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Ohio assistant coach’s military leave absence will end this weekend

Associated Press

Win or lose, Kevin Kuwik’s stay at the NCAA Tournament will end this weekend.

The Ohio assistant coach is serving an 18-month tour of duty as an Army engineer in Iraq. He’s spent his two-week leave watching the Bobcats win the Mid-American Conference tournament and helping them prepare for their first NCAA appearance in 11 years.

Ohio, seeded 13th in the Syracuse Regional, faces fourth-seeded Florida today in Nashville, Tenn. On Tuesday, Kuwik goes back to the Middle East.

Kuwik has been having a ball, motivating and cheering on a team that appeared to be a long shot to make the NCAA field when the season began.

“These guys were 10-20 last year and picked for last in the league,” Kuwick said Thursday. “What they’ve accomplished is amazing.”

Kuwik, who attended Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship, was recalled by the Army into active duty in October. He followed the Bobcats during the regular season by listening to games on the internet and exchanging e-mail with coaches and players.

Kuwik expects to leave Iraq in December and hopes to return to the sideline in early January for the start of the Bobcats’ conference schedule.

Calhoun knows history

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun knows what he’s up against trying to guide his defending national champion Huskies to their second straight title.

Since Oregon won the first NCAA Tournament in 1939, the feat has been accomplished just seven times by six teams. And since John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won seven straight titles from 1967-73, Duke is the only team to pull it off (1991-92).

UConn is a second seed in the Syracuse Regional after sharing the Big East regular season title. A good season, for sure. But, oh, what could have been.

The Huskies’ best two players last spring, Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, both skipped their senior seasons to enter the NBA draft. They are now among the front-runners for rookie of the year honors.

The Huskies begin their quest to repeat when they meet No. 15 Central Florida today in Worcester, Mass.

Edelin left behind

Guard Billy Edelin, a key cog in Syracuse’s run to the national championship two years ago, did not accompany the team to Worcester for its first-round game against Vermont today. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim acknowledged that Edelin did not make the trip but would not elaborate on his absence.

Although Edelin did not practice prior to the season and sat out the first five games because of academics, he played in 20 games and has converted more than 50 percent of his shots (34 for 67). However, he has not played in the Orange’s last six games but had been practicing with the team.

Closing on the Dean

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is one win away from tying Dean Smith for the most victories in NCAA Tournament history.

Since no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1, the top-ranked Blue Devils are a good bet to get that win for Krzyzewski when they play Delaware State today. A victory would be the 65th tournament win in Krzyzewski’s career.

The Blue Devils have made the NCAA Tournament in 21 of Krzyzewski’s 22 seasons, and have made it to the round of 16 the past seven years.

Home sweet home

Oklahoma State’s home-court advantage in Oklahoma City’s Ford Center was already on display Thursday, a day before the Cowboys play their first NCAA Tournament game against Southeastern Louisiana.

Thousands of fans clad in orange and black turned out to watch the Cowboys practice, in which the players were clearly giving a show for those who showed up. They cheered as coach Eddie Sutton walked onto the floor and roared when 5-foot-11 point guard John Lucas III bounced himself an alley-oop pass for a dunk.

Ten minutes in, a brief “Orange Power” chant filled the arena.

“We’re happy to be in Oklahoma City,” Sutton said.

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