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Originally published Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Sun Devils burned, and more racket on bracket

Postcards from the edge of Bracketville: • Please, no more fussing about an expanded NCAA tournament. Right now, for 80 percent of...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Postcards from the edge of Bracketville:

• Please, no more fussing about an expanded NCAA tournament. Right now, for 80 percent of the schools, making the field is a real accomplishment. Let's not turn it into the ho-hum phenomenon of college football's bowl games.

• Tobacco Road has this thing figured out. Twelve times in the past 17 tournaments, either Duke or North Carolina has started March Madness at a subregional in North Carolina — and occasionally, gone on to a regional in the state.

• Props to Joe Lunardi, ESPN's bracketologist, who nailed the field in an exceedingly difficult year to do it. But as for seeds and sites, you'd be better off consulting a palm reader. In his bracket three hours before the selection show, Lunardi missed seeds on 34 teams — by two or three levels on eight of them — and 43 teams went to different sites than he projected.

• Only in America: Mississippi Valley State started 0-8, including a 71-26 loss to Washington State when it went 0 for 15 on threes, 2 for 9 at the foul line and scored nine points in the second half. Right on schedule, here's Jerry Rice's alma mater at 17-15 and in the Big Dance.

• "We really only protect the first five [seeds in each region]," basketball committee chair Tom O'Connor said Sunday, and his group proved it, sending No. 7 seed Butler to Birmingham to face No. 10 South Alabama and No. 7 Gonzaga to Raleigh to meet No. 10 Davidson. That's an injustice the committee needs to address.

• Or maybe the committee actually figured it was depriving Davidson of the NCAA travel experience. It's a shorter drive from that campus to Raleigh than it is from Seattle to Portland.

• Oh yeah, and if that's not enough, Gonzaga will play at 9:25 a.m. Friday body time (Pacific), and Davidson's Bob McKillop was second-most popular choice (to Michigan's John Beilein) in a Seattle Times survey last fall as the coach who consistently wins the most with the least talent.

• Speaking of surveys, in The Oakland Tribune's annual poll of Pac-10 writers, WSU's Tony Bennett was the most frequent choice for the question "If you could send your son to play for any Pac-10 coach." If I'm WSU, I'm embossing that on a flier and sending it to every kid in America with a crossover dribble.

• The feeling here is Arizona State did get shafted by the committee (right after it got jobbed by a Pac-10 official's call against USC on Thursday). There ought to be a recognition that at least you tried to have a respectable schedule. ASU publicist Doug Tammaro unearthed these five-year RPI averages of Sun Devils opponents against what the team did this season: Illinois, 17 and 103; LSU, 41 and 171; Princeton, 170 and 331.

• As for schedules that deceive, WSU's took a lot of heat — some deserved — in the preseason. But five nonleague opponents are in the NCAA tournament, including three — Baylor, Gonzaga, Boise State — that the Cougars beat on a true road floor.

• Your date will be impressed you know that this is the first time in the eight-year history of the dreaded play-in game that two teams from the same state (Maryland) will participate. Coppin State and Mount St. Mary's, 50 miles apart, try to kill each other off tonight in Dayton.

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• Two coaches who saved their jobs last weekend: Boise State's Greg Graham and Georgia's Dennis Felton.

• In fairness to Pac-10 officials, it's just a few calls that have made everybody look bad lately. The conference's supervisor of officials, Bill McCabe, said Monday he expects 17 to start the tournament this week and added, "Ed Rush [ex-NBA director of officials] was at the entire Pac-10 tournament. He said, 'There's no better officiating than what's going on in the Pac-10. It's three or four calls that are killing you.' " McCabe says the key ASU-USC call should have been made by an official on the offside.

• I'm not sure UCLA can go all the way without a healthy Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. All he does is defend just about any position on the floor, rebound and magnetize himself to any loose ball.

• Best quote of the Pac-10 tournament was from ASU's Jeff Pendergraph, asked if the Sun Devils had a good enough résumé for the NCAA even after the pivotal call that went against him: "I've never been to the tournament, so I don't know what it takes. I know what it takes not to go." Still does.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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