CHARLOTTESVILLE, FEB. 14 -- Four weeks from today bids go out for the NCAA tournament and already the scrambling has begun.
Consider, for example, the Colonial Athletic Association. This is a league that in the 1980s has produced good teams from James Madison, Navy and Richmond.
Those schools have won tournament games against Ohio State, Syracuse, Auburn, Tulsa and Louisiana State. Yet, the odds are the only bid the league will get will be the automatic one that goes to the conference tournament winner.
"I think Richmond deserves a bid whether they win the tournament or not," said George Mason Coach Rick Barnes after the Spiders had beaten his team, 62-60, Saturday night.
"They're 17-5 and they've won at Georgia Tech and Arizona State and played North Carolina tough. How can they not get in?"
Easy. The NCAA selection committee is affected by politics just like any bureaucracy. Big name teams -- TV teams -- get in over teams like George Mason and Richmond. "I would hope we'd get an at-large bid if we didn't win the tournament," Richmond Coach Dick Tarrant said. "But I sure don't want to have to count on it."
George Mason (16-7) and Richmond both should get in. But one of them probably won't. In the meantime, teams like Notre Dame and Louisville, who haven't beaten anyone any good, will get bids and fairly high seedings.
If you are going by leagues right now, the ACC probably will get five bids -- North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State and Georgia Tech are locks and Maryland, barring a complete collapse, will also get in. If the Terrapins win 16 games, they'll get a bid although, ironically, Virginia could finish ahead of them in the league and not get in.
The Big East also will get five bids: Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown and St. John's, with Seton Hall needing a strong finish. The Big Ten gets five: Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, with Ohio State still in the running. The Southeastern Conference gets at least three: Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt with LSU, Auburn and Georgia possible. The Big Eight has four: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, with Iowa State still a possibility despite a 2-7 Big Eight record.
The Western Athletic Conference gets four: Brigham Young, Wyoming, Texas-El Paso and either Utah or New Mexico. It won't hurt Utah that tournament director Arnie Ferrin is a vice president at the school. As for the Pacific-10, the only lock is Arizona although Stanford's upset of the Wildcats puts them in contention.
Top seeds? Arizona in the West; Purdue in the Midwest; Brigham Young in the Southeast (the Cougars must play there or in the East because they do not play on Sunday) and the ACC champion in the East. Any questions? Coaching Made Easy
If you like to watch basketball clinics, the Palestra was the place to be Tuesday. Princeton beat Pennsylvania, 60-57, as Coach Pete Carrill's team ran his beloved weave to perfection. Asked after the game his secret to coaching, Carrill bit down on his dead cigar and said:
"My players tell me how to coach by the way they play. If a guy is a good shooter, I tell him to shoot. If he can drive, I tell him to drive. If he can pass, I tell him to pass."
Simple, huh? By the way, the Ivy has one of its best races ever going: Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn and Cornell all have two losses with three weeks left . . .
TV nod of the week goes to Lefty Driesell. The Lefthander told the audience with 18 seconds left in Carolina's overtime victory over N.C. State that he thought Jim Valvano might want to foul even with the score tied. Valvano said after the game that was exactly what he wanted to do but his players couldn't get to J.R. Reid in time when he had the ball.
One other Lefty note: He has a new hobby: skiing. Driesell and his wife Joyce made their debut on skis this weekend. "I was okay getting started," Driesell said. "But I had trouble stopping. I kept running into trees and fences and stuff. Joyce outshone me completely." . . .
N.C. State guard Chris Corchiani is making a bid for ACC rookie of the year. Saturday against Louisville, he had six assists and no turnovers while the hapless Cardinals guards had six assists and 11 turnovers . . .
Picking a coach of the year in the Big East won't be easy. Rollie Massimino has done terrific work bringing Villanova back from last year's disaster; his good friend, Pittsburgh's Paul Evans, has worked wonders being in first place with two freshman guards and Jim Calhoun at Connecticut and Jim O'Brien at Boston College have done good jobs bringing their programs back to respectability . . .
Quote of the week: Princeton's John Thompson, talking about his decision on where to go to college: "If I hadn't gone to Princeton, I think I would have gone to Georgetown. Why? I like their coach."
The Hoyas' coach likes him, too. Fathers tend to be that way. The Very Upset Pick
The Upset Pick had a disastrous week. Temple beat Villanova in a fabulous game and Indiana got blasted by Michigan. The record is 7-11 and that has to bring some luck. This week: Holy Cross ends La Salle's unbeaten streak in the MAAC and Alabama rights itself for one night and beats Vanderbilt.