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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Invitations Have Arrived, but Dances Might Be Brief

March 10, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

I'm glad the NCAA tournament selection committee recognized UCLA as one of the nation's great eight. It's too bad the Bruins have to travel to Michigan, but their chances of advancing to the Final Four are better as a second-seeded team behind Minnesota in the Midwest than behind Kentucky in the West.

Having said that, the Bruins need to regain the intensity they had in their Feb. 23 victory over Duke at Pauley Pavilion or they won't last past the second game, probably against Xavier.

I'm glad the selection committee recognized USC as a Final 64 team. It's good news for a program that had more trouble recuperating from George Raveling's 1994 automobile accident than he did.

Having said that, the Trojans still need to prove they are willing to take on a challenge, like the one that will be presented to them by Illinois.

In the only game most selection committee members had a chance to see them play, the Trojans backed down at home on national television against Cincinnati. They later folded at UCLA and Arizona and, when they thought their season was on the line, lost by 10 at Washington.

I'm glad the selection committee recognized the Pacific 10 as one of the elite conferences, inviting five teams.

Having said that, I can't understand the infatuation with Arizona. Fifth in the conference, the Wildcats were seeded fourth in the Southeast.

I don't have an argument with the selection of California's Ben Braun as Pac 10 coach of the year, although I'm not sure USC's Henry Bibby or UCLA's Steve Lavin were less worthy.

I am sure, though, that the coach who got the least out of his talent in conference play was Arizona's Lute Olson.

*

Cal State Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell taught his players more than basketball this season, allowing himself time to grieve over the deaths of his father and brother only weeks apart but keeping his team on course for a near-NCAA tournament bid. . . .

Unfortunately for CSUN officials, I'm sure they're not the only ones who noticed. Braswell already has been mentioned as a possible candidate at Oregon if Jerry Green leaves. . . .

As Jim Harrick's No. 1 assistant, Lavin probably would have been on the short list at UC Irvine and Loyola Marymount. But maybe not. As UCLA's No. 2 assistant last season, he wasn't asked to interview after expressing interest in Long Beach State. . . .

During a mischievous streak, I was hoping the Bruins would draw Valparaiso as their first-round opponent. An assistant coach at Valpo is Jim Harrick Jr. . . .

I'd like to hear L.A. City College Coach Mike Miller's name mentioned for either the Irvine or Loyola job. . . .

Despite his improvement this season, UCLA's Cameron Dollar might not have a future in the NBA. But he could be an outstanding college coach. . . .

Utah's Keith Van Horn of Diamond Bar should be called Keith Van Buzzer.

*

Those two Bank of America bandits were petty thieves compared to Bruce McNall.

They went into North Hollywood 10 days ago looking for a $750,000 score. McNall defrauded six banks and another financial institution for $268 million.

To his credit, he didn't leave any with Uzis blazing. To the contrary, he disarmed people with his gentle, jocular personality.

Because of that, he still has some fooled that he's more a common man than a common criminal. He might have even fooled himself.

"Bruce still doesn't get it," says respected local sportscaster Tom Murray, whose mini-documentary, "From King to Con: The Bruce McNall Story," airs tonight between 10:30 and 11 p.m. on Channel 9.

The special coincides with the first day of McNall's five-year, 10-month sentence at a minimum security prison in Lompoc.

Murray says McNall is "like Richard Nixon after Watergate," aware that he's made mistakes and compassionate toward his co-conspirators but, ultimately, believing he should be judged for the greater good he effected.

In McNall's case, that includes bringing Wayne Gretzky to L.A., turning the Kings into a Stanley Cup contender and influencing the NHL to act like a professional sport. That's all well and good, but I can't believe it's worth almost six years in the penalty box.

*

While wondering if Cal has already started working on defending Princeton's back door play, I was thinking: Kansas, South Carolina, Wake Forest and UCLA will reach the Final Four, Kansas and Wake Forest will meet for the title, Kansas will be the Final One.

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