Perceptions, plans outlined for this year’s Final Four

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NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt sees a disparity between some of this season's top college men's basketball teams and everyone else.

Selection committee chairman Scott Barnes believes things are a little more balanced.

It's an argument that probably won't go away any time soon, in public or behind closed doors. Gavitt and Barnes took different sides Tuesday following a news conference to announce plans for this year's Final Four in Indianapolis. Selection committee members met last week in Washington, D.C.

"They gave the first committee reports and you know no one is ever eliminated until selection Sunday," said Gavitt, who oversees men's basketball. "In those reports, some of the very elite teams, I would say, if they stay healthy will be very, very high seeds and others who might normally get those high seeds may not this year."

Of course, perceptions and resumes can change quickly in the college basketball world.

Just ask the University of Wisconsin, whose hopes of returning to the Final Four suffered a blow last week when the Badgers said starting point guard Traevon Jackson needed surgery on his right foot. But even with Kentucky and Virginia still unbeaten and Duke, Arizona and Wisconsin all ranked among the top seven, Barnes was cautious about reading too much what's happened so far.

"I'd say there's been a lot of early upsets on home courts, more than I can remember in recent years," the Utah State athletic director said. "There are some elite teams this year, but there's a lot of parity out there as well."

Whoever earns a trip to Indy for the national semifinals April 4 and the championship game April 6 will have plenty of options to choose from.

Host committee officials said Fan Fest would open April 3, youth clinics and a 5K walk to help support Coaches vs. Cancer will be held April 4; 3,200 children would dribble around town April 5; and the annual March Madness Music Festival will be held April 3-5. Performers for the musical shows should be announced by late February.

In addition, the host committee will hold a recycling drive March 28 for "just about anything with a plug," is asking 10,000 children to participate in service-related projects April 3 and will help build or rebuild two basketball courts around town.

Gavitt and Barnes were joined by two previous Indiana Mr. Basketball winners — former Indiana star Damon Bailey, now an assistant coach with the Butler women's team, and former Arizona star Jason Gardner, now the men's coach at IUPUI.

"For the Final Four to be in what I think is the best basketball state in the country, is a greater partnership," Bailey said. "Hopefully, with a little luck, we will have some representation from teams in our state."

Two Indiana teams are currently ranked — No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 23 Indiana. Butler has been in and out of the rankings this season and continues to draw votes, while Valparaiso is 17-3.

Indianapolis is hosting the Final Four for the seventh time, the first since Duke survived Gordon Hayward's half-court heave to beat hometown favorite Butler for the 2010 national championship.

But what Gavitt and Barnes want most is to find a balanced 68-team field, which will give everyone the kind of chance Butler had five years ago against one of the sport's blue-blood teams.

"We don't know what legendary coaches or programs will be here in the coming months, and we don't know who will emerge as the next Darrell Griffith, Christian Laettner, Miles Simon, Mateen Cleaves, Joakim Noah or Kyle Singler," Barnes said, rattling off the Most Outstanding Players from the previous six championships played in Indy.

"As the conference monitors said in their report," Barnes added, "there's still a lot of basketball to be played."

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