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Saturday’s Games Upset the Cart : NCAA men: Weekend losses by the top teams result in a scramble of No. 1 seedings.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their three-night slumber party finally finished, the nine members of the NCAA tournament selection committee emerged from a Kansas City hotel Sunday with this amazing revelation:

Geez, choosing and seeding 64 teams sure is tough.

A news flash, this wasn’t. Not after Black Saturday, when six of the top eight and nine of the top 16 ranked teams lost. Not after a season of strangeness that saw a handful of teams play tag with the No. 1 ranking.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever been a part of a weekend, of a day like (Saturday),” said Tom Butters, the Duke athletic director who served his sixth and final year as selection committee chairman.

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The upsets kept the committee up past 11 o’clock Saturday evening and required an earlier-than-planned 7 a.m. meeting Sunday. Unlike past years, when the committee spent much of its time doing what Butters calls “the nitty gritty"--that is, selecting among the borderline teams--the members were compelled to devote more attention to the seedings.

The reasons are obvious. Before Saturday, the selection committee had begun to slot teams in the appropriate 1-12 seedings in the four regions. Then came the onrush of unexpected defeats, leaving the nine members bleary eyed as they were forced to reassess the big board again.

Suddenly Connecticut, the Big East Conference regular-season champion, but Saturday upset victim, wasn’t a No. 1-seeded anymore. Missouri, the Big Eight Conference regular-season champion, found itself being moved from region to region after a league tournament loss to Nebraska.

Arizona, another surprise loser, was dropped down the seeding ladder. Similar fates were considered for UCLA, Kansas, California, Michigan and the rest of upset losers.

“This was probably the most difficult of the past three years because of (the seedings),” said Bob Frederick, Kansas athletic director and incoming selection chairman.

By the time the committee was through tinkering, a field of 34 at-large teams and 30 automatic qualifiers began to take shape. Along with it came the seedings.

The top four in each region:

East--North Carolina, Connecticut, Florida and Temple.

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Southeast--Purdue, Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.

Midwest--Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan and Oklahoma State.

West--Missouri, Arizona, Louisville and Syracuse.

The most interesting and perhaps the most competitive of the four regionals is the East, where you will find Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith, Temple’s John Chaney and Indiana’s Bob Knight, whose Hoosiers are seeded No. 5, all in the same sub-regional at Landover, Md.

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The easiest of the regionals? Probably the West, where three of the top four seeds--Missouri, Arizona and Syracuse--lost their last games.

Meanwhile, UCLA was sent to Oklahoma City, seeded No. 5 in the Midwest Regional, while Pepperdine was shipped to Wichita, Kan., seeded No. 14 in the Midwest.

The Bruins will face No. 12 Tulsa, whose campus isn’t that far from Oklahoma City, and the Waves will play No. 3 Michigan.

In all, the Pacific 10 Conference received four bids, beginning with Arizona, then UCLA, California and late-charging Washington State, which earned a berth for the first time since George Raveling was the coach in Pullman. Left out was Stanford, which finished 17-10 and tied for fourth in the league with Washington State and Arizona State.

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“There were several teams in the Pac-10 that were considered,” said Butters, who later added that there was “no question” that the Cougars were the easy choice as the fourth selectee in the conference.

As for UCLA, Arizona and Cal--all losers on Saturday--the selection committee was fairly kind.

Arizona probably would have been seeded No. 1 in the West had it beaten the Sun Devils on Saturday. Instead, the committee placed the Wildcats, who have lost their last two first-round NCAA games, in Sacramento to face No. 15-seeded Loyola (Md.).

UCLA, which has lost six of its last 13 games, and Cal both had chances to be seeded No. 4. But then they botched things on Saturday and fell to No. 5 spots. All in all, not too harsh a penalty.

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"(Arizona, Cal and UCLA) didn’t hurt themselves as much as they might have helped themselves had they won,” Butters said.

It could have been worse for the three Pac-10 teams. They could have been Georgia Tech, which wasn’t even invited to the tournament.

The Yellow Jackets (16-12) were left out despite two victories against North Carolina and victories against Virginia, Temple and Maryland. Butters acknowledged the quality of Georgia Tech’s victories, but said there weren’t enough of them to counter-balance the unexpected losses.

Other teams relegated to NIT hopeful-status were Brigham Young (21-9), Xavier (20-7), Texas A&M; (19-10), Mississippi State (17-10) and Villanova (15-12).

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In all, there were 63 teams with 20 or more victories that were considered by the committee. Forty-five of them reached the tournament.

In something of a mild surprise, Tulsa, which was beaten early in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, and College of Charleston of the Trans America Conference both received NCAA invitations.

Charleston (24-3) was helped, Butters said, by a 22-point victory against Alabama.

In all likelihood, Charleston and Tulsa, both seeded No. 12 seeds, were the last two at-large teams added to the field of 64.

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Seven teams from the Big Ten Conference are in the tournament, followed by six from the Big East, five from the Atlantic Coast Conference, four from the Southeastern, Pac-10, Great Midwest--which receives no automatic bid--and the Big Eight conferences and three from the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Selections by Conference

A breakdown by conference of the 64 teams invited to the 1994 NCAA men’s basketball tournament:

SEVEN * Big Ten: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin.

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SIX * Big East: Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, Syracuse.

FIVE * Atlantic Coast: Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest.

FOUR * Big Eight: Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State. * Great Midwest: Alabama Birmingham, Cincinnati, Marquette, St. Louis. * Pacific 10: Arizona, California, UCLA, Washington State. * Southeastern: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky.

THREE * Atlantic 10: George Washington, Massachusetts, Temple.

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TWO * Missouri Valley: Southern Illinois, Tulsa. * Sun Belt: Western Kentucky, Southwestern Louisiana. * Trans America: Central Florida, College of Charleston. * Western Athletic: Hawaii, New Mexico.

ONE * Big Sky: Boise State. * Big West: New Mexico State. * Big South: Liberty. * Colonial Athletic: James Madison. * Ivy: Pennsylvania. * Metro Athletic: Louisville. * Metro Atlantic Athletic: Loyola (Md.) * Mid-American: Ohio U. * Mid-Continent: Wisconsin Green Bay. * Mid-Eastern Athletic: North Carolina A&T.; * North Atlantic: Drexel. * Northeast: Rider. * Ohio Valley: Tennessee State. * Patriot: Navy. * Southern: Tennessee Chattanooga. * Southland: Southwest Texas State. * Southwest: Texas. * Southwestern Athletic: Texas Southern. * West Coast: Pepperdine.


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