Want a higher seeding? It's not who you know, really, but who you play

Committee's 3 criteria: schedule, schedule and schedule, says Martelli

NCAA tournament notebook

College Basketball

March 15, 2001|By Christian Ewell and Don Markus | Christian Ewell and Don Markus,SUN STAFF

St. Joseph's claim to a high seed in the NCAA tournament was about the same as Georgetown's - a nice glossy record and membership in a power conference.

However, while Hoyas coach Craig Esherick bristled at his team's No. 10 seed, St. Joseph coach Phil Martelli tipped his cap to the selection committee, which sent his Philadelphia-based team to San Diego with a No. 9 seed.

"I applaud the committee. They stayed absolutely consistent," Martelli said. "What they said was that strength of schedule was the No. 1 criteria, the No. 2 criteria and the No. 3 criteria.

"If you didn't get hit in the back of the head, you got hit on the front of the head, and every coach who wants to make this tournament, they told you flat-out how you are going to make this tournament."

The Hawks (25-6), who play Georgia Tech at 2:40 p.m. today, won the Atlantic 10 regular season before falling to Massachusetts in the league's tournament.

However, five of their six losses came to teams that did not make the tournament, and that may have had something to do with the low seed.

"You're not going to hear us gnashing our teeth," said Martelli, who plans to shore up his schedule next season. "We have three games to get. These three games will fulfill the criteria that was set."

Talk of the town

The lovable, and extreme, underdog for the West Regional is UNC-Greensboro, which won its way into the tournament when David Shuck made a last-second tip to beat Chattanooga in the Southern Conference title game.

The No. 16-seeded Spartans will probably end their season today against No. 1-ranked Stanford. However, the last two weeks have been enjoyable for Schuck and his teammates, who now get attention and a free cross-country trip.

Is there irony in "UNCG" -- as the Spartans call themselves -- traveling 3,000 miles when NCAA tournament games will be played minutes away from the campus at Greensboro Coliseum?

"We were very excited to be going to San Diego, then we figured out who we were playing and we were still a little excited about playing Stanford," said guard Courtney Eldridge, who leads his team in scoring (14.7 ppg).

The Spartans, playing in the shadow of nearby Wake Forest and, a little farther away, Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State, don't command much notice. The average crowd at Fleming Gym was 1,243.

But while it's been a thrill for Schuck - who averages 14 points and eight rebounds - to watch TV replays of his game-winning shot, he's been even more impressed by the reception of the whole team.

"We all know that the ACC is the tops in our area as far as what the media will go after," Schuck said. But right now, the Spartans are "what Greensboro is talking about. They're not talking about Duke."

Reversal of misfortune

Utah State coach Stew Morrill is trying to change a long-standing tradition of one-and-done in the NCAA tournament.

This will mark the school's 14th appearance and second straight under Morrill; but, the Aggies haven't won their last nine tournament games, dating from 1970.

Twelfth-seeded Utah State (27-5) will take on fifth-seeded Ohio State (20-10) in today's first East Regional game at the Greensboro Coliseum.

"Last year I talked about our proud tradition," said Morrill, who came to Utah State in 1999 after seven years at Colorado State and four at Montana. "The next day reporters said, `Yeah, but you haven't won in 30 years.' So, I have to be careful what I say."

Morrill would like to make the kind of run his alma mater has made the past two years.

"Years ago, I mentioned Gonzaga, people thought it was some kind of disease," said Morrill, a 1974 graduate.

The Aggies have an interesting collection of players. Four of the five seniors who are part of Morrill's regular rotation came to Logan last season, led by Bernard Rock. The 5-foot-10 point guard, who grew up playing against Stephon Marbury, has nine tattoos and two Big West championship rings.

"We're just going to play Utah State basketball and not get caught up in all the hype," said Rock. "We want other schools to know that just because we're from the Big West, we can play basketball."

Dimitri Jorssen, the 7-footer who'll be matched against Ohio State's Ken Johnson, liked what he saw when the team arrived in North Carolina.

"This feels like home," said Jorssen. "It's green. There are a lot of trees."

Jorssen was talking about his real home in Belgium, a place called Theaux.

If it's Thursday, it must be Greensboro.

Duke's Williams tests ankle

Duke guard Jason Williams went through a full practice yesterday with the Blue Devils in Durham, then through a shoot-around at the Greensboro Coliseum. Late in the shoot-around, Williams seemed to grab at his left ankle, which he sprained in Sunday's ACC tournament championship game against North Carolina.

"It's getting better day by day," said Williams, who didn't seem to push off the ankle much during the shoot-around. "When the game comes, the adrenalin will be going and I'm sure it won't bother me much."

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