Fighting Camels lead have-nots over NCAA hump Campbell draws Duke in mixed tourney field

When it comes to the NCAA basketball tournament, David may still carry a slingshot, but Goliath generally wears full body armor.

This year's Davids-in-waiting are led by the Campbell University Fighting Camels, who, besides the best nickname in the 64-team draw, have precious little else to gird them against Duke, which begins its quest to get back to April's Final Four in Minneapolis and repeat last year's national championship.


Your buddies will attempt between now and Thursday to convince you that, on any given day, any team can beat any other team to get you to pick Campbell, Mississippi Valley State, Howard or Robert Morris, the No. 16 seeds, in the office pool over Duke, Ohio State, Kansas and UCLA, the No. 1 seeds.

Heck, those buddies might even point you in the direction of their full-color poster of Richmond coach Dick Tarrant, whose Spiders, the 15th East seed last year, pulled off the stunner of the tourney, a 73-69 win over second seed Syracuse.


But you, of course, will rebuff them by reminding them that in the seven years since the field was increased to 64 teams, no No. 16 seed has beaten a top-seeded team and no No. 15 team before Richmond had beaten a No. 2 seed.

At least Campbell (19-11), which resides in Buies Creek, N.C., a pleasant little town about 75 miles from Greensboro, won't have far to drive to get home after its seemingly inevitable loss to the Blue Devils (28-2) at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The field, announced yesterday, yielded its predictable riches for the heavyweight conferences.

Six teams from the Big Eight qualified, along with five from the ACC, Big East and Big Ten and four from the Pac-10 and Southeastern Conference.

The Metro Conference also placed four of its teams in the tournament, a surprising feat when one considers the Metro lost its automatic bid before the season, meaning that North Carolina-Charlotte, Tulane, Louisville and South Florida received at-large slots.

Four teams -- Tulane, Delaware, Eastern Illinois and Campbell -- will be making their first appearances in the tournament, while Kentucky, a five-time champion, is making its first trip since 1988 after two years of NCAA sanctions.

North Carolina, the No. 4 seed in the Southeast, is making its 18th straight tournament trip, the longest streak in the field.

Among the most notable 20-win omissions to the field were Wisconsin-Green Bay (25-4), the Mid-Continent regular-season champions; Ball State (24-8), which won the Mid-American regular-season title; and Manhattan (23-8), the Metro Atlantic Athletic regular-season champ.


All three, however, lost in their conference tournaments, missing the automatic bids.

"Everybody likes the little guy, and we were clearly in that role," said Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Dick Bennett. "The national media took a liking to us, and I suspect the committee wrestled with it."

Neither Notre Dame nor Villanova, who mustered .500 record with tough schedules, were invited.

"I felt our chances were very slim," said Irish coach John MacLeod.

Likewise, Virginia (15-13), Arizona State (18-13) and Tennessee (18-14) were left out.

Teams that received surprisingly high seeds included Southern Cal, which got the second seed in the Midwest, and Oklahoma, the fourth seed in the West.


Perhaps the biggest shock was Massachusetts, the Atlantic 10 champion, not only got the East's third seed, but will play at the Worcester Centrum, less than one hour from Amherst.

The strongest of the four regions appears to be the Southeast, and in particular the bracket that contains top-seeded Ohio State, fourth seed North Carolina, fifth seed Alabama, eighth seed Nebraska and ninth seed Connecticut.

Conversely, Duke and Kansas, who met in last year's title game, could have the easiest time, with only two other ranked teams in each of their brackets.

A number of first-round games have potential to make skipping work and/or school Thursday and Friday worth the time and trouble.

In the West, Louisville and Wake Forest, the eighth and ninth seeds, should hook up for a good contest, and Nebraska, the Southeast's eighth seed, should pose an interesting test for ninth seed Connecticut.

The St. John's-Tulane game, matching the seventh and 10th seeds in the Southeast, will match the depth of the Green Wave against the defense and patience of the Redmen, and Friday's Syracuse-Princeton contest in Worcester will draw some interest.


Conference call

Leading conferences in number of teams named to the NCAA tournament:

Conference. . . . . .. . . .. . . No.

Big Eight.. . .. . . . .. .. ..... .6

ACC. . . .. . . . .. .... ... ..... 5

Big East. . . . .. .. .. ..... .... 5


Big Ten. . .. . ... .... .... .. .. 5

Metro. . .. .. .. ...... .... ..... 4

Pac-10. . . . ... ..... ..... ......4

Southeastern. . .... . . .. . ..... 4

Great Midwest. . . . .. . ....... . 3