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March 28, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Friday, March 28th, 2003

by Brian Seymour

When the pairings for the NCAA Tournament were announced, most pundits pointed at a possible pairing in the national semifinals between Kentucky and Arizona.

Well, after both schools posted wins Thursday night in regional semifinal contests, that dream matchup is now one step closer to happening — though Kentucky’s victory was particularly costly.

Arizona removed a lot of doubts left by its close shave against Gonzaga in a 88-71 thumping of Notre Dame in a West Regional semifinal, while Kentucky posted a 63-57 victory over Wisconsin, but may have lost Keith Bogans in the process.

Arizona, who will face Kansas in Saturday’s West Regional final, pulled away from the Irish with a 22-3 run late in the first half to take a 47-29 lead. Notre Dame (24-10) would get no closer than 10 points for the rest of the game. Jason Gardner scored 19 for the Wildcats (28-3) and Luke Walton had 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

Torin Francis scored 25 points for Notre Dame on 10-of-11 shooting from the field and added 10 rebounds. It was the first loss in the tournament for a Big East school.

The “other” Wildcats (32-3) are reeling after the loss of Bogans, their leading scorer and one of the main reasons UK has now won 26 straight games. Marquis Estill picked up the slack with 28 points, the only Wildcat in double figures. Bogans, who suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first half, is reportedly questionable for the Midwest Regional final Saturday against Marquette.

Wisconsin (24-8) was close throughout the entire game and had even closed to within 56-55 with 1:34 remaining, but Kentucky was able to get a big offensive rebound and putback on the next possession and the Badgers were done. Kirk Penney led Wisconsin with 20 points.

In the night’s other set of regional semifinals, No. 2 Kansas defeated No. 3 Duke 69-65 and No. 3 Marquette scored a mild upset of No. 2 Pittsburgh, 77-74.

The encounter between Kansas and Duke was hyped all week as a potential classic and it would have been hard for both teams to live up to those expectations, though it was a back-and-forth affair that kept viewers on the edge of their seats even if it wasn’t the most crisply played game of the season.

Both teams made plenty of mistakes down the stretch, but Kansas was able to take advantage of some poor shooting and turnovers by the Blue Devils (26-7) down the stretch. But the big story for the Jayhawks (28-7) was the play of Nick Collison, who scored 33 points, pulled down 18 rebounds and helped make up for another poor performance from Kirk Hinrich, who was 1-of-9 from the field and was benched with foul trouble in the second half.

Dahntay Jones scored 23 points for Duke, which had a poor shooting guard of its own — freshman J.J. Redick, who was a horrible 2-of-16 from the field, including 1-of-12 from the 3-point line.

Marquette (26-5) got a huge basket from Dwayne Wade with 32 seconds left to give the Golden Eagles a 75-72 lead. Scott Merritt added two free throws with 11 seconds left for Marquette, which survived an errant 3-pointer by Brandin Knight in the game’s final seconds to take the victory.

Wade scored a game-high 22 points for Marquette and Knight scored 16 points and added 11 assists for the Panthers (28-5).

Side Dishes

Harrick to resign as UGA coach: According to ESPN.com, Georgia head coach Jim Harrick will resign as coach of the school in a negotiated settlement which will allow Harrick to receive his remaining base pay, broadcast payments and a Nike payment, totaling almost a quarter million dollars, not bad coin for merely destroying another basketball program in scandalous fashion.

Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley showed a flair for understatement in remarking on the dismissal/resignation, saying “the entire situation has been, and is, regretable for the athletic program and the university.”

Harrick, whose son was fired in the wake of the scandal as well, was dismissed from UCLA for falsifying expense reports and is also being investigated by the University of Rhode Island for improprieties during his two-year tenure as head coach at that school.

In a prepared statement Harrick announced he would retire from coaching, though it’s hard to imagine any school wanting him to run their basketball program. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how Georgia overlooked the slime trail that followed the Harricks from Los Angeles to Rhode Island to Athens, but that’s a story for another day.

Floyd mulls his next move: The decision of former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach Tim Floyd could be the first domino that will determine who starts filling the first of the open head coaching positions in college basketball. According to ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, Floyd has been offered the coaching position at Clemson and has also interviewed at Penn State.

After Floyd determines if he’s going to take one of those two jobs, hold out for a better job or take another year off from coaching, some of the other positions will open and we’ll see how the offseason coaching carousel shakes out.

NIT update: The field for the semifinals is set and St. Johns is staying home for a chance at the crown. The Red Storm (18-13) posted a 79-71 home win over UAB (21-12) in an NIT quarterfinal and will play on their sometime home floor at Madison Square Garden in the NIT’s semifinal round. The other semifinal was a 63-58 overtime win for Minnesota (18-12) over Temple (18-15) in Philadelphia. The Red Storm and the Golden Gophers are joined in the NIT semifinals by Georgetown and Texas Tech, who won on Wednesday.

Tonight’s Menu

Four more teams earn berths into the Elite Eight and four more go home.

• The seed numbers may be low, but the intensity will be high when two of the last three teams to win the national championship — No. 6 Maryland and No. 7 Michigan State — meet in a South Regional semifinal in San Antonio. Tipoff is 9:50 p.m. (Eastern).

• The other South Regional semi should also be an exciting contest as No. 1 Texas gets a bit of a home court advantage against No. 5 Connecticut in a 7:27 p.m. (Eastern) contest.

• The only real Cinderella left in the field are the recently overexposed No. 12 seeded Butler Bulldogs, who will be tested severely in an East Regional battle in Albany, NY against No. 1 Oklahoma at 7:10 p.m. (Eastern). Overhyped or not, the Bulldogs can play. Expect a fierce battle and a lot of good defense.

• Finally, another school enjoying some home cooking is No. 3 Syracuse, which faces No. 10 Auburn in front of what should be a friendly crowd in Albany at 9:30 p.m. (Eastern).

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