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March 9, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, March 9th, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

The first NCAA Tournament bids went out on Saturday, and that included one more than expected. Two of the teams will be making their debut in the Big Dance. All of the latest recaps are detailed at our Championship Week section, but here are some highlights.

The first team making their debut will be UNC-Asheville, 85-71 winners over Radford in the Big South Championship. The Bulldogs become the 17th team in college basketball history to make the NCAA Tournament with a losing record, as they improve to 14-16 with the win.

Also making their first NCAA Tournament appearance is Troy State (26-5), which won the Atlantic Sun Tournament with an 80-69 win over Central Florida.

Austin Peay (23-7) will return to the NCAA Tournament, as they captured the Ohio Valley Conference Championship with a 63-57 win over Tennessee Tech.

East Tennessee State (20-10) took the Southern Conference’s automatic bid, winning that tournament by virtue of a 97-90 win over Chattanooga.

Last, but not least, Pennsylvania clinched the Ivy League title with a 69-52 win over Cornell. The Quakers (21-5, 13-0 Ivy League) won the Ivy League for the second straight season and eighth time in the last 11 seasons.

Side Dishes

Perfection: No. 2 Kentucky pulled out a 69-67 win over No. 3 Florida in Gainesville, finishing a perfect run through the SEC. The Wildcats appeared to be in control at times despite not having a big lead, but the Gators fought back late to get within two more than once. It was the 20th straight win for Kentucky (26-3, 16-0 SEC), and they ended a 19-game home winning streak for Florida (26-4, 12-4 SEC)

Champions Again… Finally: No. 9 Wake Forest held off pesky North Carolina State, 78-72, to win its first outright ACC title in 41 years. Josh Howard (27 points) had another excellent game for the Demon Deacons (23-4, 13-3 ACC), who were picked to finish sixth in the ACC in the preseason. Both teams shot well, as the Demon Deacons shot nearly 55% and the Wolfpack (16-11, 9-7 ACC) shot 52% from the field.

Good For Second: No. 5 Texas wrapped up second place in the Big 12 with a 76-71 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma in Norman. T.J. Ford scored 14 of his 18 points in the final 10 minutes to help the Longhorns (22-5, 13-3 Big 12) complete a season sweep of the Sooners (21-6, 12-4 Big 12).

There’s a First Time For Everything: No. 8 Marquette wrapped up its first ever Conference USA title with a 70-61 home win over Cincinnati, which was previously the only team to win the regular season title outright. Dwyane Wade had 26 points to lead Marquette (23-4, 14-2 C-USA), and speculation is abounding about his future. We will find out soon enough.

Still Winning: No. 11 Xavier won their 15th straight game, a 95-65 thumping of Temple. Romain Sato led the way with 29 points, while Dave West had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. The Musketeers finish the regular season at 24-4 and 15-1 in the Atlantic Ten.

Home Teams Win Out West: No. 1 Arizona (25-2, 17-1 Pac Ten) finished its regular season with an 88-80 win over Oregon (20-9, 10-8 Pac Ten). The Ducks might need a win in the Pac Ten Tournament to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid. Meanwhile, No. 17 Stanford (23-7, 14-4 Pac Ten) won the battle of Bay Area teams, knocking off No. 20 California (20-7, 13-5 Pac Ten) 72-60 in Palo Alto to take second place and the No. 2 seed in the Pac Ten Tournament.

How the SEC West Was Won: No. 22 Mississippi State clinched the SEC West title with a 67-45 blowout of visiting Auburn. On Senior Night, the Bulldogs (19-8, 9-7 SEC) got 15 points and 8 assists from one senior, Derrick Zimmerman, and 12 points from Michael Ignerski, another senior. Auburn (19-10, 8-8 SEC) finishes the regular season having lost five of seven.

Villanova Suspends 12: Villanova suspended 12 players on Saturday for allegedly making unauthorized telephone calls. The players allegedly obtained an athletic department employee’s secret telephone access number and used the code to run up long distance charges. The suspensions will be staggered so that the Wildcats can suit up seven players for a game; in the season finale on Sunday, the Wildcats will be without top two scorers Gary Buchanan and Ricky Wright, as well as Chris Charles, Jason Fraser, Lou Ruskey and Andrew Sullivan.

More Allegations With Harrick: The Providence Journal had a report on Saturday listing a number of allegations involving Jim Harrick from Christine King’s lawsuit against the University of Rhode Island. According to court documents cited in the news report, King said she witnessed several violations of NCAA rules while working at Rhode Island from 1997-98. They include Harrick arranging for players to receive cars, housing and money from university boosters; falsifying expense reports, which led to his firing at UCLA; influencing grade changes for players; and other items that all violate NCAA rules. A URI spokesperson said that the school is finding it difficult to investigate some of the allegations. King’s lawsuit was filed almost a year ago, but the school is in the beginning stages of its investigation.

Tonight’s Menu:

Don’t forget to check the latest recaps during Championship Week.

• No automatic bids will be won today, but the Patriot League, Colonial Athletic Association, MAAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast and West Coast Conference all have semifinal action.

• The America East (Boston, MA) and Mid-Continent Conference (Kansas City, MO) open up their tournaments today.

• The Big East closes its season out with No. 7 Pittsburgh visiting a short-handed Villanova team, and Rutgers visiting No. 12 Syracuse.

• The ACC has No. 14 Maryland visiting Virginia and the classic rivalry, No. 10 Duke taking on North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

• No. 6 Kansas visits Missouri to close out its regular season.

• Minnesota looks to finish the regular season on a strong note at No. 15 Illinois.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Sunday!

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