I am going to express a modicum of sympathy for the Duke University basketball program. Duke just won the ACC regular season and tournament titles. They are 29-5 and, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, the best team in the country. They drew a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So what is their reward for a season of excellence? A bracket in which they could end up playing Texas A&M and then Baylor in Houston.
Pitt faces a similar issue. The Panthers are 24-8 and, according to the NCAA, one of the 12 best teams in the country. What is their reward? A potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with BYU in Salt Lake City. (One caveat: since I mentioned KenPom's ratings earlier, I should mention that Pomeroy has BYU as the seventh-best team in the country, so this is not an injustice according to my preferred methodology. That said, the NCAA doesn't use KenPom's ratings, so by their standards, they screwed Pitt.)
The NBA, NHL, and MLB all have interminably long regular seasons followed by short, overvalued playoffs, but at least those three leagues have the decency to give incentives to teams in the form of homefield/court/ice advantage. If the Lakers have a great season, then they are rewarded by getting to play extra home games in the playoffs. College basketball doesn't even have that reward. Teams play all year for a chance at being slightly closer to home for the couple games that will decide whether their seasons are successes or failures, but even if a team does everything right and gets a #1 seed, there is still a reasonable chance that it will end up in someone else's backyard.
Moreover, the same commercial pressure that is pushing the NCAA to further expand an already gaudy tournament also causes the NCAA to put teams like Duke and Pitt is difficult situations. It cannot be a coincidence that Baylor and Texas A&M are both in the South bracket when the NCAA needs to sell thousands of tickets for a regional at Reliant Stadium. Duke ends up being penalized by the NCAA's need to maximize revenue. Couldn't the NCAA have adopted a more neutral way to draw Texans to the regional, like say burning Thomas Jefferson in effigy?
I will now return to my normal Vicious Little Ferret jokes.