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If it's Tempe, Ariz., this must be DePaul, as in DeRailed. If it's Greensboro, N.C., this must be Iowa, as in Injuries. If it's Ogden, Utah, this must be Clemson, as in Claim Jumpers. Especially, if it's Loyal Marymartin and Acorn Street—make that Loyola Marymount and Alcorn State—what we've got here must be another NCAA basketball tournament.
Sure enough, folks, flaunting geography, logic and fairness to all—or at least to those seeded teams outside the inviolable boundaries of Fayette County, Ky.—here came the elephantine NCAAs last week, all skillion sites, zillion teams and lebenty-leben thousand players worth, to gladden the hearts of expansionists everywhere.
This was the year the NCAA's nine-man selection committee promised big and bold things. A 48-team field. Balanced regionals—i.e., the best clubs, record- and schedule-wise, scattered throughout the land and seeded according to past performances. Yet the committee's placing of teams managed to offend just about every section of the country and produce the following:
? St. John's and Ohio State, both seeded, were sent away from their home regions and wound up having to play Purdue and Arizona State, respectively, on the Boilermakers' and Sun Devils' inhospitable home courts. Ohio State survived; St. John's didn't.
?Most absurd of all, No. I DeServing DePaul was banished to the Arizona desert more than 1,800 miles from its Mideast territory and lost to UCLA, while Kentucky, which was beaten in the SEC tournament finals, was permitted to stay in state last weekend and, after a second-round 97-78 victory over Florida State, to play at home this weekend in the Mideast Regional at Lexington.
Even usually jovial Lamar Coach Billy Tubbs was angry. His men had faced no fewer than 11 tournament-bound teams this season, but a committee member judged Lamar's schedule only the 77th toughest in the land and the Beaumont, Texas school was shuttled out of the Midwest and into the West. The Cards won twice anyway, over Weber State and Oregon State. "Next year we'll schedule the Lakers," Tubbs said.
The pros would be well advised to stay out of the Mideast Regional, which contains three consensus All-America players, two consensus former No. 1 teams and one coach whose straw stirs the consensus drink. Bobby who?
Duke has defeated Kentucky, while Kentucky has defeated Indiana and Purdue, who have defeated each other, but here they all are again. The site of this weekend's Mideast games, Kentucky's home court, gives the advantage to the Wildcats, if only they can figure out who they'll be playing. Will it be the embarrassed Duke that lost five of seven at the end of the regular season? Or the intense Duke that rampaged through the ACC tournament and whipped deliberate Penn 52-42 in last week's second round?
The Blue Devils are a schizoid's delight, having lost their coach—Bill Foster, who will take over at South Carolina—and found their soul at about the same time. But even equipped with the same enthusiasm that characterized their rush to the NCAA finals two years ago, Mike Gminski, Gene Banks & Co. can't be expected to continue their valiant comeback against the deeper, more versatile Wildcats.