COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- For the most part, Richmond has a history of upsets in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. For the most part, Syracuse has a history of falling a bit short of expectations.
So tonight, when the 15th-seeded Spiders meet the second-seeded Orangemen at Cole Field House in the opening round of the NCAA East Regional, the matchup on the court could be a lot better than the one on paper.
"We match up horribly," said Richmond coach Dick Tarrant. "They're so much bigger and talented than we are."
Said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, "I think when you get into the tournament there isn't an easy game. It used to be that if you were a top seed you might have an easy first-round game. One of the tougher games we played this year was against Towson State, and they're a No. 16 seed."
Richmond's run of upsets, which included beating Indiana and Georgia Tech in 1988 and Auburn in 1984, ended last season with an 81-46 thrashing by Duke. Syracuse, which came within a last-second jumper by Indiana's Keith Smart of winning the 1987 national championship, has reached the round of 16 twice.
The Spiders are coming off a Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Orangemen were beaten by Villanova in the opening round of the Big East tournament. On top of that, the Syracuse program has been under intense scrutiny since allegations of NCAA infractions were reported in a Syracuse newspaper in December.
"There's nothing we can do about anything," said Boeheim. "We try to play the best we can and concentrate in doing that."
* One of the more interesting players in the NCAA tournament is New Mexico center Luc Longley. The 7-foot-2 senior leads the Lobos in scoring (19.2 ppg) and rebounds (9.2) and is considered a sure-fire first-round draft pick.
Maybe by the time Longley reaches the NBA, the people in his hometown will understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the NCAAs. Then again, since Longley comes from Perth, Australia, they might not.
"Until Andrew Gaze [of Seton Hall] went to the Final Four a couple of years ago, they didn't know anything about American college basketball," Longley said. "They still don't understand what the process is about. They're excited by the event of the Final Four, but they don't know what goes into it."
* One of the most obvious angles to this sub-regional is the history of NCAA problems that a few of the teams, and one of its coaches, have had.
Aside from Syracuse's current troubles -- the school is under NCAA and internal investigations -- there are North Carolina State and New Mexico. Also, Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton left Kentucky under a cloud. Though he was later exonerated by the NCAA, the Wildcats were banned from the NCAA tournament for two years.
The Wolfpack is returning to the tournament after a one-year ban, and the Lobos are making their first appearance in the NCAAs in 11 years. New Mexico went on probation for violations under former coach Norm Ellenberger.
The Lobos have gone to the National Invitation Tournament the past seven years. Ellenberger's successor, Gary Colson, eventually was forced out because the team never made the NCAA tournament, and his successor, Dave Bliss, said the NIT almost became more a negative than a reward.
"Perhaps the fact of not getting into the NCAA was magnified by getting into the NIT," said Bliss, who came to New Mexico three years ago from SMU.
It's ironic that all of the troubled teams were sent to play in College Park. Maryland recently finished the first year of a two-year tournament ban.
* As of last night, there were a couple of hundred tickets left for this afternoon's games, meaning they will be blacked out locally. The night session is sold out.