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March 15, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 15, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

Championship Week has brought more upsets, and the plot is thickening as we reach Selection Sunday. Three teams could be in a position to steal an NCAA Tournament bid after what happened on Friday, as several big cities could have been called Upset City for the day.

First, we go to Los Angeles and the Pac Ten Tournament. Oregon (22-9) ended UCLA’s season, and likely, the tenure of Steve Lavin, with a 75-74 victory at the Staples Center. But the story there is that USC (13-16) will be their opponent in the championship game after a 79-62 victory over No. 23 California (21-8). The Trojans could become the second team this season to make the NCAA Tournament with a losing record.

Next, we go to Chicago, where the day began with Ohio State (16-13) knocking off No. 18 Wisconsin (22-7), the regular season champion, by a score of 58-50. Sean Connolly shot the ball well en route to a game-high 21 points, and Brent Darby made several key plays down the stretch in finishing with 16 points and 6 assists. The Badgers are the third top seed to fall in the opening game of a conference tournament. Also in Chicago, Michigan State (19-11) all but locked up a bid with a 54-42 win over Purdue in a tightly-called game; No. 14 Illinois (22-6) easily handled Northwestern, 94-65; and Indiana (20-11) all but locked up an NCAA Tournament bid with a big 63-56 win over Michigan.

In Greensboro, the shocker of the day was North Carolina (17-14) knocking off No. 16 Maryland (19-9), 84-72 in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. Also, No. 9 Wake Forest (24-4) beat Florida State 69-61; No. 12 Duke (22-6) got 32 points from Daniel Ewing to beat Virginia 83-76; and North Carolina State (17-11) kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive with a 71-65 win over Georgia Tech.

In Dallas, the Big 12 Tournament was not immune to shockers, as Texas Tech (17-11) may have moved off the bubble with a 92-81 upset of No. 4 Texas (22-6) behind 30 pionts and 11 rebounsd from Andre Emmett. The loss may also keep Texas from getting a No. 1 seed. Also, No. 3 Kansas (25-6) beat Iowa State, 89-74; Missouri (20-9) beat No. 22 Oklahoma State (21-9) 60-58; and No. 7 Oklahoma (22-6) beat Colorado (20-11) by a score of 74-59.

The next stop is Dayton, where Temple is again trying to crash the party. The Owls’ latest attempt was highlighted with Friday’s 63-57 upset of No. 10 Xavier (25-5) in the semifinals. The Musketeers had won 16 straight games, but 20 turnovers helped lead to this defeat. Temple will take on No. 19 Dayton (23-5) in the final, as the Flyers were 76-73 winners over St. Joseph’s (23-6).

Lastly, we head to New Orleans and the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. No. 8 Florida (24-7) continued to struggle in the SEC Tournament, dropping a 65-61 decision to LSU (21-9), which has now won seven straight games. Also, No. Mississippi State (20-8) beat Mississippi 73-64; No. 2 Kentucky (27-3) rolled over Vanderbilt 81-63; and Auburn (20-10) won the battle of bubble teams, 66-53 over Tennessee (17-11).

Side Dishes

Not a Shocker, But Still Surprising: The Conference USA final will have a surprise team in it, as Alabama-Birmingham (19-11) got a driving layup from Eric Bush with 11.9 seconds left for a 63-62 win over St. Louis.

No Surprises In the Big East: No. 5 Pittsburgh (25-4) beat Boston College (18-11) 61-48, but may have lost Brandin Knight after he turned his ankle in the second half and did not return. For the second straight year, they will take on Connecticut (21-8), 80-67 winners over No. 11 Syracuse (24-5) despite 29 points from Carmelo Anthony.

Two More Are In: Holy Cross (26-4) used a late run to take the Patriot League’s automatic bid with a 72-64 win over American in Worcester. The Crusaders will make their third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, entering with a 12-game winning streak.

Also taking a conference’s automatic bid on Friday was Sam Houston State (23-6), which needed overtime to take out Stephen F. Austin by a 69-66 margin.

He Will Return: Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley said on ESPN Radio’s Gamenight that he expects Jim Harrick to return next season as Georgia’s head coach.

“We fully expect him to be our coach next year, we haven’t found any credible evidence that would justify firing him right now, but because he is in charge of our men’s basketball program, we felt it was appropriate to suspend him based on the academic fraud and unethical conduct findings,” Dooley said. “I would like to think he would be our coach though next season, we have to wait and see.”

Tonight’s Menu:

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

• It’s a big day with 11 conference championship games, and it starts with the America East final between Vermont and Boston University at BU’s Case Gym.

• The Big West final will feature in Utah State and Cal Poly-SLO (surprise winners over Cal-Santa Barbara on Friday) Anaheim, while the Mid-Eastern Athletic final will feature South Carolina State and defending champion Hampton in Richmond, and the SWAC final will pit Texas Southern against Alcorn State in Birmingham as retiring head coach Dave Whitney goes for one more NCAA Tournament appearance.

• In Cleveland, the Mid-American Conference championship has Kent State taking on Central Michigan, while the WAC final features host Tulsa and Nevada, and the Mountain West final is between UNLV and Colorado State (surprise winners over BYU on Friday) in Las Vegas.

• Two host schools are in their conference championship game. In Dayton, the Atlantic Ten Championship has Temple taking on the host, No. 21 Dayton, while No. 15 Louisville is host to the Conference USA title game against surprising Alabama-Birmingham.

• The Big East Championship game is a rematch of last year’s classic, as No. 5 Pittsburgh and Connecticut match up again at the World’s Most Famous Arena, while the Pac Ten Championship game has hometown favorite USC taking on Oregon.

• Semifinal games will be held in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC Tournaments. The ACC semifinals feature the third matchup of the season between No. 12 Duke and North Carolina.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Championship Saturday!

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