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The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament will play before a full house when it comes to Buffalo next year.

Tournament manager Rich Ensor announced Saturday that the first and second rounds of the 2000 NCAA East Regionals at Marine Midland Arena have been sold out. Buffalo is the first of the eight sub-regional sites to sell all of its tickets. The event is scheduled for March 17 and 19. The city last hosted the NCAA's in 1954.

"We're very pleased to have it sell out so quickly," said Ensor, commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which is co-hosting the regional with league members Canisius and Niagara. "It certainly makes our job easier because we can now focus on operations rather than sales and marketing. It's reflective of the interest in the area for college basketball. It's an interest we see growing and one we're hoping to nurture by hosting the NCAA. It's good news to the MAAC and the arena."

Western New York fans have often been less than receptive to college basketball. But when the arena began accepting applications from February to April, the response was immediate. Over 12,000 seats will be distributed in the region, and about 7,000 seats have gone into a general public lottery. Fans will be notified by mail whether they were chosen for tickets through a random drawing.

"We were able to fill about 75 percent of the requests through our lottery system, and at the same time guarantee that the majority of the seats will be filled by Western New Yorkers and fans from Southern Ontario," said Ron Bertovich, executive vice president/administration of the arena.

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