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Keeler: NCAA Tournament selection committees did CU Buffs, CSU Rams dirty

BOULDER — The NCAA still can’t read a room. But man, can they ever kill one.

Kindyll Wetta and her teammates on the CU women’s basketball team were belles of the ball inside the Dal Ward Center. You shoulda seen it. Balloons. Cheerleaders. Catering. One of the sweetest pep rallies to grace the Touchdown Club since Coach Prime got injected into the Buffs’ bloodstream here some 16 months ago.

As the NCAA Tournament brackets came on the screen, the party hushed. Then when Kansas State came up as a 4 seed and as a host for the first weekend of the women’s Big Dance, it sank.

“It’s definitely a bummer for me because I wanted to play at home and I wanted to be in front of my family,” Wetta, the firebrand of a Buffs guard and former Valor Christian star, told me after CU found out its first stop in Bracketville would be as a 5 seed opposite K-State in the Little Apple of Manhattan, Kan. “I thought this year we really had a great shot of doing that. It’s disappointing in that sense.”

There was a lot of that going around here Sunday night. The mood was even less jovial a few hours earlier up in Fort Collins, where the men’s selection committee decided to take its annual dose of stupid out on the Mountain West as a whole — and on the Rams in particular.

Want a laugh? Committee member Bubba Cunningham contended on CBS that teams selected from the Mountain West, save for San Diego State, got strapped to double-digit seedings because their best wins were over one another.

“(That) made it more challenging for us,” Cunningham explained.

Not half as challenging, apparently, as trying to stay up past 10 p.m. Eastern to do homework on teams west of Lincoln. Poor guy.

At least five teams — lookin’ at you, Oregon, NC State and New Mexico — “stole” bids from more worthy at-larges by winning their respective conference tourneys. But any ‘S’ curve that’s got CSU as the “last team in” gets an automatic F.

Do you watch the games, Bubba? Or do you watch “X” and Instagram and hope for the best? CSU beat Creighton by 21 on a neutral court. The Jays were slotted as a No. 3 seed Sunday. The Rammies (24-10) were unveiled as a 10.

Boise State, who’ll take on Tad Boyle’s CU men on Wednesday night, beat Saint Mary’s on a semi-neutral floor by three. The Gaels are dancing as a 5 seed. The Broncos, like CSU and CU, are a 10 seed having to scrap their way over to the Big Kids’ Bracket by winning in Dayton first.

“To be honest, I was really surprised how most of the Mountain West was seeded,” stunned CSU coach Niko Medved, who’ll face Virginia on Tuesday in Ohio, told reporters.

“But you know what? That’s fine. They always disrespect our league. And now it’s time to go out and do something about it.”

Amen. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Cavaliers (23-10), on paper, are certainly in the Rammies’ weight class. For one thing, unlike Michigan in 2022, UVa doesn’t have a Hunter Dickinson down low, taking up a duplex’s worth of space in the paint. On the surface, it’s the irresistible force (CSU’s shooters) against the immovable object (Tony Bennett’s trademark tire-iron defense), a classic Clark Kellogg “contrast-in-styles” scrum between a Rams offense ranked 42nd nationally by in adjusted offensive efficiency and a Cavs D that’s seventh in adjusted defense. If you’re hopping over to Dayton, take the under and take your pizza square-cut.

If the Oppenheimers on the men’s committee dinged CSU for its 4-7 mark away from Moby Madness, their counterparts on the women’s side docked the Buffs (22-9) for losing six of their last eight, including a maddening, come-from-ahead loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tourney.

In March, you make your own luck. The Buffs women — despite being one of the best draws in all of college basketball, male or female — didn’t.

“I mean, (it’s) definitely frustrating,” Wetta said. “But like (Coach JR Payne) said, you can’t dwell on that, because (now) it’s completely different conferences, completely different teams, styles of play.”

At least Wetta and her teammates know the drill. Payne’s Buffs got shipped to third seed and host Duke at this time last year and earned their Sweet 16 berth the hard way, stomping 11th-seeded Middle Tennessee and then shocking the Blue Devils in overtime to advance out of Durham.

“I feel like the same situation’s happened to us the past two years, where we thought we should’ve been a higher seed and we weren’t,” Wetta reflected. “So, again, it’s nothing new. Disappointing, but we’re used to it.

“I think we definitely do better with underdog mentality. So I think that’s a good thing going into the NCAA Tournament. It just adds a little bit of fuel to the fire.”

Why bust brackets when you can burn ’em? Pack your bags, kids. And your grudges. This dance just got personal.

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