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NCAA PREVIEW / OVERVIEW

Kentucky Is Seeded First in the Tournament Field

March 15, 2004|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Kentucky was seeded first overall in the NCAA tournament field Sunday as the selection committee ranked the four top-seeded teams for the first time.

The move came partly because of controversy last season when the two teams considered the favorites -- Kentucky and Arizona -- were bracketed to meet in a national semifinal game instead of the title game. (As it turned out, both were upset before the Final Four.)

Kentucky (26-4) was awarded the top seeding overall after Duke was upset by Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

Duke (27-5) was second, followed by Stanford (29-1) and Saint Joseph's (27-1).

Kentucky, which had a Ratings Percentage Index ranking of No. 2, earned its top-seeded distinction by defeating Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game.

Duke had the top RPI, and the Blue Devils' loss to Maryland knocked them out of only the top overall seeding, not out of another No. 1.

Stanford (No. 7 RPI) and Saint Joseph's (No. 3 RPI) were undefeated until the final two weeks of the season, and Stanford won the Pacific 10 Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Another change in the NCAA bracket format was the elimination of the East, West, South and Midwest regional designations in favor of four regionals named for the cities in which they are held in a particular year -- in this case, St. Louis, Atlanta, Phoenix and East Rutherford, N.J.

"What we were really seeking to do is have flexibility in moving people around and getting the best matchups," said Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the selection committee.

By not designating which region is in which city before the field is announced, it enables the committee to correctly seed the top four teams so that No. 1 would meet No. 4 and No. 2 would meet No. 3 if they reach the Final Four.

"Using the names of the cities instead of the direction is actually intended to make it less confusing," Bowlsby said.

"We hope people settle into a comfort level with it."

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