The Bay Area was a big winner on Selection Sunday, three times over.

San Jose could have played host to eight teams with no regional connection (as was the case three years ago). Instead, HP Pavilion lucked into a local: Cal.

The Bears could have been shipped to a distant outpost, perhaps even for a Thursday game. Instead, they're a 45-minute bus ride from campus (unless there's traffic on 880, in which case it's a two-day trek).

Saint Mary's could have missed the cut altogether due to a lack of quality wins. Instead, the Gaels were one of the last teams in and will play in the First Four on Tuesday in Dayton.

Everyone's happy, especially the Bears. They are the first local team to play an NCAA tournament game in the Bay Area since the 1997 Stanford team coached by Mike Montgomery.

"It's basically a home game,'' guard Justin Cobbs said. (As of Sunday evening, approximately 1,000 tickets were available for the Thursday-Saturday games at HP.) The Bears had a 1-in-8 chance of being sent to San Jose; they received the assignment after being dropped one spot from their natural seed (11) because of complications in the bracketing process.

The end result seems to indicate that the Bears benefitted from losing to Stanford and Utah at the end of the season. Had they been seeded just one rung higher -- a No. 10, instead of an 11 -- San Jose would have been off the table.

The NCAA selection committee is loath to place lower seeds in advantageous situations, but chairman Mike Bobinski said logistical problems left no options other than assigning No. 5 UNLV to play what amounts to a road game against a No. 12 seed.

The matchup also runs counter to the committee's no-rematch preference -- UNLV won by one point in Berkeley in December -- but there were no options, Bobinski said.

Other winners (and losers) from Selection Sunday:

Winner: The selection committee. With both the at-large field and the seeds, the committee did as well as could be expected. A few quibbles, including Cal-UNLV, but no major gaffes.

Loser: Kentucky. The defending champion missed the cut. So much for the committee selling out for TV ratings.

Winners: Middle Tennessee State and La Salle. They made the cut -- the last two, in fact -- ahead of Kentucky and all its future pros.

Loser: Indiana. The Hoosiers lost the competition for the No. 1 overall seed and, as a result, would play their Sweet 16 game in Washington, D.C. -- instead of Indianapolis.

Winner: Gonzaga. The first team outside the six power conferences to receive a No. 1 seed since Memphis in 2008. And the Zags have a dream draw.

Loser: Louisville. The No. 1 overall seed is in the same region as Duke and Michigan State. Yikes.

Winner: The Mountain West. Five teams in the tournament, four of them seeded No. 8 or higher.

Loser: The Pac-12. Five teams in the tournament, three of them seeded 10 or lower.

Winner: Arizona. The draw sets up well for the Wildcats, if they can get past Belmont in the round of 64.

Loser: Oregon. The Ducks were a No. 11 seed before getting dropped one line for bracketing purposes. That's five spots below a team they beat twice, UCLA.

Winner: The little (and medium) guys. Teams from outside the six major football conferences collected 11 at-large bids (equaling last year's total).

Loser: The SEC. Three paltry bids and once again, no teams from Alabama. No matter. Spring football is underway.

Winner: Mike Bobinski. The committee chairman (and Xavier athletic director) was ready for the tough but fair questions thrown his way by CBS analysts.

Loser: Ron Wellman. The Wake Forest athletic director takes over from Bobinski next year and has a high bar to clear.

Winner: The third round. Three delicious matchups loom: Kansas-North Carolina, UCLA-Florida and New Mexico-Arizona.

Loser: Duke. With their starting five intact, the Blue Devils beat Ohio State and Louisville and lost just one game. And yet they're a No. 2 with Michigan State and Louisville in their path.

Winner: Chaos. With no dominant teams and (mostly) balanced regions, the next three weeks should be off the charts.

For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.