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They may not know it yet, but whoever gets through Wednesday's Vermont/Lamar first round game will find that they have a few thousand more fans at the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday.
Dressed in dark blue with a big D plastered somewhere on their bodies, Duke fans will be rooting vigorously for the Catamounts or Cardinals against hated rival North Carolina once they're done with Lehigh. Consider it one of the quirks among the venue chatter at this year's NCAA Tournament.
When the ‘Heels and Blue Devils last split regional play in nearby Greensboro back in 2009, the team that played last had to deal with the other's fans that remained attendance to get their money's worth. The decks are stacked against anyone not named Duke or North Carolina in the city that's hosted the most ACC Tournaments, but every little bit helps.
The Creighton/Alabama survivor has the same boost to look forward too, provided the Blue Devils advance on Sunday.
That said, it's not like the Tar Heels would trade the built-in homecourt edge playing in their backyard offers. In an elimination format, every edge gained by traveling less or having more fans in your corner is invaluable.
“The closer to home, the better served you are,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune of his meeting with N.C. State in Columbus. “In a perfect world, it would have been Portland or Albuquerque.”
Instead, the Aztecs are one of eight schools that find themselves over 1,800 miles from home when tipping off action at the NCAA Tournament.
California is up first, 2,000 miles from First Four action against South Florida in Dayton.
Reigning Cinderella VCU finds itself furthest from home, exactly 2,373 miles from Portland, where it’s scheduled to do battle with Wichita State.
That bests Davidson's odyssey to the Rose Garden by less than 100 miles, where they take on displaced cousin Louisville. Make a note that this will be the first game that tips from Portland on Thursday, which starts at 10:40 a.m. PT.
Albuquerque-bound Harvard is playing nearly 2,000 miles from Cambridge.
Seeding a tournament is complicated, so when you add venues to the equation, it's expected some things will fall through the cracks. This committee did a solid job of avoiding many of the glaring errors recent facilitators have committed, but there are a few injustices. Double-digits seeds like Cal, VCU, Harvard and Davidson being forced to travel to far away destinations is just a price they pay for being part of the show.
Needlessly putting obstacles in front of higher seeds that have earned the right at a fair shake in this tournament seems to be an annual talking point. This year's victims are Gonzaga, San Diego State, Indiana and Louisville, forced to trek nearly 2,000 miles a piece to face double-digit seeds that are closer to home.
Nowhere is that more egregious than for the Zags and Aztecs, heading East for what are essentially road games. Understanding neither won their conference tournaments, it's still a strange sight that the selection committee put them in games against teams in their own backyards.
Pittsburgh and West Virginia literally compete in the Backyard Brawl. Thanks to their good fortune, Mountaineers fans can cross the border and support their 10th-seeded basketball team against Gonzaga. Yes, (West) Virginia, there is an East coast bias.
Mark Few took the high road, stating something about all tournaments carrying unique challenges, but the Bulldogs coach should rightfully be seething. In what's expected to be a physical game featuring many massive frames, there will only be one side clamoring for calls.
San Diego State travels just short of 2,000 miles to reach Columbus, where N.C. State awaits. Wolfpack nation can hop in their campers, pull off speeds slightly above the speed limit and make it to Nationwide Arena inside of six hours.
Not surprisingly, both Gonzaga and SDSU opened as underdogs.
Indiana squares off against WAC champion New Mexico State, a No. 13 seed that has many key players still around from the team that nearly upset Michigan State in the 2010 Tournament. The Hoosiers haven't been dancing since 2008, so it's wholly unfair that the dream season that has landed this first appearance under Tom Crean was met with such a heartless reward. It certainly makes the Aggies a live dog candidate, not to mention favoring No. 5-seed Wichita State in terms of proximity should the teams meet in Round 3. Fortunately, Hoosier nation travels well, so they'll still be able to count on looking up and seeing plenty of Crimson and Cream.
Louisville is in that same boat, since Cardinals fans would venture to Shanghai if a big game called for it. Still, it's curious that they would potentially face No. 5 seed New Mexico at the Rose Garden. What's the point of being the No. 4 seed if the other school has the advantage?
Duke and North Carolina got the expected Greensboro treatment, but while UNC gets a potential road regional final against KU, the Blue Devils, losers of the most recent winner-take-ACC game between the Tobacco Road rivals, got the better landing spot. If it handles business in-state, Duke is headed for ACC-friendly Atlanta, site of the 2012 conference tournament.
Teams that were rightfully rewarded include No. 1 overall seed Kentucky attempting to advance through Louisville and Atlanta and No. 2 overall seed Syracuse drawing Pittsburgh and Boston, the same path as Ohio State. Kansas and Missouri both start in Omaha, but only the Jayhawks get to move on through St. Louis. That seems just, since the Jayhawks rolled through the Big 12 with a 16-2 mark in spite of getting bounced early in the conference tournament. Another league school, Baylor, is anchored as the favorite in Albuquerque, which seems fair given its body of work.
The committee also championed the little guy in one instance, putting top mid-major Murray State in Louisville. No. 3 seed Marquette may not like what it sees if both schools advance to Saturday's third round, but as the only team to carry a single loss into the tournament, the Racers earned their break.
Oddsmakers will have a difficult time picking a favorite in that potential clash.