Although Duke merited a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament considering its excellence all season and late-season grit, Duke was handed a relatively cupcake road to the Final Four.
At face value, I find myself puzzled by how Duke secured the game featuring the opening-round game winner, which theoretically (and usually) goes on the face the overall number-one team in the tournament in the serpentine seeding format.
In addition, Duke seemingly received weak two-, three-, four-, and five- seeds, as well as a weak regional for that matter.
There is no question that Duke deserved a No. 1 seed, and it is understandable why Duke earned a higher seed than overall number-four seed Syracuse (when comparing each team's late-run form, despite the "last 12" being removed as selection criteria). The question is rather the fact that Duke was handed a path that essentially treats them like the overall number-one seed, which is not fair.
Explaining this result is definitely puzzling to many, but respected sports writer and radio host Jason Whitlock offers a plausible explanation for this tournament atrocity.
Whitlock explains that in the midst of television contract negotiations, the NCAA is using the Duke card to boost ratings and the potential TV contract received from CBS or ESPN.
Duke undeniably is a constant attraction in college basketball, so the NCAA's favorable positioning of Duke helps on three fronts: First, propping a legendary brand back to the forefront; second, providing a safety net for fan viewership that will buffer for potentially bad TV-ratings results and "spice up" matchups; and third, bringing Duke elitism back into the fold of college basketball.
Definitely an interesting thought, and bulletin-board material for the current and constant Duke haters out there.
If you're filling out your bracket and are looking for X-Factors and scouting reports for the tournament, this is a must read: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/362921-march-madness-2010-players-to-watch-in-the-west-regional.