NCAA

Austin American-Statesman - - NCAA TOURNAMENT -

Bay­lor — the Big 12’s third-place team — pock­eted the No. 3 seed in the East Re­gion and will open against WAC Tour­na­ment cham­pion New Mex­ico State on Thurs­day in Tulsa, Okla.

SMU, which swept the AAC reg­u­lar-sea­son and tour­na­ment ti­tles, is the No. 6 seed in the East and also will play Thurs­day in Tulsa. The Mus­tangs face the win­ner of Wed­nes­day’s First Four game be­tween Prov­i­dence and USC.

Texas South­ern, the state’s other rep, is the No. 16 seed in the South and gets — oooffff — North Carolina on Fri­day in Greenville, S.C. The Tigers are the SWAC au­to­matic qual­i­fier. No 16-seed has ever beaten a No. 1.

Texas State came up just a touch short. The Bob­cats, chas­ing their first NCAA berth since 1997, lost to Troy 59-53 in the Sun Belt Tour­na­ment fi­nal Sun­day in New Or­leans.

Last year the Lone Star State landed five teams in the NCAA’s, in­clud­ing Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

The Big 12 also ex­pe­ri­enced a dropoff, from seven bids in 2016 to six, but was re­lieved that Kansas State made the cut — by a whisker.

The Wild­cats, one of the last teams in, were as­signed a First Four game Tues- day night in Day­ton, Ohio, against Wake For­est. The win­ner will be the 11th seed in the South and play Cincin­nati on Fri­day in Sacra­mento, Calif.

Kansas, the 13-time de­fend­ing Big 12 reg­u­lar-sea­son champ, held onto the No. 1 seed in the Mid­west. The Jay­hawks of­ten dis­ap­point in March, but they’ll have ev­ery ge­o­graph­i­cal ad­van­tage this time.

The Jay­hawks have first­week games in Tulsa, and

North­west­ern is the na­tional feel-good story this year. The Wild­cats, the only ma­jor con­fer­ence school never to reach the NCAAs, fi­nally punched their ticket. They will play fel­low jour­nal­ism gi­ant Van­der­bilt in a high-IQ 8 vs. 9 game in the West, the win­ner likely get­ting Gon­zaga.

North Carolina was made No. 1 in the South over hard­charg­ing Duke, which beat the Tar Heels two out of three times.

“Duke en­tered the week on the four line,” ex­plained selec­tion com­mit­tee chair­man Mark Hol­lis. “They had the largest jump, go­ing up to the two line. But they got stopped there. Duke had three Top 25 wins in the ACC Tour­na­ment, but we’re con­sid­er­ing the en­tire body of work. North Carolina won the reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle.”

Vil­lanova is try­ing to be­come the first team to re­peat since Florida in 2006 and ’07, and Duke stands in the way of the Wild­cats in the East.

Syra­cuse, which posted six Top 25 wins (all at home), is the big­gest name left out.

“Syra­cuse was 2-11 on the road and that be­came a theme,” Hol­lis said. “They strug­gled away from home, and their non-con­fer­ence sched­ule was not that dif­fi­cult yet they still strug­gled with that.”

There were some seem­ingly glar­ing seed­ing is­sues, par­tic­u­larly with mid-ma­jors, which the com­mit­tee has dumped on in re­cent years.

Wi­chita State, a 30-game win­ner, was slapped with a 10 seed de­spite a No. 20 na­tional rank­ing and No. 8 in the Ken Pomeroy in­dex.

Mid­dle Ten­nessee, an­other 30-game win­ner, was sad­dled with a 12 seed de­spite a 35 RPI for a vet­eran team that knocked out Michi­gan State in last year’s tour­na­ment.

HART­FORD COURANT JOHN WOIKE /

SMU and guard Jar­rey Foster earned the No. 6 seed in the East and will open play Thurs­day in Tulsa.

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