March 14, 2004

NCAA's angriest region will be in East Rutherford

Bob Knight is happy to be back in the NCAA tournament after a year away. Just about everyone else in the NCAA's East Rutherford region seems to be upset about something.

Oklahoma State thought its Big 12 championship merited a top seed. Pittsburgh, the regular-season Big East champ and conference tournament runner-up, is just a No. 3. Big 10 champion Wisconsin drew a sixth seed; the Badgers beat Illinois, the fifth seed in the Atlanta region, twice this season -- including Sunday's conference championship game.

``I think it's disrespectful and I think we deserve better,'' said Pitt center Toree Morris, whose team had as many wins (29) as anyone in the country. ``I believe we should have been a No. 2 seed.''

Even top-seeded Saint Joseph's is mad about a snub from TV analyst Billy Packer.

``He called us out on national TV. That committee goes into a room and studies it and he's smarter than the committee?'' Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. `` ... Enough with him.''

Packer didn't agree with the selection committee's decision to reward Saint Joe's for winning their first 27 games instead of punishing the Hawks for a first-round loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Some thought the last No. 1 seed should have gone to Oklahoma State, which won the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles. But the Cowboys' 65-49 victory over Texas on Sunday afternoon came too late to impress the committee and bump them to a top seed.

Wisconsin had a similar problem with its 70-53 victory over Illinois in the Big Ten tournament on Sunday. But the Badgers were given a consolation prize: their first two games would be in Milwaukee.

``We got a high seed, but we're playing close to home,'' Wisconsin guard Devin Harris said. ``So it worked itself out.''

Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton brushed off talk of a seeding snub and said he was more upset about having to go to East Rutherford instead of St. Louis. But guard Tony Allen, the Big 12 tournament MVP, said he was disappointed.

``I think we should have gotten the No. 1 seed,'' the Cowboys guard said. ``We worked hard for it. But the committee disagreed.''

Oklahoma State will play No. 15 Eastern Washington, the Big Sky conference champion, which is making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Elsewhere in the bracket: Pittsburgh will play No. 14 Central Florida, No. 4 Wake Forest will play No. 13 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 5 Florida will play No. 12 Manhattan, Wisconsin will play No. 11 Richmond, No. 7 Memphis plays No. 10 South Carolina and Knight's eighth-seeded Texas Tech plays No. 9 Charlotte.

Knight is making his 26th appearance in the NCAA tournament. If the Red Raiders win it all, he would pass John Wooden and move into third place on the all-time victory list.

They will start with a game against Charlotte in Buffalo, N.Y., the site of Knight's final game as Indiana's coach, in the 2000 NCAA tournament.

``We have a very challenging first-round game against an excellent team with a legendary coach and one of the best, if not the best, offensive players in the country in Andre Emmett,'' Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. ``Our players are excited about the challenge they have ahead of them.''

The winner will most likely face Saint Joe's, which has a first-round matchup with Big South champion Liberty. The Hawks were unbeaten and the No. 1 overall team in the AP poll before losing by 20 points to unranked Xavier on Thursday.

That spoiled their chance at history and endangered their chance at a top seed in the tournament. No team has entered the NCAA tournament unbeaten since UNLV in 1991, and the 1976 Indiana team was the last team to finish the entire season without a loss.

``We got pounded last week. Your feelings get hurt,'' Martelli said. ``The question of whether or not you're good enough comes into play. We really went to work on that.''

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