- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2000

Well, at least Maryland made it. And on the women's side, so did George Washington. But it's going to be pretty quiet around here come NCAA Tournament time.
This is what happens when bubble teams like Virginia and George Mason bomb out in their conference tournaments and Navy gets smoked in the Patriot League championship game. The GW men completed our Week from Hell by going quietly in Atlantic-10 quarterfinals. Which leaves us with … turtle soup.
And more turtle soup.
We seem to be in the throes of what Edward Burns, in "She's the One," called a "down cycle." Only the "down cycle" in the movie was funny. This "down cycle" isn't. This "down cycle" bites.
Of course, it could be worse. We could be living in Cincinnati, where the Bearcats just lost star center Kenyon Martin and a certain No. 1 seed because of a broken leg. Talk about letting the air out of a balloon. Heck, this is like letting the air out of a zeppelin. Cincy had as good a chance as anybody to reach the Final Four. But with Martin incapacitated, it couldn't even beat the ninth seed, Saint Louis, in the Conference USA tournament.
Say goodnight, Bobby Huggins.
A lot of people will probably try to hand Cincinnati the All-Time Hard Luck Award this week, but the Bearcats are hardly the first highly ranked team that has been dealt such a blow late in the season. Let me refresh your memory:
Loyola Marymount, 1990: Star forward Hank Gathers collapses and dies of a heart condition in the West Coast Conference tournament. Result: The Lions rally behind Bo Kimble and make it to the West Region final, where the fairytale ends against eventual champ UNLV.
Indiana, 1975: All-American forward Scott May breaks his arm late in the season, but he returns to play albeit ineffectively with a cast. Result: The Hoosiers' perfect season goes poof when Kentucky edges them by two in the Mideast Region final.
Providence, 1973: Stud center Marvin Barnes dislocates his knee in the first half of the NCAA semifinals, with the game against Memphis State seemingly well in hand. Result: The Friars come apart without him and blow a nine-point lead in the second half.
Marquette, 1972: Is cruising along with a 21-0 record when center Jim Chones is declared ineligible for signing a pro contract. Result: The Warriors drop four of their final eight games and bow out in the Mideast semis.
St. Bonaventure, 1970: All-American center Bob Lanier blows out his knee in the East regional final, while the Bonnies are finishing off a 97-74 wipeout of Villanova. Result: The program still hasn't recovered. (Though St. Bona did make the NCAAs this year, only its second appearance since '70.)
Wichita State, 1965: The Shockers have to play the last half of the season without star forward Dave Stallworth, whose eligibility runs out after the first semester. Result: Miraculously, they get to the Final Four, but they're no match for Michigan in the semifinals.
As you can see, NCAA tournament has had a lot of sob stories, some even more tearful than Cincinnati's. What the Bearcats are going to have to do in the next few days is reinvent themselves, put on their lab coats and come up with another winning formula. (Lotsa luck.) They shouldn't have much trouble with North Carolina-Wilmington in the first round, but Tulsa assuming it beats UNLV will give them all they can handle in Round 2. Best-case scenario: Cincy gets snuffed by tournament-tough Ohio State in the South Region semis.
As for Maryland, the Terps earned a much-deserved third seed. But the NCAA Tournament is all about location, location, location and the Selection Committee did them no favors by putting them in the Midwest. The first and second seeds in the region, Michigan State and Iowa State, just won their conference tournaments and are playing as well as anyone. The Terps are also looking at a possible second-round matchup against UCLA, recent conqueror of Stanford. It looks like another Bittersweet 16 for Gary Williams.
But, who knows, this NCAA Tournament might surprise us like it surprised us in '85 with Villanova. For one thing, the field is so … weird. I count five teams that have had players suspended by the NCAA this season Cincinnati (DerMarr Johnson), Temple (Kevin Lyde), St. John's (Eric Barkley), Auburn (Chris Porter, who's gone for good) and UCLA (JaRon Rush). (And three of them are No. 2 seeds.) They shouldn't hold the tournament in an arena, they should hold in a prison exercise yard.
OK, I'm joking. But you have to admit, it gives these NCAAs a little different, uh, feel. (On the other hand, at least now we know the hard-hearted NCAA is capable of forgiveness or was it just desperate for decent teams to fill out its brackets? When North Carolina can get in on reputation alone, you know the pickings are pretty slim.)
Anyway, Temple, Ohio State, Michigan State and Arizona are my Final Four, with the Spartans breaking John Chaney's heart in overtime to win it all. That is, we have another broken leg or suspended player. Then all bets are off.

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