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After all initials and hyphens, form holds up in NCAA tournament pairings

The wildest, most entertaining lottery in sports was completed yesterday as the NCAA tournament selection committee announced the 64-team field that will compete for college basketball's ultimate trophy.

The committee selected plenty of initials: UCLA, USC, LSU, BYU -- but not the team they loved to leave out, that renegade UNLV. They picked a few hyphens: Texas-El Paso, Miami-Ohio, North Carolina-Charlotte -- but not Wisconsin-Green Bay, which will be headlining a National Invitation Tournament field devoid of three-time East Coast Conference winner Towson State.

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The NCAA committee picked a lot of name schools: Robert Morris, Howard, DePaul and Murray State -- but the school with perhaps the biggest name, Notre Dame, did not get in.

For the most part, the selection committee's choices went according to form.

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Defending national champion Duke, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, was awarded the No. 1 overall seeding and was matched against Campbell University, the Big South Conference champion, on Thursday. Campbell, a Baptist school in North Carolina that refuses to play on Sundays, does not figure to advance to the second round. But it asked the selection committee to put it in a bracket whose games would be played on Thursday and Saturday. Pray for those Camels.

Other No. 1 seeds are UCLA in the West, Kansas in the Midwest and Ohio State in the Southeast.

"The committee was able to honor geographical locations somewhat better than the past," said Roy Kramer, chairman of the NCAA selection committee and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. "This is not to (ay we didn't have to move [lower seeds] out of their regions, because the primary role of the committee is to make the road to Minneapolis(just as difficult in Tempe, Ariz., as it is in Worcester, Mass., and to do that, teams hive to be moved."

Ohio State earned its seeding yesterday, when Indiana was upset by Purdue, giving the Buckeyes the Big Ten championship. Indiana, which got shipped to the West as the No. 2 seed there, defeated the Buckeyes in both meetings between the teams this season.

Kansas may have gotten a bigger advantage than Duke. If the Jayhawks win their first two games, they will move to the Midwest Regional semifinals at the Kemper Armna in Kansas City, Mo., a 40-minute drive from their Lawrence home.

The Big Eight, with six schools in the tournament -- Kansas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Iowa State -- is the national champion in terms of number of teams invited.

"We beat some good teams: Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa and Minnesota," coach Johnny Orr said of his 20-12 Iowa State team, which had a 5-9 league record.

But now the league may have to live up to its reputation.

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"We painted ourselves into a corner," Nebraska coach Danny Nee said of the Big Eight. "They say we are the best conference so far. Six teams there is a responsibility to come through."

The Big East, which set a record last season with seven teams invited, has five in the tournament this time around -- Syracuse, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's and Connecticut. The Atlantic Coast Conference, which got six in last year, also took five berths -- Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

The Metro Konference and the Great Midwest Conference, which did not receive automatic bids to the tournament, landed a combined seven teams in the field.

"They ask me why I came heze, and I just told them to wait," said G.J. Hunter of Tulane, one of the four Metro teams selected. "We will see why I came here if we go to the tournament and we play as good as we are capable of. Then maybe they(will understand. It's the chance to play. You want a chance."

The Pac-10 and the SEC also have four entrants each. UCLA, USC, Arizona ind Stanford madm iSomebody screwed up CHARGEN again! STYLs voided here from the Pac-18, but Arizon0 State and Washington State (21-10) were left out. Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama made it from the SEC.

The Big West Conference paid for UNLV's deletion from this year's tournament, getting only one team in -- New Mexico State, which won the conference tournament. California-Santa Barbara, a Big West team with a 20-8 record, was left out.

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Princeton, the Ivy League champ, got the 11th seeding in the East and will face Syracuse, the sixth seed, on Friday in Worcester, Mass. Plodding Princeton has lost in the first round the past three years -- but by an average of only 2.3 points.

As usual, there was plenty of controversy concerning the teams that did not get invited. Wisconsin-Green Bay, the regular-season champion in the Mid-Continent Conference, was not invited despite forging a 25-4 record. The Phoenix was upset in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament by Eastern Illinois (17-13), which went on to win the tournament championship.

A total of 23 teams that had 20 victories or more this season did not make the tournament. The most notable on that list are James Madison -- which hasn't gone to the NCAAs in Lefty Driesell's four seasons as coach there -- and Richmond, both in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Rhode Island, an Atlantic 10 team, did not make it despite its 20-9 record. Alabama-Birmingham (20-7) was also snubbed, as were Ball State (24-8) and Penn State (21-7). The Nittany Lions played a generally weak independent schedule this season and lost to both Penn and Temple.

Notre Dame (14-14), which beat UCLA, USC, North Carolina, Syracuse and [t. John's, joined the Nittany Lions on the sidelines.

"You also have to look at losses against bottom-50 and bottom-100 teams," Kramer said of Notre Dame. "You have to look at the total season, not just outstanding wins."

The committee showed its respect for Atlantic 10 champ Massachusetts by awarding the Minutemen, who have the most wins of any team in the tourney -- 28 -- the No. 3 seed in the East Regional. Massachusetts will have the advantaoe of playing its first-round game -- against Patriot League champ Fordham -- in Worcester, Mass., a short drive from its home in Amherst.


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