March 16, 2003
INDIANAPOLIS – Kentucky, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma were selected as the No. 1 seeds for the NCAA tournament Sunday, the fourth straight year two schools from the same conference earned a top spot.
Texas, No. 1 in the South, and Oklahoma, the top seed in the East, are both from the Big 12.
Arizona of the Pac-10 was seeded No. 1 in the West. Kentucky, unbeaten in the Southeastern Conference and winner of the league tournament, was given the top spot in the Midwest.
Duke, the No. 3 seed in the West, ended its run of five straight years as a No. 1 seed in a season of parity on the court and troubles off it.
Georgia, expected to be a highly seeded team, Michigan and Fresno State declared themselves ineligible for the tournament over possible NCAA violations or academic fraud.
The Big 12 and Southeastern Conference each had six teams selected and Georgia would have given the SEC a seventh.
The Big Ten and Pac-10 had five teams each, while the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East and Conference USA had four each.
UCLA (10-19) ended its string of 14 straight appearances, third on the current list behind Arizona’s 19 and Indiana’s 18.
“I don’t think it ever gets old hat,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said.
“When you get to the NCAA playoffs, I think it’s the most exciting time in sports.”
Bob Knight’s streak of 16 straight trips to the tournament also ended with Texas Tech. He made it from 1986 to 2000 at Indiana, and last year with the Red Raiders. He didn’t coach in 2001.
North Carolina holds the record with 27 straight appearances, but the Tar Heels are not in the field for a second straight season.
The ACC had two No. 1 seeds last season in Maryland and Duke. The Big Ten had Illinois and Michigan State in 2001 and the Pac-10 had Arizona and Stanford the year before.
Among the teams expected to get one of the 34 at-large but didn’t were Boston College, Tennessee and Seton Hall.
The tournament begins Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, with the play-in game. Big South champion North Carolina Asheville, at 14-16 the only team in the field with a losing record, will play Texas Southern, the champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The winner will play Texas on Friday in Birmingham, Ala., and No. 8 LSU will face No. 9 Purdue.
In Spokane, Wash., on Thursday, No. 5 Connecticut plays No. 12 Brigham Young and No. 4 Stanford faces No. 13 San Diego.
The rest of the South will be on Friday with No. 6 Maryland, the defending national champion, against No. 11 North Carolina-Wilimington; and No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Troy State at Nashville, Tenn. Also, No. 7 Michigan State plays No. 10 Colorado; and No. 2 Florida, a high seed despite losing its last three games, faces No. 15 Sam Houston State in Tampa, Fla.
Oklahoma perhaps helped itself move into a top spot by winning the Big 12 tournament Sunday. It got the biggest break from the “pod” system, which keeps the better teams as close to home as possible.
The Sooners will play South Carolina State on Thursday in Oklahoma City, a 20-minute ride from their Norman campus, while No. 8 California faces No. 9 North Carolina State.
In Birmingham, No. 5 Mississippi State plays No. 12 Butler, and No. 4 Louisville faces Austin Peay.
In Boston on Friday, No. 3 Syracuse goes against No. 14 Manhattan in a matchup of New York schools, and No. 6 Oklahoma State faces No. 11 Penn.
Wake Forest, the No. 2 seed after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title, plays No. 15 East Tennessee State, and No. 7 Saint Joseph’s faces Auburn in Tampa.
Kentucky enters the tournament on a 23-game winning streak. It will play No. 16 IUPUI, one of seven schools making their first NCAA appearance, in Nashville, while No. 8 Oregon faces No. 9 Utah.
In Spokane, No. 4 Dayton, which won the Atlantic 10 tournament on its campus, plays No. 13 Tulsa, and No. 5 Wisconsin goes against No. 12 Weber State.
On Thursday in Indianapolis, No. 3 Marquette plays No. 14 Holy Cross, and No. 6 Missouri faces No. 11 Southern Illinois.
The final Midwest group will be at Boston, with No. 2 Pittsburgh, the Big East tournament champion, against No. 15 Wagner; and No. 7 Indiana, last year’s runner-up, against No. 10 Alabama, the top-ranked team in late December that dropped to 17-11, 7-9 in the Southeastern Conference.
Arizona opens against No. 16 Vermont on Thursday in Salt Lake City. Also, No. 8 Cincinnati plays No. 9 Gonzaga; No. 3 Duke, which won its fifth straight ACC tournament on Sunday, faces No. 14 Colorado State; and No. 6 Creighton plays No. 11 Central Michigan.
Notre Dame, despite being a No. 5 seed, gets a chance to play close to home, facing No. 12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Indianapolis. Also, No. 4 Illinois, which won the Big Ten on Sunday, plays No. 13 Western Kentucky.
The last West group will be at Oklahoma City: No. 2 Kansas plays No. 15 Utah State and No. 7 Memphis faces No. 10 Arizona State.
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer