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March 17, 2003 Columns No Comments




The Morning Dish – Monday, March 17, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

March Madness is now here, as the final four conference championship games were played on Sunday. Check the final updates from Championship Week while we fine tune Hoopville’s extensive coverage of the NCAA Tournament.

In the Big 12 title game, No. Oklahoma (24-6) led Missouri by 22, but had to hold off a late rally by the Tigers in a 49-47 victory. The win gave the Sooners their third straight Big 12 championship. The Tigers fall to 21-10.

In the Big Ten final, No. Illinois looked to have the game in hand against surging Ohio State, a team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. But Brent Darby would not go silently, bringing the Buckeyes within 60-51 at one point before helping to shoot them out of it as Illinois took home a 72-59 win for the Big Ten championship. The Illini (24-6) win the title after barely losing the regular season title to Wisconsin, while Ohio State (17-14) is in the NIT.

No. 2 Kentucky (29-3) will enter the NCAA Tournament on a roll, as they took the SEC title with a 64-57 win over Mississippi State (21-9). The win was the 23rd in a row for the Wildcats.

No. 12 Duke (24-6) needed to come from behind to take its fifth straight ACC title, as the Blue Devils scored an 84-77 win over surging North Carolina State in Greensboro. The Wolfpack (18-12) used an early run to lead by 15 at one point in the second half.

Side Dishes

Some Didn’t Make It: As always, there were teams on the bubble that didn’t make it. The notables this year include Boston College (18-11), Seton Hall (17-12), Tennessee (17-11), Texas Tech (18-12), Wyoming (21-10), and UNLV (20-10). Seton Hall head coach Louis Orr, whose team made the NIT, was disappointed.

“With the Big East only getting four, to me, that’s a travesty,” Orr said.

Well, They Did Say They Don’t Look Ahead: The NCAA Tournament selection committee made a major mistake with Brigham Young, which is the No. 12 seed in the South region. Should the Cougars reach the Sweet 16, they would be slated to play on Friday and Sunday, but the Mormon Church-run school is not allowed to play on Sunday.

According to ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, the committee told BYU athletic director Val Hale that they would be moved to the Midwest regional, effectively switching with the team from the corresponding pod in the South region (Wisconsin-Weber State/Dayton-Tulsa). Not only would this mess up brackets all over, but it would also create a mess for the teams and their fans, especially those who are traveling for the games.

Power Conferences: Leading the way in the NCAA field are the Big 12 and SEC, each of which placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten and Pac Ten, in what is perceived to be a down year for both, each placed five teams. The ACC, Big East and Conference USA each had four.

NIT Field Set: The NIT was set later on Sunday, and the Big East certainly has plenty of representation — six teams. That led the way, while the Atlantic Ten, ACC, Conference USA, Big Ten and Mountain West each have three teams.

Just a Formality: Steve Lavin expects to be formally fired as head coach of UCLA on Monday, no later than Tuesday, according to ESPN.com. UCLA finished its first losing season in 55 years with their loss to Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac Ten Tournament. The early candidate list includes Ben Howland (Pittsburgh), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Brad Holland (San Diego).

Tonight’s Menu:

• The NIT starts this evening with one game, as Valparaiso travels to Iowa.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Monday, and let the postseason begin!

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