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Friday, March 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Final Four Notes: Boeheim in favor of expanding tourney

Seattle Times staff reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — March Madness has been so pulsating and exhilarating, Jim Boeheim wants to spread it around.

The Syracuse coach said Thursday at a news briefing by National Association of Basketball Coaches officers that he thinks it's time to expand the tournament by as many as 10 teams.

"This year has proven that teams that just got in, or maybe didn't get in, can win games," Boeheim said, referring to the Final Four run of George Mason and strong showings by Missouri Valley Conference teams.

Boeheim said he would recommend adding three to 10 teams, but admits it's a logistical problem. Unless the teams were added to the play-in game site on Tuesday night of the tournament's opening week, another weekend would be necessary to accommodate the expansion.

"I would strongly agree [with Boeheim]," said Oliver Purnell, Clemson coach. "George Mason could easily have been left out of the tournament."

The tournament has essentially been unchanged since 1985, when it was expanded from 48 to 64 teams. A play-in game was added in 2001, with the winner filling out the 64-team field.

NCAA president Myles Brand, speaking later, questioned whether "we need to take something not broken and fix it in some way.

Saturday's semifinals in Indianapolis

3:07 p.m. (Ch. 7): George Mason (27-7) vs. Florida (31-6) | 5:47 p.m. (Ch. 7): LSU (27-8) vs. UCLA (31-6)

"There hasn't been [significant] enthusiasm for [expansion] at this point."

Brand on Sampson

Brand's last employer, Indiana University, this week hired Kelvin Sampson to succeed Mike Davis as head coach. Asked what he thought of a school taking on someone with pending NCAA violations such as Sampson's at Oklahoma, Brand said, "Generally speaking, the board [of regents] and the president have to make a decision: Is this an anomaly or a pattern? Each institution has to make that decision itself."

Reaction to Sampson's hire has been mixed here. The most scathing criticism came from ex-Indiana forward Ted Kitchel, who played for Bob Knight. He told the Indianapolis Star he wouldn't have hired Sampson "to coach my fifth-grade girls team."

Notes

• Brand repeated an annual mantra, that no college-football playoff is on the horizon.

"I doubt very much we'll move to a large-scale tournament," he said, adding that school presidents are the decision-makers and so far "have shown no inclination" to a playoff.

• Washington senior Bobby Jones will play tonight for the NABC all-star team that will face the Globetrotters at Conseco Fieldhouse.

• UCLA backup center Lorenzo Mata broke his nose during the Bruins' first practice after arriving, and will wear a mask in Saturday's semifinal game against LSU. Mata was seen by an ear, nose and throat specialist Thursday, although no X-rays were taken, coach Ben Howland said.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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