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Syracuse tournament snub big deal at ESPN, not CBS

When it concerned the absence of Syracuse University in the NCAA men's basketball tournament field Sunday, call it the Tale of Two Networks.

On the CBS special announcing the 68-team field, analysts Seth Davis and Clark Kellogg pretty much agreed with selection committee chairman Mark Hollis' explanation that the Orange didn't get in because the team's poor road record and bad losses overwhelmed several big home wins over the Top 50 teams in the country. Actually, Hollis agreed with Davis' earlier explanation that Syracuse's inability to win away from home was "the fatal flaw of a very good basketball game team."

Charles Barkley, who almost always has a different spin, theorized the committee was reacting to the negativity it received a year ago when it somewhat surprisingly allowed Syracuse in the tournament before it beat Dayton, Middle Tennessee, Gonzaga and Virginia to more surprisingly make the Final Four.

"I think they used reverse psychology this year and left them out," said Barkley.

Over at ESPN (which doesn't carry the tournament), host Rece Davis called Syracuse's absence the "biggest story" of those snubbed. Analysts Jay Bilas, Jay Williams  and Dick Vitale appeared somewhat stunned by the decision, though Seth Greenberg seemed to be fine with it.

Bilas said he didn't think leaving Syracuse out "makes sense." Williams said he was "absolutely shocked." Vitale was more upset, saying "I don’t understand" it after Syracuse went 10-8 in the best conference of the country, the ACC, and beat three teams they were in the Top 10 at some point. "Syracuse belongs in this tournament," Vitale said.

I did understand it. A Syracuse graduate, I watched many of its game this season in frustration, especially in losses to former Big East rivals St. John's, Georgetown, UConn, Boston College and Pittsburgh in their down seasons.

However, I also was pleasantly surprised by home wins over Florida State, Miami, Virginia, Wake Forest and Duke, the later which led many analysts to prematurely claim "they're in."

I knew that was wishful thinking.

As soon as it was clear Sunday that Syracuse was out, I tweeted: "Hard to argue about Cuse out of NCAA even with big home wins. Buffalo games look good at least."

The ESPN show also featured an interview with Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim. He wasn't crying but said a couple of his players cried immediately after being snubbed and a couple cried a little later.

Boeheim noted that Syracuse had beaten three Top 10 teams and Wake Forest, which got into the tournament. And he noted that winning games on the road was hard for every team, not just Syracuse.

But overall he was accepting of the verdict, even if he didn’t believe it was "justifiable."

"I thought we would just squeak in but we have to accept it and move on," said Boeheim.

He added good teams don’t find themselves on the bubble.

"We weren't a good team this year," added Boeheim. "I admit that."

He said he felt especially bad for fifth-year senior transfers Andrew White and John Gillon, who saved the season from being a total disaster.

"I told them 'we just didn't do enough,'" said Boeheim.

He was right.

But back to my tweet about "at least the games in Buffalo look good."

There is more good news. Starting with the Notre Dame-Princeton game at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, they will be called by veteran play-by-play man Verne Lundquist and analyst Jim Sparnarkel, with Allie LaForce as sideline reporter.

And they will get a national audience via CBS and not one of the Turner channels that some fans either don't get or have a hard time finding.

Thankfully for them, CBS is carrying the national semifinals April 1 and the championship April 3.



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