Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and St. John's were named the top seeds in the four regions of the 64-team NCAA basketball tournament field announced yesterday. It included four teams from the Washington area, several potentially glamorous matchups, and at least one relatively surprising at-large selection in De Paul.
The field includes the past seven national champions and seven of last year's eight regional semifinalists, with only Boston College missing.
Georgetown, seeded fourth in the Midwest, will play Texas Tech, the Southwest Conference tournament champion, Thursday in Dayton, Ohio; Maryland, the fifth-seeded team in the West, will face Pepperdine of the West Coast Athletic Conference in Long Beach, Calif., Friday.
Navy, a surprisingly low seventh seed in the East with a particularly tough draw, will play Missouri Valley Conference champion Tulsa on Friday in Syracuse, N.Y. And in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, Virginia will meet De Paul, which, despite a 16-12 record, was offered a bid over two fellow independents -- Marquette and Dayton -- who had better records.
The 64-team field is free of controversy for the most part. Two 20-game winners in the Southwest Conference -- Texas Christian and Texas A&M -- were left out, as was California of the Pac-10, which had only two teams in the field. Virginia Athletic Director Dick Schultz, the chairman of the selection committee, said from Kansas City, Mo., that it was "a really down year for the Southwest Conference, and their schedules were just not that strong." Much the same thing could be said about California.
Only 14 teams west of the Mississippi are in the field, underscoring the weakness of basketball in the West. Thus "the mass exodus westward" for tournament games, Schultz said. One of those heading west, Bradley, was seeded seventh in the West despite having the second-best record (31-2) of the 64 teams.
The "toughest region" tag apparently goes to the Midwest, where Kansas, the nation's second-ranked team, is the No. 1 seed. Also in that region are seventh-ranked Michigan, the Big Ten champion; 12th-ranked Notre Dame; 14th-ranked Georgetown; 17th-ranked Michigan State; and 20th-ranked North Carolina State.
Eight teams will play in the tournament for the first time, including Mid-Continent winner Cleveland State, which got an at-large berth and will be matched with Indiana in the East regional.
North Carolina, which appeared to be a lock for a No. 1 seed before losing four of its last five games, was seeded only third in the West. The Tar Heels will have to play a "home team," Utah, in Ogden. The Tar Heels will be making their 12th consecutive tournament appearance, the longest current streak and one away from tying UCLA's all-time mark of 13. Georgetown has the second-longest current streak with eight; Arkansas, which had gone to the tournament nine straight years, did not make the field.
The top six teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference received bids, as did the top six from the Big Ten. The Big Eight, surprisingly, placed five teams in the field, a record for the conference. And the Colonial Athletic Association received its first at-large bid, Richmond.
Davidson, winner of the Southern Conference, will make its first appearance since 1970 when Lefty Driesell was head coach. Montana State, which earned an automatic bid by winning the Big Sky tournament, has the field's worst record (14-16).
Duke, the ACC champion, the top-ranked team in the nation and the team with the best record in the tournament (32-2), is the top seed in the East. Southeastern Conference winner Kentucky (29-3) is seeded No. 1 in the Southeast. Kansas (31-3), the Big Eight champion, is No. 1 in the Midwest and St. John's (30-4), the Big East champion, is No. 1 in the West.
Maryland and Georgetown could be relatively happy about their draws, at least for two rounds.
If Maryland can beat Pepperdine on Friday, the Terrapins (18-13) will advance to a second-round game against either Northeastern Louisiana or Nevada-Las Vegas, which beat Maryland by one point earlier this season when the Terrapins weren't playing nearly as well as they have the last two weeks.
Driesell was thumbing through the Pepperdine media guide in his office last night. "I don't know much about them," said the Maryland coach. "I know they've won their league two years in a row. Evidently, they're a good ballclub . . . . In my opinion, the way we played in February and the way we're playing now, we're a top 10 team."
Georgetown (23-7), which will be heavily favored to beat Texas Tech (17-13), would then get Michigan State (21-7) or Washington (19-11) before a possible matchup with Kansas in Kansas City, Mo.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson offered this evaluation of the field: "It looks the same to me every year," he said. "Frightening. There is no cakewalk this time of year."
Navy, on the other hand, likely will play Syracuse in the Carrier Dome if the Midshipmen beat Tulsa. Syracuse, which opens against Brown, beat Navy on the same floor, 89-67, in December.
"Syracuse would be the worst site in terms of probably having to play a team on its own court," Navy Coach Paul Evans said in a statement. "But we've got to advance for that to happen."
Virginia Coach Terry Holland, in a release, said he was "happy to be invited." And, as far as the fifth seed, Holland said, "I had no idea, but in retrospect, with where North Carolina State and Maryland were seeded, that's accurate."
Defending national champion Villanova is seeded 10th in the Southeast and will play Virginia Tech.
Winners of the first two rounds advance to regional sites in Houston (West), Atlanta (Southeast), East Rutherford, N.J., (East) and Kansas City, Mo., (Midwest), with the winners moving to Dallas for the Final Four March 29 and 31.
A limited number of tickets for Virginia's first- and second-round games at Greensboro, N.C., are available through the school's athletic ticket office. Orders will be accepted by telephone and in person beginning at 9 a.m. today. Navy, Maryland and Georgetown had not announced procedures for ticket sales as of late last night.