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Originally published March 19, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified March 20, 2012 at 5:22 PM

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Random hoop notes on a tattered bracket

Seattle Times college basketball reporter Bud Withers takes a look at the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, and beyond.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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Notes on the margins of a tattered, battered, shattered bracket:

• So now it's the second week of the NCAA tournament, also known as the Sweet 16 East of Wall Drug.

• Funny thing about the impotence of the West this year: In the four mid- to upper-level leagues — the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast and WAC — only one coach has been fired. That's Jeff Reynolds of Air Force, cashiered in February. But there will be a whole lotta coaches on hot seats next season, particularly in the Pac-12.

• Frank Burlison, the longtime Long Beach, Calif., writer-cum-scout, told me Monday he sees a "gradual rebuild" for Pac-12 fortunes, with UCLA and Arizona on top next year (UCLA decisively, if it lands top-shelf Las Vegas recruit Shabazz Muhammad). Of course, "gradual" can mean a much bigger representation in the NCAA tournament, if a handful of teams improve even marginally.

• Oh, and what kind of odds would you have given me in October if I'd taken Colorado to be the only Pac-12 team to win a game in the tournament?

• With the Pac-12's two-team representation, there was some scattered yowling about the Big East being overrated, not deserving nine teams, etc. But it's hard to argue with its four teams in the Sweet 16.

• I've been watching college hoops since about when Phog Allen roamed a sideline, and never saw a violation for a player entering the circle before a free throw hit the rim. And twice it happens within 32 hours in pivotal moments of NCAA games. Think a few coaches will be mentioning that when practice begins next October?

• The NCAA needs to revisit the late start of games like Cincinnati-Florida State on Sunday night, and not just because by then, people are ready to move on (yes, even from March Madness). That game got over about 11:10 p.m. in Nashville, the Bearcats boarded a bus and got home about 6 a.m. Meanwhile, Ohio State, Cincy's next opponent, was done with Gonzaga about 5 p.m. Saturday in Pittsburgh. That's fair?

• The Cincinnati-Ohio State regional semi marks the 50-year anniversary of their last meeting in the tournament. Two years in a row (1961-62), the Bearcats upset the Buckeyes in the title game. Much of the interim, OSU has spent avoiding Cincy on the schedule.

• Syracuse's Jim Boeheim in Buffalo in 2010 was relaxed, expansive and jovial. Boeheim in Pittsburgh over the weekend was whiny, preachy and couldn't be prodded off the interview podium.

• I'm convinced there's little home-crowd advantage in NCAA games because the arenas are so expansive and the fans so mixed. It was an inconvenience, for instance, for Gonzaga to travel three time zones, but the crowds had no adverse impact.

• The unabashed tears on the podium from Memphis' Will Barton and Saint Louis' Brian Conklin are raw and hard to watch, but that's one thing that makes the tournament great: kids caring.

• Mammoth upsets like the pair of 15-versus-2 matchups Friday shouldn't be confused with hair-raising suspense. Throwing out the play-in games, the tournament has featured 10 outcomes of three points or less, compared to 12 a year ago and 13 in 2010. (The mother of all cliff-hanging tournaments was in 1990, with 16 such games through the first weekend.)

• Ducks against Huskies at Edmundson Pavilion on Tuesday night to go to New York in the NIT: good stuff not usually found beyond the big tournament.

• Annually, Gonzaga goes to San Francisco and gets met with a full house and everything but pitchforks and torches. WSU goes there for the CBI opener, 1,277 show up and the Cougars win by 14.

• Word on the street is that forward Anthony Bennett, the Findlay Prep (Nev.) forward ardently recruited by Washington, among many others, will pick either UNLV or Florida.

• Mark McLaughlin, the 6-foot-6 former Inglemoor High and Seattle U swingman, is deciding among Boise State, Washington, Gonzaga, Oregon State and West Virginia. Carl Howell, McLaughlin's coach at Tacoma Community College, said Monday that opportunity will be important to McLaughlin: "He needs to go somewhere where he'll be a starter and be one of their (chief) guys, not be an eighth or ninth man. I don't think there's any issues with Mark if he's playing. It'd be hard to go in somewhere and play 10 minutes a game."

• San Jose and Salt Lake City are the two Western sub-regional sites next year. And for the regional, because you so loved it for the Pac-12 tournament, Staples Center in L.A.

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


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