INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Pity the poor Cornell fans.
No, not because their beloved Big Red drew Big 12 champ Missouri in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Because Cornell wound up in Boise, Idaho, a place that's as tough to get to from upstate New York as it is costly. Think ``Planes, Trains and Automobiles,'' minus John Candy and the oompa band.
The dismal economy wasn't lost on the NCAA tournament selection committee, which was even more mindful than usual of keeping teams as close to home as possible. But when three conferences have seven teams in the tournament and another two are sending six, somebody is going to wind up far from home.
``We do realize the economy is being challenged right now. So it would not surprise me if there are some people who would like to make the trip to Greensboro to support our men's basketball team decide not to do so,'' Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said after the Golden Gophers were assigned to Greensboro, N.C., a 19-hour drive from Minneapolis.
rtainly couldn't blame them for that.''
In 2001, after Maryland, Georgetown and George Mason - schools separated by about 30 miles - all wound up in the same West regional bracket in Boise, Idaho, the NCAA went to a ``pod'' system that limits travel for teams and fans and reduces the amount of missed classes. Instead of being locked into regional groupings, four teams are put into a ``pod'' and two pods are placed at each first-round site. The teams go back to their assigned regionals the second weekend of the tournament.
But the NCAA still has that rule that teams from the same conference can't meet until the regional final, which makes for some interesting mixing and matching. That's how Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all wound up in Miami for the first round, while Cornell, Florida State, Xavier, Marquette and Wisconsin were sent to Boise.
Then there's the Philadelphia site. It's a cross-country flight for UCLA while potential second-round opponent Villanova can practically walk to the Wachovia Center.
``It's going to be tough when you look at getting a ticket at the last minute going to Philadelphia,'' Bruins coach Ben Howland said. ``They're going to have a lot more people come to the game than UCLA will be able to get back there.''

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