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March 19, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, March 19th, 2003

by Michael Ermitage

If the play-in game is any indication of the type of NCAA tournament that is about to begin, we’re all in for a good time. UNC-Ashville topped Texas Southern in overtime, 92-84. UNC-Ashville’s Andre Smith is the first hero of the Dance, scoring 10 points in the overtime session to secure the victory. The Bulldogs now travel to Birmingham, Ala., to face top-seeded Texas in the South region.

Despite the win, UNC-Ashville still remains under .500 (the only team in this year’s tournament with a losing record) at 15-16. The game against Texas will reunite Texas coach Rick Barnes and Asheville’s Eddie Biedenbach, who gave Barnes his first coaching job when he was at Davidson in 1978.

Just before the play-in game tipped off in Dayton, Ohio, there was much speculation earlier in the day that tournament games may be postponed because of the impending war in Iraq. NCAA President Myles Brand announced early in the day that the NCAA was looking into the availability of arenas and hotels in case the games were to be postponed. Following that morning announcement, the national media went wild with the story. ESPN’s Dan Patrick fielded call after call from former servicemen who said that they want America to keep up its daily business in times of war. Several sports web sites launched polls about whether or not the games should be postponed, with accompanying commentary.

Of course, all the hoopla surrounding the morning announcement was unfounded. The NCAA was merely creating a contingency plan should it feel that the safety of the student-athletes and the spectators may be compromised. Upon hearing from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the White House wishes for all Americans to continue to live their lives as normally as possible, Brand announced that the games will go on.

Now, where on television can we catch these games should a war break out? That question is still unanswered, although it looks likely that CBS will move the games to four separate cable stations. CBS has already lined up Viacom-owned stations TNN, TV Land and Nickelodeon. The fourth station is likely to be ESPN or ESPN2 as the networks are brokering a deal to show a portion of the games.

Side Dishes

Shyatt leaves Clemson: With each passing tournament, the coaching ranks in college basketball must go under some change. Those that didn’t make the tournament often must answer to the powers-that-be, and Clemson coach Larry Shyatt resigned Tuesday in the face of pressure from the administration. The Tigers were not only passed over for the NCAA tournament, but the NIT tournament as well. Potential candidates to replace Shyatt include Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton, Dayton coach Oliver Purnell, former Hawks coach Lon Kruger and former Bulls coach Tim Floyd.

NIT roundup: In NIT action Tuesday night, Siena dominated Villanova, Georgetown topped Tennessee, Boston College cruised past Fairfield, Temple held off Drexel and North Carolina defeated DePaul.

Sometimes you can get an early indicator on conference strength from early NIT games. And then you can apply that to the NCAA tournament. This year has not offered many answers. While the Big East can be proud of its wins from Georgetown and Boston College, it is a bit perplexing that Villanova was so overmatched at Siena.

The Big Ten’s first game had Iowa edging Valparaiso in Iowa City. Perhaps the Big Ten is down since many of the top Big Ten teams struggled in Iowa City while the Crusaders nearly landed the upset.

And the ACC can’t take much solace in North Carolina’s win over DePaul, since they were dominated on the glass, but were just able to pull away on transition baskets from DePaul’s many turnovers. Maybe that’s a good sign for Conference USA, which landed four teams in the NCAA tournament field.

Tonight’s Menu:

• More hot NIT action as nine games take place. The most interesting matchups include Ohio State at Georgia Tech, Minnesota at St. Louis, Hawaii at UNLV and Nevada at Texas Tech.

In the Buckeyes’ game at Georgia Tech, Ohio State will be without Zach Williams, who was suspended from NIT games by the coaching staff for his conduct during the Big Ten tournament. Williams was sent off the court Sunday during the Buckeyes’ loss to Illinois in Chicago for arguing with an assistant coach.

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