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Originally published March 17, 2014 at 3:55 PM | Page modified March 17, 2014 at 7:55 PM

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Bracket racket: Bud Withers takes a look at the NCAA tournament

OK, maybe it was a tough season in our state for college hoops. But the states of Indiana and Illinois went a combined 0 for 23 in Div. I teams making the tournament.


Seattle Times college basketball reporter

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Bracket racket:

• Never has it felt less important to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. There are threats all over the place with weaker numbers attached, like Louisville (4), Michigan State (4) and Iowa State (3).

• Or perhaps we’re just under-appreciating teams like Virginia and Wichita State, which do it with defense and fundamentals rather than dazzling athletes. Got to be pretty good to win the ACC regular-season and tournament titles.

• Funny that the buzzword for 2014 is parity, in a year in which three teams — Syracuse, Arizona and Wichita State — entered February undefeated.

• Can’t remember less controversy over bubble teams, although you could get an argument from the 1,000 hosted by Southern Methodist for a Selection Sunday party. Mustangs weren’t one of the 68 teams named. Oops.

• These aren’t the most bullish of times for college hoops in Washington, but think about this: The states of Indiana and Illinois went 0 for 23 combined in their Division I teams making it to the Big Dance.

• Good for Washington for saying no to the College Basketball Irrelevance, uh, Invitational, after failing to make the NIT. Oregon State, meanwhile, will be in its fourth CBI in the past six years, apparently figuring fans won’t remember that next year will mark the quarter-century pole since it made the NCAA.

• What’s next, the Postseason Gala for the Peeved, Aggrieved and Underperforming?

• Here’s one out-of-the-box notion making the rounds if Washington State athletic director Bill Moos pulls the plug on the wheezing Ken Bone regime: Moos calls back Kelvin Sampson, 58, who brings along his son Kellen, 28-year-old assistant at Appalachian State in a Bennett-style takeover. The elder Sampson, who coached the Cougars from 1987-94, is a Houston Rockets assistant after twice getting whacked for NCAA violations for excessive phone calls while at Oklahoma and Indiana.

• Wonder how they felt at Pac-12 headquarters Friday night when Fox Sports 1 — remember, Fox did some strange things with the league’s football last fall — began its telecast of the UCLA-Stanford semifinal with 10:56 left in the first half and the Bruins up 24-7? The Xavier-Creighton game preceding it ran long.

• It’s 15 straight for Mark Few, an ongoing NCAA record for making the tournament at the start of a head-coaching career.

• The coach in the tournament with the most colorful background? Maybe Cliff Ellis, 68, who is not only leading a fourth team into the NCAAs (Coastal Carolina), he sang baritone for a popular mid-60s group in the Southeast, the Villagers, and has released multiple records. Oh, and he was once an ostrich farmer.

• Now there’s buzz that boosters want to buy out Tom Crean at Indiana, which means Tony Bennett must have known what he was doing when he nixed $2 million a year to coach the Hoosiers back in spring 2008, just off WSU’s only Sweet 16 appearance. If Bennett had started as methodically at Indiana as he did at Virginia, it probably would be his scalp on the line. Instead, he went to a place with an AD who played the game (Craig Littlepage at Penn) at a place where they’re interested in basketball, but not consumed by it.

• About those No. 1 seeds: In the past four years, only three of a possible 16 have made it to the Final Four. But those three won the whole thing.

• In its fourth hosting of first-weekend games, Spokane gets the usual motley ration of No. 4 and 5 seeds and lower. Highest seed it has hosted is No. 3 Oregon in 2007, owing to the relative geographic isolation and the scarcity of high seeds nearby. In other words, the NCAA’s pod system has hurt the city in attracting the most marquee programs.

• Nice of the committee, though, to put Michigan State in Spokane, where ex-coach Jud Heathcote only has to drive, not fly, to cackle at his protégé, Tom Izzo.

• First tournament announcer to say “tonight“ when it’s 1:30 in the afternoon should be made to get down on his knees in his Brooks Brothers suit and spoon out the Viaduct tunnel while Bertha is idle.

• Yeah, the committee is supposed to look at each matchup without regard to politics or history. But somebody in that Indy hotel room must giggle when Dayton gets matched up against big brother Ohio State, which hasn’t scheduled the Flyers since 1988.

• Next year, it’s a Northwest hoops fan’s dream: First-weekend games in Portland March 19 and 21, and at KeyArena March 20 and 22 — two cities, four days, 12 games.

Sign me up.

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



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