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March Madness Takes On New Meaning No Big Surprises On Men’s Side, But A Few Coaches Upset

Mon., March 10, 1997

Top-ranked Kansas, Minnesota, Kentucky and North Carolina drew No. 1 seeds Sunday in the NCAA basketball tournament in a year when the only complaints came from some big schools left out.

The Jayhawks (32-1) were placed in the Southeast Region, Minnesota in the Midwest, North Carolina in the East and defending champion Kentucky in the West.

The 64-team tournament opens Thursday and winds up with the Final Four in Indianapolis on March 29 and 31.

The lack of upsets in this weekend’s conference tournaments made the choices a bit easier for the NCAA’s nine-member selection committee.

“We felt better walking out of there about the seeding and bracketing than we have in several years,” said Terry Holland, the athletic director at Virginia and chairman of the committee.

The usual Selection Sunday argument over which winning midmajor program was left out at the expense of the nine most powerful leagues was absent this year, but some of the bigger teams that knocked each other out of the field weren’t happy.

Among the teams left out were Syracuse (19-12) and West Virginia (19-9) of the Big East, Michigan (19-11) of the Big Ten, Tulane (20-10) of Conference USA and Hawaii (20-7), Fresno State (20-11) and Texas Christian (20-12) of the WAC.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose Orangemen reached the Final Four last season, was angry after making the field the past 13 years they were eligible.

“I look at some of the teams in the tournament and I’m amazed,” Boeheim said. “I’m even more surprised that the Big East can’t get five teams in.”

The Orangemen (19-12) started the season slowly but finished strong with 10 wins in their final 15 regular-season games. Boeheim said he was especially surprised Virginia (18-12, 7-9 ACC) was selected.

“They didn’t beat anybody,” he said. “They just played in a league and got beat a lot. So I guess if you get beat a lot, that means you should be in the tournament.”

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten each placed six teams in the field, while the Atlantic-10, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences had five apiece. The Big East and Conference USA each had four teams and the Western Athletic Conference three.

Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian had no arguments with the selection committee.

“We weren’t passed over,” he said. “We didn’t deserve this, not the way we played in the WAC tournament. We played terrible. It would have been unfair if we had got one.”

Texas (16-11) had fewer wins than any other at-large team and its selection was perhaps a surprise to some.

“Texas did exactly what we ask schools to do. They played a tough schedule,” Holland said. “Texas had six wins over teams in the top 50. We felt that was sufficient to get them in the field.”

One team that took itself out of consideration was Texas Tech, which forfeited all its Big 12 victories after it was discovered two players should have been declared academically ineligible. Holland refused to say whether the Red Raiders would have gotten a bid.

Three of the top seeds open Thursday, Kansas in Memphis, Tenn., against Jackson State, North Carolina in Winston-Salem in its home state against Fairfield and Kentucky in Salt Lake City against Montana.

Fairfield (11-18) and Jackson State (14-15) are the only teams in the field with losing records.

The most interesting of the possible second-round matchups is North Carolina vs. Indiana in the game that could make Dean Smith the winningest coach in college basketball history.

Minnesota, which was passed over for last year’s tournament despite a 19-13 record, starts Friday in Kansas City, Mo., against Southwest Texas State.

Sunday’s capsules

(1) Kansas 87, Missouri 60

At Kansas City, Mo., Paul Pierce tied his career highs with 30 points and 11 rebounds, and Jacque Vaughn had a season-high 12 assists as the Jayhawks (31-1) defeated the Tigers (16-17) for the Big 12 championship.

(5) North Carolina 64, NC State 54

At Greensboro, N.C.,Shammond Williams sank three 3-pointers in a span of two minutes during a second-half surge and Antawn Jamison added two key layups six minutes later as the Tar Heels (24-6) defeated the Wolfpack (16-14).

(6) Kentucky 95, (24) Georgia 68

At Memphis, Tenn., Anthony Epps scored a career-high 22 points and Ron Mercer had 20 as the Wildcats (30-4) won their third game in three days by wearing out Georgia (24-8), which was playing its fourth game in 62 hours.

Pacific 63, Nevada 55

At Reno, Nev., Tim Bowman scored 25 points, 10 in the final 2:07, and the Tigers (24-5) held off the Wolf Pack (20-9) to win the Big West conference championship and advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years.

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