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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

NCAA tournament:
Expect the unexpected

THE NCAA men's basketball tournament is most marketable when it's most unpredictable.

Fortunately for the NCAA and its fans, unpredictability IS what this tournament markets.

Don't you love it when destiny is derailed? (Connecticut topples "unbeatable" Duke in the 1999 final.)

When a team wins in spite of itself? (Duke beats Kansas in the East this year while shooting 11 percent from 3-point range.)

When an underdog pulls an upset without a key player? (No. 10 seed Seton Hall upsets daunting second-seed Temple in the East with Shaheen Holloway sidelined.)

When a team that was supposed to make little more than a cameo appearance stakes a claim to the Sweet Sixteen? (North Carolina takes down Stanford.)

When the least likely to succeed succeeds? (Sixth-seeded UCLA advances while Pac-10 top seeds Stanford and Arizona fall).

It's kind of exciting to think we had a chance to see seven of the Sweet Sixteen right here in Hawaii this season: Tulsa, North Carolina, Florida, UCLA, Purdue, Gonzaga and LSU.

Tulsa has a very good chance to make it past Miami of Florida and into the Elite Eight.

If that happens, the downsized version of the WAC benefits from the prestige of having its regular season champion step to the middle of the dance floor.

University of Hawaii head coach Riley Wallace likes Tulsa to move ahead, and it's because the Golden Hurricane not only have a strong transition game but also a strong halfcourt game.

Halfcourt is where it's at when you get to this stage of March Madness, Wallace said.

"Tulsa's underrated," he said. "And they have been all year."

Few teams are as balanced on offense or as sound on defense as the Golden Hurricane. They have one of the nation's top thieves in versatile Eric Coley.

Wallace believes that Wisconsin will knock off LSU in the West to get into the Elite Eight.

He's calling for Gonzaga, the team that played a tortuous nonconference road schedule and couldn't make it to the Rainbow Classic finals, to upset Purdue.

HAVE to give first-year head coach Mark Few credit for pulling the Bulldogs through a 1999 schedule that got them bounced from the top 25, but managing to reinvigorate them for the Big Dance.

I recall Few moaning here in December about the fact that his players hadn't seen their home court in ages.

The Tar Heels will get to the Eight, Wallace thinks, even though he likes what he's seen of the Volunteers in the South.

He goes with everybody's favorite, Michigan State, over the Orangemen in the Midwest.

But he doesn't trust the Bruins to continue their run in the Midwest, so he takes Iowa State.

I heard Billy Donovan say more than once his team is high on talent but low on maturity. Wallace can't see the Gators getting past Duke.

And as exciting as they've been, Wallace doesn't see Seton Hall's Pirates sneaking by Oklahoma State.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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