HOW IT SHOULD SHAPE UP

Times Staff Writer

Order of teams by conference RPI rank:

Automatic Bids (31)

*--* Team Conference Rec Comment Kentucky* Southeastern 28-3 Tubby Smith might become only the 11th coach to win two NCAA titles Oklahoma* Big 12 23-6 A victory over Missouri in Big 12 championship game today could mean a No. 1 seeding Duke* Atlantic Coast 23-6 N.C. State, Duke's opponent in ACC final, probably has played its way in Pittsburgh Big East 26-4 After winning Big East tourney title, Ben Howland's team might claim a No. 1 seeding Illinois* Big Ten 23-6 If Ohio State (17-13) wins, the at-large hopefuls lose a spot Colorado State Mountain West 19-13 Improbable tournament victory over UNLV by a team that lost seven in a row at one point Oregon Pacific 10 23-9 Luke Ridnour's star power showed as the Ducks stole the Pac-10 tournament Louisville Conference USA 24-6 The return of Marvin Stone helps, but rebounder Ellis Myles is missed Dayton Atlantic 10 24-5 Not a big name, but the Flyers have game San Diego West Coast 18-11 The Toreros' victory made Gonzaga sweat Central Michigan Mid-American 23-6 Seven-foot junior Chris Kaman is a future first-round pick Creighton Missouri Valley 29-4 Kyle Korver and Co. upset Florida in the first round last year TULSA Western Athletic 22-9 Memories: Tulsa was the preseason No. 25 Wisconsin Milwaukee Horizon 24-7 One of three teams in tournament from the state of Wisconsin Western Kentucky Sun Belt 24-8 Turns out, the Hilltoppers are good even without 7-footer Chris Marcus Manhattan Metro-Atlantic 23-6 Speedy guard Luis Flores is a scoring star N. Carolina Wilmington Colonial Ath. Assn 24-6 Los Angeles fans -- especially Trojans -- should remember Brett Blizzard Weber St Big Sky 26-5 The Wildcats want a Cinderella label Austin Peay Ohio Valley 23-7 Who was Peay? A governor of Tennessee East Tenn. State Southern 20-10 Back in 1992, ETSU upset third-seeded Arizona in the first round Utah State Big West 24-8 Big West hasn't been a two-bid league since 1993 Troy State Atlantic Sun 26-5 Capable of throwing a scare into someone Pennsylvania Ivy League 21-5 All-around game makes Quakers a threat Sam Houston State Southland 23-6 Sam Houston-Steph en F. Austin final was a Texas history lesson Vermont America East 21-11 This team screams first-half blowout Holy Cross Patriot 26-4 Bob Cousy's alma mater is getting to be a tournament regular IND. Purdue Indianapolis Mid-Continent 20-13 The announcers just enjoy the chance to say it: IUPUI N. Carolina Asheville Big South 14-16 Despite record, UNCA might avoid the play-in game because tough schedule boosted its RPI Wagner Northeast 21-10 Get ready for replays of Coach Dereck Whittenburg's airball "pass" to Lorenzo Charles for N.C. State in the 1983 title game S. Carolina State Mid-Eastern Athletic 20-10 With an RPI near 200, book those tickets for Dayton Texas Southern Southwestern Athletic 16-12 Hello, play-in game. (RPI below 200.)

*--*

* Projected to win automatic bid. Otherwise, team will receive an at-large Bid.

At-Large (34)

Order of teams by RPI:

*--* Arizona Pacific 10 25-3 The Wildcats deserve a No. 1 seeding despite merely dropping by for the Pac-10 tourney Texas Big 12 22-6 It sometimes seems the only person who can stop T.J. Ford is T.J. Ford Kansas Big 12 25-7 Loss to Missouri hurt shot at a No. 1 seeding Wake Forest Atlantic Coast 24-5 Nobody will remember Deacons as ACC's best if they don't show it in NCAA tourney Syracuse Big East 24-5 This might be your one chance to catch Carmelo Anthony in the NCAA tournament Marquette Conference USA 23-5 Once he's in the NBA, everyone will know how to spell Dwyane Wade's name Florida Southeastern 24-7 It's time to make up for last season's first-round loss to Creighton Notre Dame Big East 22-9 The Irish faded badly down the stretch with four losses in the their last five games Utah Mtn. West 24-7 Strong record, but the Utes did not finish strong Stanford Pacific 10 23-8 With this attitude, Stanford might not ever win the Pac-10 tournament Xavier Atlantic 10 25-5 David West is the odds-on favorite for national player of the year Brigham Young Mountain West 23-8 The Cougars tied Utah for the regular-season MWC title Oklahoma State Big 12 21-9 Eddie Sutton is coaching in his 23rd NCAA tournament Missouri Big 12 21-9 Surprise run to the Big 12 title game makes Tigers worth watching Wisconsin Big Ten 22-7 Regular-season champions in the thoroughly unimpressive Big Ten Mississippi State Southeastern 21-8 Fortunately for Bulldogs, they don't have to beat Kentucky today to make the field Memphis Conference USA 23-6 John Calipari is back in tournament for first time since '96 Final Four with Massachusetts St. Joseph's Atlantic 10 23-6 Hawks aren't all Jameer Nelson, but Delonte West's sore foot is a concern Michigan State Big Ten 18-11 Once given up for dead, the Spartans often play their best late in season Connecticut Big East 21-9 Coach Calhoun and Huskies recovering fine Purdue Big Ten 18-10 A 42-point performance against Michigan State inspires zero confidence Cincinnati Conference USA 17-11 The Bearcats had to share the conference glory this season Arizona State Pacific 10 19-11 Get a load of freshman Ike Diogu, virtually unstoppable once he gets the ball California Pacific 10 21-8 Bears were only 3-4 down the stretch Maryland Atlantic Coast 19-9 Defending champions not given much chance of defending successfully Southern Illinois Missouri Valley Conf 24-6 Regular-season champs, but lost to Creighton by 24 in MVC title game Butler Horizon 25-5 Could Butler be snubbed again? Louisiana State Southeastern 21-10 One of only three teams to beat Arizona, though granted, Luke Walton didn't play Seton Hall Big East 17-11 Won 10 of its last 13 Gonzaga West Coast 23-8 Back to natural role: Underdog Indiana Big Ten 20-12 Late run saved Hoosiers from going from Final Four to National Invitation Tournament Colorado Big 12 20-11 Victories over Kansas, Texas, help case Boston College Big East 18-11 The Eagles won the East Division title and 10 of their last 13 games NC State Atlantic Coast 18-11 Wolfpack has shot at ACC title, but if left out and North Carolina is in, controversy will be huge

*--*

NCAA TOURNAMENT DATES, SITES PLAY-IN GAME

Tuesday...University of Dayton (Ohio) Arena

SUB-REGIONALS

First Round...Thursday and Friday

Second Round...Saturday and Sunday

Sites: Thursday and Saturday games -- Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.; RCA Dome, Indianapolis; John M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City; Spokane Arena, Spokane, Wash. Friday and Sunday games -- FleetCenter, Boston; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Fla.; Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, Birmingham, Ala.; Gaylord Entertainment Center, Nashville.

REGIONALS

South...March 28 and 30, Alamodome, San Antonio

East...March 28 and 30, Pepsi Arena, Albany, N.Y.

Midwest...March 27 and 29, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis

West...March 27 and 29, Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim

FINAL FOUR

Site...Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

Semifinals...April 5

Championship game...April 7

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