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Pundits Already Are Looking to Next Round

March 10, 1997|From Associated Press

There's no way a college basketball coach is going look beyond a game, let alone an NCAA tournament game. That doesn't mean everyone else isn't allowed to do it.

The ink on the copies of the brackets for the field of 64 was hardly dry Sunday when one possible second-round matchup started getting most of the attention.

With first-round victories over Fairfield and Colorado, respectively, top-seeded North Carolina would meet No. 8 Indiana in a game that could be the victory that makes Dean Smith of the Tar Heels the winningest coach in college basketball history.

As the complaints of those who felt they were wrongly left out of the field started to be heard, basketball fans started to think of what it would be like for Smith to try to pass Adolph Rupp's total of 876 victories with Bob Knight standing in front of the opposite bench.

The matchup of two of the three winningest active coaches -- Smith is at 875 and Knight at 700 with Mount St. Mary's Jim Phelan in between at 772 -- makes for a great lookahead in an event that demands looking ahead.

So here's my guess at what we might see over the next three weekends when 63 games decide which team will be national champion.


Another interesting second-round matchup could be fourth-seeded Villanova against No. 12 Princeton. Villanova, which failed to advance past the first weekend either of the last two years, certainly didn't want to see the NCAA tournament giant-killer (see defending champion UCLA last year) that early.

Third-seeded New Mexico should be wary of No. 14 Old Dominion, the team that knocked off Villanova in triple overtime in the opening round in 1995.

Second-seeded South Carolina, which beat everybody but Georgia since the start of the year, would have to fight its way through a sub-regional that includes storied names which had up-and-down seasons.

They are No. 6 Louisville and No. 11 Massachusetts, a Final Four team last season as a top seed, as well as two of the last teams to make this year's field as at-large selections, No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 10 Texas.

Considering the season they have already had and the attention that will come with Smith's pursuit of the record, it's tough to go against the Tar Heels getting Smith to his 11th Final Four.


Kansas has been the only dominant team in the nation this season and it seems the Jayhawks' reward for that was the toughest upper half of a bracket.

Joining the top-ranked team is No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Arizona with Maryland, Illinois, Marquette and Purdue rounding out the top half.

There are some possibilities for early upsets, however, as Arizona gets South Alabama, which has had a solid season under coach Bill Musselman, Maryland gets College of Charleston, which has the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games, and Marquette will face Providence, a solid, workman-like team with a point guard named God.

It only seems that Kansas has been No. 1 since practice began in October, but the Jayhawks appear to have too much to deny coach Roy Williams a third Final Four in the 90s.


The thought of UCLA reaching the Final Four seemed pretty remote just a few months ago with a last-minute coaching change just before the season began and a rocky start once it did. But the second-seeded Bruins have turned it around and finished strong, something Cincinnati and Clemson, the third and fourth seeds, can't say.

Minnesota earned its top seeding with a runaway Big Ten title that saw the Golden Gophers lose two games, one on the final weekend of the season. Coach Clem Haskins deserves a lot of credit for going from at-large snub last season to top seed. A second-round matchup with No. 9 Temple's zone defense could cause the Gophers some problems.

One season after stumbling in the first round, look for UCLA to work its way back to the Final Four.


Kentucky, the defending national champion, has the longest trip of the top seeds, but the Wildcats travel well at this time of year. While the early rounds don't seem to pose any real problems for Kentucky, the thought of Wake Forest and star center Tim Duncan sitting at the No. 3 seed is a cause for concern.

Second-seeded Utah had a great season, highlighted by this week's buzzer-beating festival by Keith Van Horn, but the Utes have a tough second-round matchup with either No. 7 North Carolina-Charlotte or No. 10 Georgetown.

A second straight Final Four appearance should be in the offing for Kentucky.

Jumping to my chalk-filled Final Four, look for Williams to beat Smith, his former boss, in the semifinals as he did in 1991, and Kentucky to beat UCLA and ruin a great run for first-year coach Steve Lavin.

Kansas should keep its No. 1 ranking all the way through the end as Williams earns his first title and the school's third.

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