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Loss to Bruins Drops Huskies Out of NCAA : Central Michigan to Play UCLA; Arizona Is Invited

March 09, 1987|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

It was a foregone conclusion that UCLA would be invited to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament.

But the Bruins didn't leave anything to chance. They beat Washington, 76-64, Sunday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion in the first Pacific 10 tournament to get an automatic bid. UCLA had previously won the regular-season championship.

UCLA (24-6), the fourth seed in the West Regional, will play Central Michigan (22-7) of the Mid-American Conference in a first-round game Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

However, by winning Sunday, the Bruins knocked the Huskies out of the NCAA tournament. Washington or Houston had been penciled in earlier by the NCAA selection committee.

Another team that is not going is defending champion Louisville, which lost the Metro Conference tournament final to Memphis State, which is on probation. The tournament committee declined to give Louisville an at-large invitation.

The Huskies could only get into the NCAA tournament by the front door, the automatic bid. But Arizona, which didn't win a game in the Pac-10 tournament, slipped in through the back door.

The Wildcats (18-11), who lost to Oregon, 72-63, Friday night, are not only in the NCAA tournament, but they're playing a first-round game at home Friday night against Texas El Paso (24-6).

Now let's flash to a conversation between UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard and his star player, Reggie Miller, after Sunday's win over Washington.

Hazzard: "Arizona is in the tournament."

Miller: "Are they? No way."

Hazzard: "The athletic director is on the selection committee."

He was referring to Cedric Dempsey, whose presence on the panel was minimized last week by Dick Schultz, chairman of the selection committee.

"Committee members with teams under consideration can't be present when a vote is taken on their team and can't nominate or in any way discuss their possibilities," Schultz said.

In any event, the Pac-10 placed only two teams in the tournament, same as last year. The conference is hopeful, though, of staying around a bit longer this year.

The Pac-10 hasn't won an opening-round game since 1983-84, losing six straight tournament games.

There weren't many surprises when the NCAA announced the 64-team field Sunday. Nevada Las Vegas, Indiana, Georgetown and North Carolina were named the top four seeded teams.

The Running Rebels (33-1), winners of the regular season and Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament, will play Idaho State (15-15) in a first-round game Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Santa Clara (18-13), winner of the West Coast Athletic Assn. tournament, and the University of San Diego (24-5), the regular-season WCAC champion, were the only other Far West teams to get NCAA tournament bids.

The Broncos will play Iowa (27-4) Friday night in Tucson, while the Toreros will meet Auburn (17-12) in a first-round Midwest Regional game Thursday night in Indianapolis.

Nevada Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian had no complaints about the bracket for his top-ranked team, but he wasn't as charitable about a selection process that had several teams playing at home in their opening rounds.

"That's sick," he said when he heard that Arizona would be playing in a sub-regional in Tucson.

He had a similar response when he learned that Syracuse, DePaul and Alabama Birmingham also would be comfortably situated at home.

"Can you believe that," Tarkanian said. "Why would they put a team at home. If you're competing for a national championship, I don't think any team should be able to compete on its home court. I don't see us ever getting a break like that."

He also pointed out the inequity of Bob Knight's Indiana team (24-4) picking on Fairfield (15-15) in Indianapolis.

Louisville Coach Denny Crum had more reason to be upset. His Cardinals (18-14) are the defending NCAA champion--and they didn't get an invitation.

Louisville lost to Memphis State Sunday in the final of the Metro Conference tournament, but Memphis State is on probation and ineligible for the NCAA event.

That left the Metro Conference without an automatic bid and the NCAA selection committee spurned the entire league.

"I think it was just a personal slap from the NCAA to our conference for letting Memphis State play in the (league) tournament," Crum said, adding the NCAA was punishing his conference.

"They make our league the laughingstock of the nation based on a bad decision."

Said Schultz: "We looked at the rest of the teams in the league as at-large entries. Louisville, which was the regular-season champion, was the best. But we felt that 14 losses was more losses than an at-large team should have. This was one of the toughest decisions the basketball committee had to make."

Crum, noting that his Cardinals played such ranked teams as Indiana, Syracuse, Purdue and UCLA on the road, said:

"If you're not going to get credit for playing the good teams on the road and playing the kind of schedule we played, then I guess it makes sense not to play as many top teams."

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