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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Conference 'Pacs' a Powerful Punch

NCAA tournament: With four teams in the Sweet 16, Pac-10's time has come again, which means a dose of respect and monetary riches.

March 19, 2001|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Quips, quotes, observations, musings and absurdities about the first weekend of the NCAA tournament while wondering how St. Joseph's guard Marvin O'Connor can score 29 points in a half yet Wake Forest can manage only 10.

Was it a good weekend for the Pacific 10 Conference?

Is Casey Jacobsen happy to see O'Connor headed East on a jumbo jet?

The leader was the Pac. The conference went 8-1, with Stanford, Arizona, UCLA and USC making the Sweet 16.

The Pac-10's lonesome loser? Go see Cal.

There are some good signs brewing for the late-night conference some East Coast journalists are seeing for the first time.

This is the third time the Pac-10 placed five schools in the NCAA tournament.

The two previous times, a Pac-10 team won the national title--UCLA in 1995 and Arizona in 1997.

There's a decent chance form will hold, given the four conference schools this weekend won eight games by an average of 17.25 points.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery said of the Pac-10's performance. "I know how good I thought USC was when we played them."

Tom Hansen is the conference's commissioner and head cheerleader. He watched USC's upset victory over Boston College on Saturday in the press room at Cox Arena.

Hansen yelped so loud in the closing minutes of USC's victory he disrupted the Cincinnati-Kent State postgame news conference that was being held behind an adjoining curtain.

Word is UCLA Coach Steve Lavin will issue a warning to Hansen, but not suspend the Commish for his press room behavior.

It's what Hansen kept saying that got us though.

"That's another unit!" he said. "That's another unit."

"Beam me up Scotty" would have made as much sense.

Unit?

Proud as he was of USC's victory and first Sweet 16 ticket since 1954, when coach Forrest Twogood led the Trojans past Idaho State and Santa Clara before losing in the national semifinals to Bradley, Hansen also is a numbers cruncher.

USC's victory earned the Pac-10 an additional $863,397 of tournament revenue.

Hansen explained each game played represented a "unit." Four schools reaching the Sweet 16 will reap a huge windfall for the Pac-10. The exact amount is not yet known, because money is distributed on a rolling, six-year average to protect conferences from years they don't place many teams in the tournament.

But this year's romp could earn roughly $10 million for the Pac-10, divided among its members.

Hansen to Trojans: Fight on!

WHAT WE KNOW

Sixteen teams advanced to this week's regional semifinal games in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Anaheim.

The East is definitely the beast of regions. Consider that UCLA, Duke, USC and Kentucky have combined to win 20 national championships. Consider how impressive that looks when you toss out USC, which has not won a title.

If Trojan basketball didn't already have an inferiority complex, wait until the alums from the other three schools descend on Philadelphia and start talking about tournament triumphs.

And USC fans trying to chime in about how the Trojans should have made the tournament in 1971, when they went 24-2, the only two losses coming against UCLA.

Where were at-large bids when we needed them!

MID-MAJORS GOT THE SHAFT

Here's our beef about bracketing: It isn't so much that the six major conferences hogged 29 of the 34 at-large bids, it's that mid-major conference schools did not get the seedings they deserved because of inherent injustices in the selection process.

Gonzaga is in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season, yet the Bulldogs entered the tournament as a No. 12 in the South. Few who watched Gonzaga's first-round victory over No. 5 Virginia really considered it an upset.

St. Joseph's made the tournament as an at-large team after a terrific season in which it won the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title, yet the Hawks were handed a No. 9 seeding in the West, meaning a second-round matchup against No. 1 Stanford.

How is it that A-10 tournament champion Temple, which crushed Southeastern Conference power Florida on Sunday, was a No. 11 in the South, and Georgia, one of the last teams in the field, was a No. 8 in the East?

Why does Wake Forest, which finished 8-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, get a No. 7 seed in the Midwest, but Utah State, an upset winner of Ohio State, gets a No. 12 as champion of the Big West.

How is Indiana a No. 4, but Indiana State a No. 13?

Why? Because seedings are based in large measure on power ratings and conference strength.

Wake Forest was rewarded for playing in a tough conference. So was Indiana. And Wisconsin.

Yet, all three schools were sent home by lesser-regarded conference champions: Wake Forest by Butler, Wisconsin by Georgia State, Indiana by Kent State.

The problem: the Gonzagas and Butlers have limited control over their power ratings. The schools play in weaker-rated conferences yet are so well respected nationally that schools from "major" conferences won't travel to play them in nonconference.

AWARDS, KUDOS, SETTING THE SCENE

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