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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI : Selectors Planted Seeds in Exactly the Right Spots


Things to remember as the NCAA tournament pulls into a rest stop along the road to the Final Four:

--The nine-member NCAA selection committee did itself proud.

For the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the top four seeded teams in each regional advanced to the second round.

--We owe an apology to the Big East Conference.

Not only is the Big East tied for the lead in Sweet 16 teams--the Big Ten also has three--but it did it the hard way: Not one No. 1 seeding in the bunch. Connecticut is a No. 2, Syracuse a No. 4 and amazing Boston College a No. 9.

In contrast, the Big Ten's Purdue is a No. 1, Michigan a No. 3 and Indiana a No. 5.

--We owe an apology to the selection committee.

In what was probably the last at-large pick of the tournament, the committee chose Tulsa over Georgia Tech. We howled with indignation. Now we beg forgiveness. Georgia Tech lost to Siena in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. No. 12-seeded Tulsa, with a nice geographical assist from the committee, is in the Sweet 16.

--History repeats itself.

For the 10th time in the last 11 seasons, the No. 1-ranked team at regular season's end--in this case, North Carolina--has failed to win the championship. The last team to do it? Duke in 1992.

--What must Washington State be thinking?

The Cougars could have, should have beaten Boston College in the opening round of the East Regional. Instead, the Cougars blew a 10-point halftime lead and a four-point lead in the last 1 minute 40 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Eagles followed the victory against Washington State with the upset of the year over North Carolina.

--Marquette Coach Kevin O'Neill is gone.

Three things we know for sure about Milwaukee:

1. The best brats in the land are served at County Stadium (ask for the special sauce).

2. It has the biggest four-sided clock in the country.

3. O'Neill is counting the moments until he can leave town. The most likely relocation destinations: Pittsburgh or Tennessee, followed possibly by Auburn and Clemson.

--Indiana's Bob Knight never ceases to surprise.

Seasoned Hoosier watchers couldn't remember the last time Knight hugged an opposing coach as he did Temple's John Chaney before the start of Sunday's second-round game at Landover, Md. Despite having coached a combined 1,525 games, the men had never coached against each other. Afterward, Knight said: "I loved playing against them. I wish we played against them every year."

Reasons: Knight respects Chaney's honesty, integrity and efforts to help his players achieve academic success. He also took it as a personal challenge to solve Chaney's beloved matchup zone.

--What must Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski be thinking?

Chaney got the big half-court embrace, but two years ago at the NCAA semifinal at Minneapolis, Krzyzewski got nothing more than a quick handshake. Weird, since Krzyzewski played for Knight at Army and coached for him at Indiana.

--Kentucky's Rick Pitino is out of the tournament, but his legacy isn't.

Last year it was former Pitino assistant Ralph Willard who led Western Kentucky to the regional semifinals. This year it is Tulsa's Tubby Smith, another former Pitino disciple.

--UCLA Coach Jim Harrick is Tulsa's biggest fan.

The farther Tulsa advances, the less pathetic UCLA's loss becomes. On second thought. . . .

--Whatever CBS is paying studio analyst Clark Kellogg, it isn't enough.

Kellogg, who pulled double shifts during the first two rounds of the tournament, logged more appearances than Walter Cronkite at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

--Indiana's Knight never ceases to surprise, Part II:

Not only was Knight on his best behavior, relatively speaking, but at times he was almost charming. He fawned over Chaney. He actually extended the daily news conferences. He kept his anti-media lectures to a minimum. He waxed poetic.

Knight on the three-point shot: "I have never been a proponent of the three-point shot. It's like catching trout with worms. You should be able to catch trout with a fly, not worms."

Of course, Knight isn't stupid. He might not like the shot, but he understands its importance. So guess which team led the nation in three-point percentage? The Hoosiers, at 45.3%.

--When Pitino speaks, it is best to listen.

Said Pitino before the tournament began: "The second round is where you're going to see the biggest number of upsets."

Results: No. 9-seeded Boston College defeats No. 1 North Carolina, No. 6 Marquette defeats No. 3 Kentucky, No. 12 Tulsa beats No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 10 Maryland beats No. 2 Massachusetts.

--So much for predictions.

We figured the weak West Regional would have the most early- round upsets. Instead, it remains the only regional in which the top four seeded teams--Missouri, Arizona, Louisville and Syracuse--advanced to the Sweet 16.

--A statistic to keep in mind.

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