At high tide, Pacific looks to crest vs. Kansas today

Upstart 12th seed has won 16 in row, school-record 25 overall

Ncaa Regional St. Louis

March 21, 2004|By Ken Davis | Ken Davis,HARTFORD COURANT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Pacific basketball team's media guide brags of a "New England-like campus" situated in the Northern California town of Stockton. The description goes on to say that Stockton is close enough to San Francisco for an evening out or to Lake Tahoe for a weekend trip.

The school's public relations staff can be credited with the text, but coach Bob Thomason could serve on the board. He's in his 16th season at his alma mater and isn't bashful about his allegiance to the school.

After a first-round upset of No. 5 seed Providence Friday night, Thomason was the only one on the Tigers' bench who could compare the experience to Pacific's last victory in the NCAA tournament. He scored 11 points as Pacific beat Brigham Young, 84-81, in the 1971 West Regional consolation game.

"The problem is ... this is how old I am," Thomason said. "I played in the third-place game. That was back when everybody played two games."

Pacific is making its sixth NCAA appearance and has emerged as one of the Cinderella teams after bouncing Providence, 66-58. Guard Miah Davis, the Big West Player of the Year, will have to play the role of giant killer again today if the 12th-seeded Tigers (25-7) want to advance to the Sweet 16. Davis scored 19 points against Providence.

The Tigers play No. 4 seed Kansas (22-8) in the second round of the St. Louis Regional. And the Jayhawks have converted Kemper Arena into Allen Fieldhouse East. A crowd of 17,667 Friday saw Kansas dispose of Illinois-Chicago, 78-53.

"I thought it was a home game," Pacific forward Tyler Newton said.

However, power forward Wayne Simien, who leads Kansas, averaging 17.6 points and 9.1 rebounds, aggravated a groin injury Friday. He is probable today.

"He's sore. He couldn't play today," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said yesterday. "But when the juices get flowing and he has time to get into it, I think he'll be able to convince himself that he'll be able to go."

Pacific (25-7) will be ready to go. The Tigers have won 16 in a row and set a school record with their 25th win. They haven't lost since Jan. 15, a 66-51 setback at Utah State.

"If they want to call us a Cinderella team, they can go ahead and look at us like that," Davis said. "We don't look at ourselves like that. And we don't look at it as an insult."

Thomason has prepared his team for tournament opponents by playing tough schedules the past two years. Pacific lost to Duke, 82-69, in the Great Alaska Shootout and at St. Joseph's, 73-55, but the Tigers won at Nevada, 82-76, on Dec. 6. The Jayhawks lost at Nevada, 75-61, on Dec. 21.

"Last year ... we thought we had a core of guys that could be a good team and we wanted to expose them to good teams so that when you're playing them, you're not as nervous," Thomason said.

Pacific finished the 2002-03 season by losing nine of its last 10 for a 12-16 record. The plus-13 turnaround this season is second-best nationally, trailing only Texas-El Paso.

"I don't think there's any chance we'll overlook these guys," Self said.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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