NCAA does injustice to Lady Devils

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Sunday was an exciting day for college basketball fans, coaches and players around the country, as 64 men's and women's college basketball teams were chosen to play in the NCAA tournaments.
   Many local fans tuned in to check out who the East Tennessee State Buccaneers and the Tennessee Lady Vols would be playing, and if the Tennessee men would get into the tournament.
   While you were enjoying your chips and dip Sunday night, did you notice the injustice one Atlantic Coast Conference women's program received.
   You probably didn't. I did.
   The Duke Lady Blue Devils finished the regular season No. 2 in the country, with only a loss to the UConn Huskies to prevent them from a perfect season.
   The Lady Blue Devils got a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which they deserved.
   Now here's where the injustice comes in. The Lady Blue Devils were shipped out to the Midwest Region, where they will have to travel to New Mexico for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games.
   You may be asking, what is the problem here? The problem is Duke should have been allowed to play close to home.
   The reason Duke was shipped out is because Tennessee is hosting the Mideast Regional at Thompson-Boiling Arena.
   Let's go back to November. The Lady Devils defeated Tennessee by over 20 points in the Jimmy V Women's Classic.
   Duke went on to lose only to UConn. Tennessee lost three more times after that, including a defeat to LSU in its conference tournament.
   Duke, on the other hand, easily defeated North Carolina to win the ACC Championship.
   This leads me to my point. Tennessee deserved a No. 1 seed, but the Lady Vols are the ones that should have been shipped out.
   This wasn't a surprise to women's college basketball experts. I recently talked to some local sportswriters that cover the Lady Vols and the
   Virginia Tech Lady Hokies, and they said that Tennessee was going to be allowed play in its own regional.
   The reporters said it was a money issue, that the NCAA could make more money with the Lady Vols playing in Knoxville.
   I personally think the NCAA should look into the fairness of teams playing on home courts or in hometowns. For example, Pittsburgh last year got to play in Pittsburgh for the men's tournament. Now how fair is that.
   The reason the women have to play on home courts is due to fan support. Even though I feel Duke should be in the Mideast Regional, people in East Tennessee, with maybe the exception of myself, are not going to go watch Duke play in Knoxville.
   If you put the Lady Vols there, like the NCAA committee did, people from Roan Mountain to Nashville are likely to make the trip.
   But I don't think the issue should be about money. It should be about what's right and what's fair.
   I honestly feel Duke earned the right to play close to home. Here's why.
   First of all, the UConn Lady Huskies deserve to be the No. 1 seed in the East. They lost only one game, and defeated both Tennessee and Duke.
   Now, I feel Duke deserves to be No. 1 in the Mideast because it beat Tennessee. Had Tennessee knocked off UConn, then I would be writing this column on something totally different.
   The head to head competition is why I feel Duke earned the right to stay close to home. Tennessee had a good season and deserves a No. 1 seed, but the Lady Devils should have been allowed to play their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in Knoxville.
   I wish the NCAA would read this column and see what an injustice it did to Duke University. But evidently, it only cares about the Benjamin's.
   FINAL FOUR PICKS
   Women
   EAST- UConn
   WEST- Texas
   MIDEAST- Tennessee
   MIDWEST- Duke
   NATIONAL CHAMPION: Duke
   * I watched the UConn-Villanova game last week, and that showed that the Lady Huskies are beatable. I personally believe this is the year the Connecticut ladies get knocked off, and Duke has the tools to do it.
   Men
   MIDWEST- Kentucky
   WEST- Kansas
   SOUTH- Florida
   EAST- Oklahoma
   NATIONAL CHAMPION: Kentucky
   * I'm probably your favorite person right now if you are an SEC or Big 12 fan. These two conferences have been the best in the country this year, and it will show in the tournament.
   I don't expect anybody to beat Kentucky. Tubby Smith knows how to get it done this time of year, and right now the Wildcats are head and shoulders above the rest.
   Let the madness begin.