The NCAA Selection Committee is a shadowy backroom cabal, operating with minimal transparency and zero oversight. But do they really rig the brackets? We look at five of the most plausible theories, and rank them on their merits.
•Conspiracy Theory: The NCAA wants Duke to make the Final Four, and gave them a cupcake of a region.
Tinfoil Hatter: Jason Whitlock, Kansas City Star
The explanation is simple: Duke is television ratings gold, and the NCAA is in the process of negotiating a new TV contract for its prized tournament.
Likelihood Of A Conspiracy: High. This one passes the smell test. A villain, and not a pushover of one, is as important to a compelling tourney as a Cinderella. The inevitable Duke loss will taste sweeter the later it occurs.
•Conspiracy Theory: The East is an unfairly tough region because New Orleans needed Kentucky's presence to sell more tickets.
Tinfoil Hatter: Nakia Hogan, Times-Picayune
With ticket sales moving slowly for the first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games at the New Orleans Arena, the local host committee received a huge break by landing Kentucky and Texas, two teams with rabid fan bases.
Likelihood Of A Conspiracy: Medium-High. Just 7,500 advance tickets had been sold in New Orleans prior to selection Sunday. Kentucky, despite being No. 2 overall, has to travel farther for the opening weekend than any other No. 1 seed.
•Conspiracy Theory: The NCAA rigs certain matchups to make for more interesting television.
Tinfoil Hatter: Fran Dunphy, Temple coach
Cornell coach Steve Donahue was an assistant and recruiting coordinator for 10 years under Temple coach Fran Dunphy at Penn. "I think this was a planned endeavor by the committee," Dunphy said. "They do some things to have this be a matchup. That's my sense."
Likelihood Of A Conspiracy: Medium. The East is a brutal region, with a number of other underseeded teams; yet only this, of the first-round games, has a built-in backstory.
•Conspiracy Theory: The selection committee made sure that BCS and non-BCS school don't play each other, to avoid embarrassing the BCS programs.
Tinfoil Hatter: Joe Sheehan, Basketball Prospectus
You can't keep playing off the non-BCS schools one another every year and pretend it's not a strategy. It very clearly is one, and it's designed to prevent the possibility of the schools from smaller conferences showing that the main difference between them and the middle of the BCS leagues is home games. The committee and the NCAA should be embarrassed.
There are 15 non-BCS schools on seed lines 5-12 in this bracket. Eight of them are playing each other. Thanks, NCAA. Just what the fans want.
Likelihood Of A Conspiracy: Medium-low. With 15 non-BCS schools among 32 5-12 seeds, we should mathematically expect pretty much what we got. Still, never discount nefarious means to placate the BCS.
•Conspiracy Theory: Virginia Tech is on the outside looking in because fellow bubble team Wake Forest's AD is on the selection committee.
Tinfoil Hatter: Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated
Hokies fans should be angrier about their team's abysmal out-of-conference schedule, but it probably didn't escape their notice that Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman is a member of the selection committee.
Likelihood Of A Conspiracy: Low. A non-conference SOS of 339? There are NAIA teams that play tougher schedules.