True underdogs mix with pedigreed types in wide-open NCAA tournament

West Regional teams to play at Staples Center include mostly expected (Ohio State, Arizona) and very unexpected (Wichita State, La Salle). Then there's Florida Gulf Coast, the first No. 15 to make Sweet 16.

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My dream of a West Regional foursome of Wichita State, La Salle, Harvard and Iowa State came only half true.

Los Angeles fell two underdogs short from hitting for the Cinderella cycle.

The disappointment abated when, in Philadelphia, the hallucination that was Florida Gulf Coast University lived into Sunday evening.

More than Coach K calling a timeout, or Kansas Coach Bill Self's perfectly coiffed hair, these are the story lines that make the NCAA tournament the best reality show on television.

FGCU is not an eye-examination test — it is one of 16 schools left in an NCAA tournament that started with 68 on Tuesday.

The Eagles defeated San Diego State to become the first 15th-seeded school to make the Sweet 16.

That earned Florida Gulf Coast a South Regional pairing Friday against powerhouse Florida.

"We're doing something special out there," Florida Gulf Coast guard Sherwood Brown said. "We've been told that this is what college basketball is about."

Locally, we could have had Shockers, Explorers, Crimson and Cyclones under one roof at Staples Center. Laws would have needed to be enacted to curtail the paparazzi.

The aggregate seeding number of Wichita, La Salle, Harvard and Iowa State would have been a staggering 46.

But, alas, No.6 Arizona sent No.14 Harvard back to its yard Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

And Sunday, a botched official's call in Dayton helped derail No.10 Iowa State's upset chances against No.2 Ohio State.

An Iowa State victory would have left the West Regional bracket in tatters without its top-five seeded schools.

This possibly could have led to picking next year's NCAA tournament out of a hat, which might have more sense this year than a selection committee.

Purists probably rejoiced when Aaron Craft's last second three-pointer lifted Ohio State to its victory.

I had looked forward to reading the "Farmers' Almanac" with fine folks from Ames.

The West ended up providing something for everyone. You get half a bracket of basketball pedigree — Ohio State vs. Arizona — and a manager's underdog special with No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 13 La Salle.

The West Regional perfectly represents the wide-openness of this year's tournament.

A No. 16 did not pull off the seminal upset, falling to 0-116 in the overall series, although Southern came very close against Gonzaga.



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