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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NATIONAL ROUNDUP : Saturday of Upsets Complicates Nine Lives in Kansas City

March 13, 1994|From Associated Press

The 39th and 40th floors atop the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Mo., are cordoned off from the curious so that nine men can concentrate on a job that just got more complicated.

They began meeting Thursday to set the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament.

Usually, it's Friday.

"We felt cramped for time," said Tom Jernstedt, longtime tournament director. "We just figured we'd better get going about a half-day earlier."

They needn't have bothered.

Even choosing the top-seeded teams in the four regions, usually not all that difficult, got tougher when the nation's top three teams, four of the top five, six of the top eight and seven of the top 11 lost Saturday in conference tournaments or the end of regular-season play.

March Madness started a week early.

"It sure seems to me this is going to be the hardest year ever to pick the 64," said Bob Frederick, Kansas athletic director and tournament selection committee chairman next season, when Duke's Tom Butters leaves the job.

All Frederick needed to do was to call across town, where his No. 11 Jayhawks were beaten by No. 23 Oklahoma State, 69-68, in the Big Eight semifinals.

Or he could talk with Butters, whose No. 5 Duke team lost to Virginia, 66-61, in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals at Charlotte, N.C.

"Usually, the top and bottom of the bracket are not nearly as tough to call as the middle of the bracket, and there will be a bigger middle, if you will," Frederick said.

Well, you pick the top, but consider:

--The Southeast Region, which seemed to be locked up with No. 1 Arkansas as the top-seeded team. But if the Razorbacks get a No. 1 when the pairings are announced today, it will be after losing to Kentucky, 90-78, in the Southeastern Conference semifinals Saturday at Memphis.

So what, Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson said. "After the first-round game, I thought that was enough to secure a spot. We won 25 games, we won our conference, we won our division. We were on a 13-game winning steak."

--The East Region, which seemed to be No. 2 Connecticut's own, but if the Huskies are seeded No. 1, it will be after a 69-67 loss to Providence in the Big East semifinals at New York.

--The Midwest Region, which probably would have been topped by No. 3 Missouri on Thursday, but who knew on Saturday, because the Tigers, who were the first undefeated team in Big Eight play since 1971, lost to Nebraska, 98-91, in the tournament semifinals.

--The West Region, with perhaps either No. 4 North Carolina or No. 5 Duke coming across country to be seeded No. 1, depending on which won the ACC tournament.

North Carolina apparently didn't get a memo about the responsibilities of the highly ranked and beat Wake Forest, 86-84, in overtime. Duke adhered to national form.

Should North Carolina be given No. 1 in the East--to the consternation of folks from Connecticut--or should the Tar Heels lose to Virginia in the ACC final today, the door could have been open for No. 7 Arizona, but the Wildcats lost, 94-87, to Arizona State.

Whatever, Duke is done as a No. 1.

"Our thought process can be disrupted by upsets, and with this parity we have, there will be teams winning that you didn't expect," said Butters. "You better be prepared for that throughout the (selection) process."

Scrap Plan A.

SEC TOURNAMENT

No. 10 Kentucky 90, No. 1 Arkansas 78--Gimel Martinez, cotton protruding from his nose after a collision on the court, made a jump shot, then a three-pointer, to stop a second-half run by the Razorbacks (25-3). Kentucky (25-6) made 16 three-point shots and plays Florida in the final.

No. 17 Florida 68, Alabama 52--The Gators (25-6) got five three-pointers and 17 points from Craig Brown and switched from their usual man-to-man defense to a zone. Alabama (19-9) responded with its worst shooting of the season, 35%.

BIG EAST TOURNAMENT

Providence 69, No. 2 Connecticut 67--Robert Phelps, a senior reserve who has struggled with his shooting throughout his career, made 10 of 11 shots and had six points in the final 2 1/2 minutes for the Friars (19-9), who probably have played their way into the NCAA tournament by winning seven in a row. The Huskies (27-4) had won the league title by a record three games. Providence will be playing in its first Big East championship game today against Georgetown.

Georgetown 76, Seton Hall 71--The Hoyas (18-10), who had lost three in a row coming into the tournament and had two victories over Division II teams, might have climbed off the bubble and into the NCAA field when they wiped out a 12-point deficit and defeated the Pirates (17-12).

ACC TOURNAMENT

Virginia 66, No. 5 Duke 61--Grant Hill, always counted on to score down the stretch, committed seven turnovers and was held to six-for-20 shooting by Cornel Parker of Virginia (17-11). Virginia held the Blue Devils (23-5) without a basket for 6 1/2 minutes and probably assured itself of an NCAA bid, no matter what it does today against North Carolina.

BIG EIGHT TOURNAMENT

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