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Trojans, Waves Sent to Midwest; Rebels, Aztecs Stay in West

March 11, 1985|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

USC, as expected, was named to the 64-team NCAA tournament field Sunday, and the Trojans won't be stuck in Hartford, Conn. for a first-round game, a previous concern of Coach Stan Morrison.

Instead, USC was assigned to the Midwest Regional, where it will meet Illinois State Thursday night at Tulsa.

If the Trojans, 19-9 overall, beat Illinois State (21-7), they'll most likely play Oklahoma (28-5), which is ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, by the Associated Press and United Press International.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Four Pac-10 teams were invited to the tournament: Washington, co-champion of the league with USC; Oregon State and Arizona. The Huskies and the Wildcats will play in the West Regional whereas the Beavers are in the Southeast, meeting Notre Dame on its home court.

Pepperdine (23-8), champion of the West Coast Athletic Conference, was sent to the Midwest along with USC. The Waves will play Duke (22-7) Friday night at Houston.

Nevada Las Vegas, the PCAA champion, was placed in the West Regional. The Rebels (27-3) will play San Diego State (23-7) Thursday night at Salt Lake City.

If USC had won the Pac-10 title outright, it most likely would have stayed in the West. But the Trojans forfeited that opportunity by losing to Oregon State, 60-58, in overtime Saturday afternoon at the Sports Arena.

Morrison and his players watched from Heritage Hall on campus as the pairings were announced on television.

Asked if he was disappointed that his team couldn't stay closer to home in the West Regional, Morrison said: "I didn't expect that at all. I felt there was no way we would be kept in the West. I thought we might be sent to the East. The fact we're not playing Georgetown in Puerto Rico is comforting."

Georgetown, the defending NCAA champion; St. John's, Michigan and Oklahoma are the No. 1-seeded teams in the four regions.

The NCAA tournament committee picked 35 at-large teams to go with 29 which qualified automatically as champions of their conference or conference tournament.

The Hoyas, No. 1 ranked in both wire-service polls, will stay in the East. St. John's is going to the West, Oklahoma is in the Midwest, whereas Michigan is located in the Southeast.

USC and Washington tied for the Pac-10 title with 13-5 records. Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA tied for third at 12-6.

Arizona (21-9 overall) will meet Alabama (21-9) Friday night at Albuquerque, N.M., a short hop from Tucson for the Wildcats.

"Cedric Dempsey (Arizona's athletic director) is on the tournament committee and he did a good job of fighting for his coach (Lute Olson)," said Morrison, reasoning why Arizona stayed in the West.

Morrison commiserated with Oregon State Coach Ralph Miller, whose team meets Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. "I know he isn't excited about the draw,"' Morrison said dryly.

Washington (22-9) meets Kentucky (16-12) Thursday night at Salt Lake City. Kentucky, a Final Four team last year and host for the finals this year, made the field for a record 30th time with the worst record among the at-large entries.

UCLA, which was passed over by the NCAA, also has a 16-12 record.

The Big East and Big Ten each placed six teams in the tournament, while the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference each got five teams in the playoffs.

Pepperdine Coach Jim Harrick was only slightly disappointed that his Waves weren't placed in the West Regional. Pepperdine has made the NCAA tournament field three times in the past four years.

"I kind of wish that we would have stayed in the West, but I have no real feeling about it," Harrick said. "I also thought we would be seeded higher than 14th because we've won 23 games. But I like the way we matchup with Duke, Texas Tech and Boston College (all in the Midwest Regional at Houston). They don't have any 6-10 or 6-11 guys."

Pepperdine last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 1983, meeting North Carolina State in a first-round game that Harrick will never forget. Even if he does, someone will remind him of it.

The Waves had apparently beaten the Wolfpack, but Pepperdine couldn't convert key free throws and N.C. State went on to win, 69-67, in double overtime at Corvallis, Ore.

You know the rest. North Carolina State, a team of destiny, kept squeaking by its tournament opponents and went on to win the NCAA championship by beating favored Houston.

"I made Jim Valvano," Harrick said wistfully, referring to all the subsequent publicity accorded North Carolina State's coach.

If Pepperdine beats Duke, it will meet the winner of the Texas Tech-Boston College game.

USC's game with Illinois State will be played at Oral Roberts University. The Trojans are familiar with the court, having played there in 1983.

Curiously, Illinois State is the first team Morrison met as a new USC coach in the 1979-80 season. USC won, 63-61.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, basketball teams in the western part of the country don't get much respect. Nevada Las Vegas is the only western team ranked in the top 20 of the wire-service polls.

UCLA, in 1980, is the last Pac-10 team to get out of a regional and advance to the Final Four. The Bruins made it all the way to the championship game before losing to Louisville.

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