The NCAA championship basketball tournament immediately gets serious today, with such powers as UCL and Kansas Kentucky and Florida State and San Francisco and North Carolina bumping heads in the first round.
The West and Mideast first-round regional games will be played today, with the East and Midwest regions playing their first-round games tomorrow.
Because of the NCAA's new seeding procedure and because so many good teams this year are at-large entries forced to play outside their normal regions, the West and Mideast half of the tournament draw is top-heavy with seven of the Associated Press' top 10 teams and eight of United Press International's top 10.
The pairings caused a lot of grumbling among coaches, but as Joe Hall, coach of top-ranked Kentucky, said, "You have to beat everyone to win the championship, so in the long run, what difference does it make what order you play them in?"
The Wildcats play 13th-ranked Florida State today in Knoxville, Tenn. If they get by the Seminoles, they probably will face third-ranked and defending national champion Marquette next week in the Mideast semifinals at Dayton.
Marquette Coach Hank Raymonds was among the most anguished when the parings were announced, calling them unfair, "especially to Marquette and to Kentucky."
He has mellowed and now says, "We're just going down there and play whoever we have to and kick the hell out of them."
To get a shot at Kentucky, the Warriors must beat Mid-American champion Miami of Ohio today in Indianapolis.
Five of the top 10 - UCLA, Kansas, Arkansas, New Mexico and North Carolina - will be playing in the first round of the West regional in Eugene, Ore., and Tempe, Ariz.
In perhaps the biggest game of the day, the No. 2 ranked Bruins will play the eighth-ranked Jayhawks. UCLA (24-2) is the Pac-Eight champion, while Kansas (24-4) is an at-large entry from the Big Eight.
The two teams are similar in style, depending on la balanced scoring attack with good outside shooting and strong defenses.
Kansas held its opponents to the lowest shooting percentage in the nation, 40.5, while UCLA was fourth in that defensive category.
UCLA is more explosive and likes to fast break when possible.The Bruins' strengths are at guard, with Roy Hamilton and Raymond Townsend, and at forward with All-America David Greenwood and his 17.6 scoring average. UCLA's two losses were to Notre Dame.
Kansas uses a three-guard offense with 7-foot-1 Paul Mokeski and 6-10 Ken Koenigs up front. Freshman Darnell Valentine, the point guard with a 13.9 average, led the Big Eight in steals and assists.
The winner of the Kansas-UCLA game will face the Arkansas-Weber State winner in the West semifinals next week in Albuquerque.
The Razorbacks have more victories (28) than any other team in the tournament, but lost to Houston in the Southwest Conference tournament. That shoved them into the West regional instead of lthe Midwest, which would have made for an easier trip to the final four.
Arkansas was 26-1 going into the NCAA tournament last year and then lost to Wake Forest in the first round. There are four starters back from lthat team - Jim Counce, Ron Brewer, Marvin Delph and Sidney Moncrief.
"Our players will be a little more mature in their approach this year," Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton said. "Our experience should be an advantage, but when you get to the NCAA everyone is pretty good or they wouldn't be there. All we have to do is go out there and play our normal game."
Weber State (19-9), the Big Sky champion, starts four sophomores. The best of them is 6-5 Bruce Collins with a 19-point average.
"They try to do a lot of things we do," said Sutton. "They put a lot of emphasis on defense and they are a disciplined team that doesn't take very many bad shots."
Injuries seem to be in the spotlight in the San Francisco-North Carolina matchup in Tempe.
"Our major problem is the health of center Jeff Wolf," said Carolina Coach Dean Smith. "Doctors have said he can practice, but not play. So obviously we are going to let him play but not practice. After the Wake Forest game (in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament) his knee was swollen for three days."
Forward Mike O'Koren is still bothered by a sore ankle. But as BOb Gaillard, the San Francisco coach said, "How is Phil Ford? If he's okay , North Carolina is okay.
San Franscisco's James Hardy is coming back after suffering a broken thumb on his shooting hand and isn't expected to be able to help the Dons much. Both coaches are expecting a slow-down game.
The dark horse in the West could very well be New Mexico. The Lobos (24-3) led the nation in scoring, and with the regional finals on their home floor in Albuquerque, could be tough. Their first-round opponent today is Fullerton State.
In the Mideast regional, the magic show, as they call Big Ten champion Michigan State, meets Providence in Indianapolis, after the Marquette-Miami game.
The Spartans, 23-4, are one of the big surprises of this year and the man most responsible is 6-8 Earvin (Magic) Johnson. He is one of the most versatile college players in the nation, averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists a game. Although only a freshman, he controls both the ball and the game.
Miami isn't given much chance against Marquette, but Coach Darrell Hedric said his team, (18-8) "never went into a game it didn't think it could win and this one is no exception."
The Kentucky-Florida State game will be a speed-versus-muscle confrontations. There is no team quicker than Florida State and none stronger than Kentucky. If the Seminoles can get the Wildcats into a running game, Kentucky could run out of breath.