UCLA headlines baffling March Madness bracket

UCLA was a surprise pick in Sunday's selection process (©GettyImages)

Just call them the heartbreakers; the NCAA committee make and break a number of teams' seasons in less than an hour's time, releasing its bracket (the only one that really matters) for this year's March Madness tournament.

Kentucky earned history's most unsurprising No. 1 seed, and was joined by Villanova in the East, Wisconsin in the West and Duke in the South. Notre Dame was rewarded with a third seed for its inspiring ACC tournament title run. And tournament titles from Georgia State and Albany led to last minute dance tickets.

Here are a few immediate thoughts from Sunday night's big announcement. 

UCLA makes the tourney

The Bruins are, of course, one of the biggest names in college basketball. But does that make them worthy of an NCAA berth alone?

Most pundits were perplexed, if not shocked, at UCLA's inclusion. The team had a 4-11 record away from home, and was 13-13 against the top 200 teams in RPI. And with only one win against a ranked opponent, a 69-59 decision over then-11th ranked Utah, how could the committee's brass see a gold and baby blue squad that deserved a playoff run?

At the very least, UCLA could have been thrown into the South Region's play-in game. The choice to throw the Bruins a bone reeks of a popularity contest; plus UCLA faithful travel better than most fan bases, meaning more tickets - and mo' money - for the NCAA.

Afterward, Scott Barnes told reporters that "We felt UCLA was gaining steam," with wins against Washington, Washington State and USC twice, before they were knocked out by fifth-ranked Arizona in the Pac 12 semi-finals.

But ESPN's Dana O'Neil summed it up best with this sentiment:

"UCLA....I'm just so confused."

Battle of the frauds

Call it the contest of what's not good about college basketball.

Even non-basketball fans have heard of the academic scandal that rocked North Carolina's campus recently, and with the news of Jim Boeheim's Syracuse teams cooking the books for years, the notion of the "student-athlete" has never seemed more blighted. 

Some might see this UNC-Harvard tilt as a classic "Jocks v. Nerds" matchup, comparing the Tarheels' academic malaise to the Crimson's reputation for hitting the classroom hard.

But in reality, this is a tried-and-true matchup of two teams that are both nefarious for cooking the books. Because while UNC's offense is more recent and widespread, Harvard just emerged from its own cheating scandal in 2012, when more than 100 students cheated on a take-home final exam.

Two of Harvard's co-captains withdrew from the basketball squad before the 2012 season, including leading scorer Kyle Casey. And the disgrace of one of the nation's top private institutions spurred editorials from the Harvard Crimson, Boston Globe, Bloomberg and The Christian Science Monitor.

While most of March Madness is a public relations fantasy for the NCAA, this March 19 matchup will be one of the black eyes on the tournament.

Not invited...

Temple (23-10, 13-5 American) and Colorado State (27-6, 13-5 Mountain West) were the consensus fringe teams. But they couldn't make the final cut.

Thanks a lot NCAA committee for that oddball UCLA decision.

Barnes said the Owls were knocked out after Wyoming surprisingly stole an NCAA berth by beating San Diego State 45-43 in the Mountain West title game.

That game was also probably the reason why Colorado State couldn't overcome its semi final lost in the Mountain West tournament to still make the big dance. The conference's top two teams, Boise State and San Diego State, were shoo-ins, yet Wyoming beat both on their way to earning the tournament championship.

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