPI of 3 and won six games over teams in the RPI's top 25, the most of any team.

"The committee is well aware of those injuries. We will follow those injuries. We will get updates on the injuries. We already received a report this morning about an injury," committee chairman Ron Wellman said in a conference call Wednesday.

Everyone will find all the answers on Sunday.

Some other teams who have situations the committee will have to look at include Syracuse. The Orange stumbled to the finish after opening the season 25-0. Their offense certainly became stagnant, but how much of that had to do with big man Jerami Grant playing with a bad back and missing some games because of it. With Grant the inside game is much better and he makes the famed zone defense even more effective with his length.

Once considered a lock to be a No. 1 seed, Syracuse is chasing a 2 seed, 3 at the worst and the committee has to look at how much Grant's absence meant to a team that has a 27-4 record, 9 RPI and seven wins over teams in the RPI's top 50.

Then there's Virginia. It's not an injury that will give the committee pause over the Cavaliers, it's their schedule. Virginia won the Atlantic Coast Conference title outright for the first time since Ralph Sampson was in Charlottesville 33 years ago. The unbalanced schedule kept the Cavaliers from playing two games against Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse.

For Wichita State, the debate of whether or not the Shockers deserve a No. 1 seed is over. They finished unbeaten, 34-0, the first team to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated since UNLV in 1991. Still, there's a nagging little itch that won't go away. The Shockers have a 5 RPI but their strength of schedule is 334.

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