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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE MORNING AFTER

Amid All the Madness, It Figured to Be Like This

The high points, low points and ticklish talking points of the weekend that was:

March 20, 2000|TIM KAWAKAMI

There is so much to talk about as the Steve Lavin for President 2000 campaign roars on and after that Sunday bracket blow-up, it's time to use that stylistic hero of mine, Mills Lane, as a compass.

No hemming, no hedging--let's get it on!--in an unapologetic NCAA tournament talking points extra edition. . . .

* You knew it when the Midwest Regional was announced, and it came true: UCLA was hot-wired to make a run at least to the Sweet 16.

* Stanford was too shaky on offense and was set up with too many tough games. OUT.

* Arizona apparently was too young and too much in need of the injured Loren Woods. OUT.

* The Bruins couldn't have hand-picked a better team than high-strung Maryland to face in the second round, and UCLA couldn't have exploited the matchup better, obviously.

* If there's a secret so far to this tournament, it's that the teams that can get fast baskets and play defense can knock off anybody, and UCLA can do both. (Note: So can Tulsa, for some reason seeded seventh in the West.)

* What Earl Watson, Jerome Moiso, JaRon Rush, Jason Kapono & Co. showed once and for all was that the Bruins are the most talented team, top to bottom, in the nation.

* Faster, deeper and more varied than Michigan State, more athletic than Duke, definitely more everything (except structured) than Iowa State, which is next up for UCLA.

* Only Cincinnati, before it lost Kenyon Martin, was comparable.

* There were more UCLA dunks against Maryland that the Lakers have had on their current entire trip.

* Baron Davis was right. Weeks ago, he said Watson eventually would take over this team and lead it to big things.

* So I won't apologize for the skeptical things I've said about Lavin. Rich Kotite could coach this team to the Elite Eight.

* If there's a 30-point destruction of Iowa State coming up, then, OK, that might be something else, entirely.

THE BIG PICTURE

And on to the rest of the tournament field. . . .

You don't want to over-reach after the shock of Saturday night and Sunday, since, in the span of about 20 hours, two top-seeded teams, three No. 2s and three No. 3s were all torched.

But there are some general concepts to consider. . . .

Some teams were definitely over-seeded: Maryland and that East Coast-hyped Juan Dixon were a very shaky No. 3 from the start, St. John's was a strange No. 2, and I have no idea why Louisville-Gonzaga's No. 7 vs. No. 10 meeting wasn't flip-flopped.

Some were completely under-seeded: Given the overall strength of the Big 12, Oklahoma State could've been higher than a No. 3, Kansas should've been better than a No. 8 (just ask Duke), and Iowa State probably deserved a No. 1 nod over either Arizona or Stanford.

But all complaints aside. . . . The taut competitiveness of almost every game shows just how tightly-bunched all the teams were this season, and the committee really didn't have much to choose from in the seedings.

Is Louisiana State better or worse than Tulsa or UCLA? Impossible to tell this season, until they line up against each other.

Why do they call lower-seeded teams "sleepers"? After watching Gonzaga throttle St. John's, Seton Hall outlast Oregon and Temple and all those other adrenaline-rush moments, it feels like I haven't slept since Thursday morning.

WEEKEND TALKING POINTS

1. Bob Knight, Indiana idol: If Knight robbed a bank and bragged about it on CNN, would the school trot out two players and coaches to swear he didn't do it, and if he did, it was a joke, and if it was a joke, my, wasn't it hilarious?

2. Indiana's brave administrators: Now, they wouldn't be just as afraid of him as his former players, would they?

3. Tiger Woods, Sunday closer: The calm antidote to four days of NCAA tension. If he leads on the weekend, fugheddaboutit.

4. CBS' halftime coach interviews: Even though I know they're usually taped and the coaches agree beforehand to do them, when they're on I keep screaming: The second half's about to start! Get him back to his team!

5. Floyd Mayweather Jr., 130-pound demon: Goyo Vargas tested him, but look at the talent from 126-135 pounds, even after Shane Mosley went up to welterweight--Mayweather, Marco Antonio Barrera, Naseem Hamed, Erik Morales.

6. John Rocker: Got a standing ovation for his first spring training appearance. I'm thinking--a game at Bob Jones University?

7. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal synergy: They're both playing their best basketball and couldn't be doing it without the other.

8. The NHL: How do you know when the playoffs are about to start? When 20 trade-deadline deals all come down at once. Pretty soon they'll just back the deadline into the postseason.

9. Pepperdine: Bad luck to draw Oklahoma State in second round. If the Waves drew Maryland, they might be in Sweet 16 right now.

10. So who coaches the Clippers next season? I hear it's Mike Fratello's job to lose. Literally.

LEADING QUESTIONS

Could any league but the NBA in a matter of days offer us maybe the most moving athletic story of the year and then one of the most pathetic?

You saw the San Antonio crowd seem to cry in unison when Sean Elliott made his return to action Tuesday, months after receiving a kidney transplant from his brother, didn't you?

But, then, did we have to see Isaiah Rider, who was released later in the week after refusing to accept a three-game suspension from the Atlanta Hawks?

Could you help thinking--he needs a transplant too, but not only a kidney?

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