Mike Jarvis said recently that this year's NCAA tournament would go beyond the norm. More early-round upsets than usual, more chance for dark horses to be in contention when this month-long race heads down the homestretch to Seattle.
"If it was madness before, this year will be totally absurd," the George Washington coach said a few weeks ago.
It wasn't absurd that the Colonials didn't make the 64-team field, given their penchant for losing to teams with triple-digit power ratings. But it was absurd that the Atlantic Coast Conference didn't get five teams in, while the Big Ten got six.
What Jarvis was talking about had more to do with the chance of chaos reigning as much, if not more, this month than it did during a wild regular season. This was the season that began with defending champion and seemingly invincible Arkansas losing and a succession of pretenders to the No. 1 ranking doing the same.
"I don't think there are any so-called favorites," said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, whose Huskies might have been one had they won the Big East tournament.
Here's how this year's tournament looks:
What a surprise, it's the West. Despite the obvious improvement in the Pac-10, and the inclusion of several Eastern and Midwestern teams in the region, this is the place to be if you're a good team with Final Four dreams.
Top seed UCLA likely will get by its opening-round draw this year, Florida International, but the Bruins won't go from Boise to men unless they can beat Indiana in the second round. In the other half of the bracket, second-seeded Connecticut has its own ghosts to exorcise after last year's debacle against Florida. There are three teams from California in the region. When was the last time a team from the land of mudslides and celebrity murder trials made news by sending one of its basketball teams to the Final Four?
Depending on the condition of Rasheed Wallace's ankle, the Southeast could be the toughest by a lot or just a good amount. It's not only the presence of the two top seeds, Kentucky and North Carolina, but also the depth from 3 to 13 with such solid teams as Arizona State, Michigan State, Iowa State and Oklahoma.
Teams with good guards usually do well in the NCAA tournament. There's Tony Delk of the Wildcats, Jeff McInnis and former Final Four MVP Donald Williams of the Tar Heels, national player of the year candidate Shawn Respert of Michigan State, Big East freshman of the year Allen Iverson of Georgetown and, of course, The Mayor, Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State.
Most likely first-round upsets
UCLA is off the list this year, but the Bruins' Pac-10 brethren from Arizona are back, especially if Damon Stoudamire and Ben Davis don't have their ineligibility reversed by the NCAA. Not only could the Wildcats be without their best player and one of their best inside players, but they also have to face Miami of Ohio in Dayton, Ohio.
It's also easy to pick Syracuse, given the Orangemen's history of NCAA cameos. Here's one more: Penn over Alabama at the Baltimore Arena. The Quakers already have shown they can beat good athletic teams that don't always show up.
Final Four dark horses
Don't expect to see North Carolina-Charlotte in the Final Four, as it was 18 years ago. Or Penn, which made it in 1979. But how about Indiana, with a bunch of talented freshmen to complement Alan Henderson and, like him or not, the best postseason coach in the tournament?
Maryland might have fit into this category, until the Terrapins were anointed last night by Dickie V. One more team not to count out: Georgetown. The Hoyas seem to be playing together, Iverson and once-forgotten
center Othella Harrington in particular. The Kingdome was where the Hoyas won it in 1984.
Final Four picks: Semifinals:
Wake Forest vs. Indiana, Arkansas vs. Kentucky.
Final: Wake Forest vs. Arkansas.
Champion: Wake Forest.
Conferences with at least two teams in the NCAA tournament:
ATLANTIC COAST (4)
Maryland; North Carolina; Virginia; Wake Forest
ATLANTIC 10 (2)
BIG EAST (4)
Connecticut; Georgetown; Syracuse; Villanova
BIG EIGHT (5)
Iowa St.; Kansas; Missouri; Oklahoma; Oklahoma St.
BIG TEN (6)
Illinois; Indiana; Michigan; Michigan St.; Minnesota; Purdue
GREAT MIDWEST (3)
Cincinnati; Memphis; St. Louis
METRO ATL. ATHLETIC (2)
Manhattan; St. Peter's
METRO ATHLETIC (3)
Louisville; N.C.-Charlotte; Tulane
Ball St.; Miami, Ohio.
MIDWESTERN COLLEGIATE (2)
Wis.-Green Bay; Xavier, Ohio
MISSOURI VALLEY (2)
Southern Illinois; Tulsa
Arizona; Arizona St.; Oregon; Stanford; UCLA
Alabama; Arkansas; Florida; Kentucky; Mississippi St.
WEST COAST (2)
Gonzaga; Santa Clara
WESTERN ATHLETIC (2)
Brigham Young; Utah
BURSTING THE BUBBLE
Teams that were considered on the bubble that did not receive bids to the NCAA tournament:
Charleston (23-5) George Wash. (18-13)
Georgia (18-9) Georgia Tech (18-12)
Iowa (19-11) New Mex. St. (23-9)
Ohio U. (23-9) Providence (16-12)
St. Joe's (17-11) Va. Tech (20-10)
North Carolina 6-1
Wake Forest 6-1
Oklahoma St. 8-1
Michigan St. 10-1
Arizona St. 18-1
Mississippi St. 18-1
Iowa St. 50-1
Saint Louis 50-1
N.C. Charlotte 75-1
W. Kentucky 75-1
Brigham Young 100-1
S. Illinois 150-1
Miami, Ohio 250-1
Ball St. 500-1
Long Beach St. 500-1
Santa Clara 500-1
Old Dominion 1000-1
Wis.-Green Bay 1000-1
Murray St. 2000-1
Nicholls St. 2000-1
Weber St. 2000-1
Texas Southern 5000-1
St. Peter's 5000-1
Florida Int'l. 8000-1
N. Carolina A&T; 8000-1
Mount St. Mary's 10000-1