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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne / SECOND THOUGHTS

Sweet or Not, Here Are 16 Points to Ponder

March 22, 2004|Chris Dufresne

OK, we've cleared out the traditional NCAA tournament deadwood -- Kentucky, Stanford, North Carolina, Maryland, Cincinnati, Florida, Arizona, Michigan State, Lute Olson, Bob Knight.

Now, it's time to get down to serious basketball.

After a WAC-y first weekend of play -- otherwise known as the most exciting 96 hours in Shoot Business, here are 16 things we know:

16. Nobody knows anything.

Expert, texpert choking smokers

Don't you think the joker laughs at you?

I am the 10 seed, I am the 10 seed, I am Nevada, goo goo g' joob.

Turns out the good people who get paid good money to know college basketball don't know Jack Givens.

The NCAA selection committee recently huddled, pored over mounds of data and decided Kentucky was not just one of four top-seeded schools, but the top No. 1 team.

The committee handed the Wildcats a primrose path to the Sweet 16.

Sunday, Kentucky lost to UAB (Alabama Birmingham) which, as upsets go, might as well have been to UAW (United Auto Workers).

Sports Illustrated penciled in Gonzaga for a Final Four run (wrong).

ESPN's top man picked Stanford to win it all (wrong again).

And to think, before this tournament started, some people wanted to pan Pacific.

Someone asked Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim if he was glad he now gets to play eighth-seeded Alabama next instead of No. 1-seeded Stanford.

"This isn't an office pool," Boeheim grunted. "This is the NCAA tournament."

Boeheim's point was, given Alabama just beat Stanford, why would he rather play Alabama?

15. Gary Williams can really coach. Seated the height of a small forward behind the Maryland bench at the Pepsi Center in Denver, I can tell you the Terrapins had no business coming from double-digits down to nearly defeat Syracuse. I got to eavesdrop on Williams' tongue-lashings during time-out strategy sessions and, let me tell you, the FCC may soon be in touch. Williams, though, wrung with perspiration, extracted every point possible out of his team.

If everyone attacked his job the way Williams does, maybe we wouldn't have to do so much outsourcing.

14. The Pacific 10 Conference is to basketball what a bicycle is to a fish. The left coast league sent three teams to the tournament and came away with one win -- Stanford's lousy consolation-prize victory against Texas San Antonio.

The last time the Pac-10 made us as sick as Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun got against DePaul was 1999, when Stanford punched out a lone victory against Alcorn State.

Word is next year's Pac-10 champion will play the "play-in" winner at Dayton for the final NCAA spot.

13. Jim Harrick had a pretty good coaching staff when UCLA won the title in 1995.

If you're not familiar with Mark Gottfried, the Alabama coach who sent Stanford packing, he's the young man seated between Steve Lavin and Lorenzo Romar in the UCLA team picture.

12. East is East and West is West ... don't we wish.

First, the NCAA throws this "pod" system at us and now we're supposed to call the "South" region the Atlanta bracket?

A few writers have suggested permanently naming the four regions after basketball icons. We can blindly steal this idea from the NHL knowing the NHL may not be around much longer.

Our four regions: John R. Wooden (West), Henry Iba (Midwest), Dean Smith (South) and Naismith (East -- He coached at Kansas but cut his teeth in Springfield, Mass.).

11. CBS announcer Billy Packer is rooting for Wake Forest to beat Saint Joseph's.

You think?

10. Providence, which suffered an opening-round loss to Pacific, is so much closer to an ocean than Pacific is, it isn't even funny.

In fact, Kansas, which knocked UOP O-U-T on Sunday, might be closer to an ocean.

9. This is Connecticut's tournament to lose. Teams seeded first, third and fourth in the West, ahem, Phoenix region are now tournament toast, leaving the No. 2-seeded Huskies a clear shot to the Final Four.

At least, that's what the experts who picked Kentucky tell us.

8. Syracuse might have something to say about this. Most know-it-alls dismissed the Orangemen's chances of defending their NCAA title, but we say not-so-fast-my-man-to-man defense friends.

7. Sunday's loss to Alabama Birmingham keeps Kentucky stuck on seven national titles, four behind UCLA, the all-time leader at 11. Rounding out the top five are Indiana (five) followed by Duke and North Carolina (three).

6. Knight, the Texas Tech coach, was as gracious as he could be in this tournament. He also hasn't won a national title since 1987, so maybe it's time to lose the nice-guy act and go back to the salad bar.

5. Syracuse guard Gerry McNamara's 43-point effort against Brigham Young got lost in a sea of first-round games.

"If it would have been a couple games later, everyone would have appreciated what McNamara did," Maryland's Williams said. "That was one of the great shows I've ever seen."

4. Only four schools among the final 16 are west of the Mississippi River (Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas).

The hoops landscape is tilted so heavily toward the East that sumo wrestlers have been flown in to provide counterbalance on the California coast.

3. The Texas basketball program has advanced to the round of 16 each of the last three years. Number of times the football team has advanced to a major bowl in that span: zero.

2. Ben Howland left a Sweet 16 program in Pittsburgh for a UCLA team that lost 14 of its last 16.

1. The number Stanford was ranked until, well, you know.

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