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Powerful ACC could envy Missouri Valley

There's nothing like some good league bashing on the eve of the NCAA Tournament selections. Maryland coach Gary Williams has been ripping on the Missouri Valley Conference all week as his underachieving team tries to sneak into the field of 65. The Valley stands to get five and maybe six teams selected while the powerful ACC prays Maryland can become its fifth.

Said Williams on Tuesday to "I thought strength of schedule matters. We'll play Missouri State three times at a neutral site any day."

Williams also told the Washington Post he'd play any Valley team and Missouri State coach Barry Hinson immediately called and offered Williams a home-and-home series beginning next year at Maryland. Williams said he'd call back after the season. Right.

Only a berth in the ACC final makes Maryland a sure bet for the NCAAs. Right now, this view has them on the outside looking in.

The main stories from Selection Sunday will be the Valley's quest for a six-pack and the Colonial Athletic Association's hope to get all three of its candidates (North Carolina-Wilmington, Loren Stokes-led Hofstra and George Mason) into the field.

The CAA might get a boost from the presence of George Mason Athletics Director Tom O'Connor on the selection committee. O'Connor, the AD at St. Bonaventure from 1992-94, can't be involved in deliberations on his own school but can discuss the virtues of his league.

Here's a rundown of how the field might shake out:

*One-bid leagues (finals to be played are today unless noted): America East (noon, ESPN 2), Atlantic Sun (Belmont), Big Sky (Montana), Big South (Winthrop), Big West (Midnight, ESPN), Horizon (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Ivy (Penn), Metro Atlantic (Iona), Mid-American (6:30, ESPN 2), Mid-Continent (Oral Roberts), MEAC (7:30, ESPN Classic);

Also: Mountain West (10, ESPN), Northeast (Monmouth), Ohio Valley (Murray State), Patriot (Bucknell), Southern (Davidson), Southland (Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN 2), Sun Belt (South Alabama), SWAC (8:30, ESPN U), WAC (9, ESPN 2), West Coast (Gonzaga).

It should be noted the WAC would become a two-bid league if Nevada does not win its tournament. The Wolf Pack is assured of at least an at-large bid.

*ACC (4 bids): Duke, North Carolina, Boston College and North Carolina State. Maryland's Williams should shut his yap and make sure his team plays. Florida State is toast.

*Atlantic 10 (2): George Washington and tonight's winner (6, ESPN).

*Big 12 (4): Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

*Big East (8): Villanova, Connecticut, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Marquette, Cincinnati, Syracuse. Seton Hall has good wins but too many bad losses, topped by Wednesday's meltdown against Rutgers.

*Big Ten (6): Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State. Michigan is out after going 2-7 in its last nine games and falling Thursday to Minnesota.

*Colonial (3): For now at least, Wilmington, George Mason and Hofstra are all in. But Hofstra is the last team in my bracket and any more big upsets would send the Pride (24-5 and rated 30th in the Ratings Percentage Index) to the NIT. Hofstra is getting killed by a low rated non-conference schedule and is pegging most of its hopes on two wins over George Mason.

*Conference USA (2): Memphis, UAB.

*Missouri Valley (5): Southern Illinois, Wichita State, Missouri State, Bradley, Northern Iowa. Creighton (19-9, 40 RPI) looks like it might get squeezed out.

*Pac 10 (4): UCLA, Washington, Arizona, California.

*SEC (6): Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, Alabama.


Last word on Coach Mac

The bottom line on deposed Canisius coach Mike MacDonald: He was a class act who represented his school to the utmost, particularly in the days following the death of Richard Jones. He cared deeply about his players' personal and academic lives as well as their basketball careers. He just didn't win enough games. That's the way it goes.

MacDonald's rabid supporters should pay closer attention to how the coaching business works. Their man got far more chances than most of his counterparts.

As of Friday, 18 Division I coaches have either been fired or forced to resign in the last few weeks. Only one (Texas-Arlington's Eddie McCarter) had more losses at his current school than MacDonald. And only three other coaches -- Central Michigan's Jay Smith, Army's Jim Crews and Sacred Heart's Dave Bike -- have posted four 20-loss seasons in the last seven years as MacDonald did.

Around the rim

Another example of how St. Bonaventure is falling way behind in resources when compared to other schools in the Atlantic 10: Saint Louis has announced it will begin construction of a new on-campus arena this fall -- a project that will cost $80 million. It will seat 10,000 fans, many in suites and club sections, and include a two-court practice facility. The university has a $39 million fundraising goal to partly fund the project.

For all the adoration fans in Olean have for the Reilly Center, it can't stack up to palaces like this or other amenity-filled A-10 arenas built recently at places like Xavier, Rhode Island, Temple or Charlotte.

Speaking of the A-10, don't look for the conference to put its tournament in Cincinnati ever again. Attendance in U.S. Bank Arena has been under 1,000 for some games this week as fans have simply not cared about any game other the ones played by host Xavier. The conference is moving its tourney to Atlantic City the next two years and hopes to make the New Jersey playground its permanent postseason home.

John Beilein will have a big name on his roster next year at West Virginia. Jonnie West, the son of WVU legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West, has committed to play for Beilein next year. The younger West is a 6-foot-3, 170-pound guard averaging 20 points and five rebounds for Lausanne Collegiate School, a private school in Memphis, where Jerry West is the president of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.


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