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Thompson wants answers to BYU, Utah seeds

The War Room is clouded and set abuzz at Mountain West Conference headquarters in Colorado Springs. It will continue to be on alert in days to come as Commissioner Craig Thompson begins an investigation into seeding decisions by the NCAA Selection Committee and its handling of co-league champions Utah and BYU.

"I am dumbstruck," Thompson said Monday.

Thompson will be in Salt Lake City and Spokane this week. He hopes to find faces to talk to and answers to a puzzle: Why was the MWC so blatantly singled out and disrespected?

"I am very frustrated," Thompson said.

The selection of Utah as a No. 9 seed and the Cougars as a 12 seed was simply bizarre in the face of so-called experts of bracketology. Established formulas and proper indexes had penciled those two squads anywhere from No. 6 to 9 and were consistent. A junk science, those pre-Sunday forecasts evidently forgot the human element which Sunday gave new meaning to March Madness.

Madness? It's a funny NCAA Tournament slogan. But for the MWC Sunday, it took on a clinical meaning.

Thompson isn't whining. He's too shocked to pour the fermented grape juice with a bite of cheese.

Thompson isn't calling anybody names like "idiot," "brain dead" or "doofus" since he served on the selection committee for five years dating back to 1997.

Thompson isn't pointing fingers because he's simply too stunned to unclench his fist on the War Room table.

Here's the rub:

Thompson and all MWC athletic directors and coaches drew up a plan last year to beef up their schedules so both league and team RPI (rating percentage index) would be exalted to lofty numbers and increase chances for NCAA Tournament participation. The RPI is one of the key tools used to fill out the post-season bracket.

The RPI is like the swim suit portion of the Miss America Pageant.

Mission accomplished. Utah (No. 15) and BYU (No. 16) drew attention nationwide for its RPI and the MWC rating registered No. 6 among college conferences, higher than the Pac-10.

But Sunday, it was totally ignored when the selection came down. In fact, the selection committee appears to have gone out of its way to purposely set Utah and BYU outside respectable boundaries for those ratings. The Cougars almost barely made it in and Utah was assigned a near death sentence with a second round matched with favorite nemesis Kentucky. The committee's message? You guys hardly belong.

Thompson won't say it, but it became personal on Monday.

In raw numbers, Thompson noted that 12 teams with lesser ratings slid underneath Utah and a whopping 21 teams slipped underneath BYU.

The committee spit on the MWC championship.

If you took only the RPI rating for seeding this tournament, 90 percent of the 64-team field held true. BYU and Utah were "significantly" put out of their ratings. It was like being taken to the woodshed, and the shed was in El Paso.

Thompson wants answers. Was it simple prejudice? Was it an honest mistake? Were the brownies in the conference room of the selection committee spiked? Did the injury of Britton Johnsen and Utah finishing 3-3 hurt? Did BYU losses to San Francisco, Weber State and a pair to the Utes hurt that bad after finishing on a 9-3 run?

Thompson wants to know about the seeding of Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and the "wedging" in of seed numbers of North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Alabama, Auburn and Colorado, not to mention Central Michigan and North Carolina-Wilmington.

MWC co-champions? Utah goes 24-7. BYU is 23-8. Both win nine league games.

Both played "respected" strength of schedules as ordered.

The MWC War Room has a mission. Thompson, go fetch the answers. Your constituency is eager for the report.

In the meantime, the whys and hows don't matter this week. Utah and BYU must act like Utah State and Weber State and eagerly get game faces ready for the court. It's apparently the only thing about the NCAA they can control.

Gentlemen, snap on your warmups.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com