Mayo predicts first round opponent before selection is announced Print
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Sunday, 16 March 2008 16:19
NCAAB Headline News


 O.J. Mayo called it: Southern California against Kansas State in a first-round game of the Midwest Regional at Omaha.
Mayo made the prediction during a telephone conversation with Kansas State's Bill Walker moments before the first-round matchup in the NCAA tournament was announced.
``I told him, 'I think we're going to draw you guys,''' Mayo said Sunday at Galen Center, where the Trojans watched as the pairings were announced. ``Omaha seemed like a good place to play. At the same time, it's all about the money.''
Mayo was referring to the fact that he and Kansas State's Michael Beasley are two of the most talented freshmen in the country, making for an attractive matchup.
Beasley is the third-leading scorer in the country, averaging 26.5 points. Mayo isn't far behind at 20.8 points. Both figure to be early first-round picks whenever they decide to declare for the NBA draft.
``It's still Kansas State vs. USC - two good teams, two teams that play hard,'' Mayo said. ``We'll get a crowd there, it should be exciting.''
The 20-year-old Mayo said he has known Walker since the age of 3, calling him ``my best friend in the world.''
Mayo said the two spoke again after learning they would face each other.
``He was like, `What made you pick that?''' Mayo said with a smile.
Mayo made his prediction to several teammates as well.
``That's what `O' kept saying. It was a great call by him,'' Davon Jefferson said.
``We all kind of laughed a little bit,'' Dwight Lewis said.
Mayo said he's also familiar with Beasley.
``I've played against him and I've played with him,'' Mayo said. ``He's a good player and a great guy.''
USC (21-11), a member of the Pac-10, is seeded sixth in the midwest and Kansas (20-11), of the Big 12, is seeded 11th. They play Thursday, with the winner facing the winner of the Wisconsin-Cal State Fullerton game on Saturday.
``Obviously, you've got to try to limit a guy who scores 30 a night,'' USC's Daniel Hackett said, exaggerating only slightly. ``Don't overlook Walker. He's going to be fired up to play his buddy.''
The Trojans enter the tournament having played three of the top four seeds: UCLA twice and Kansas and Memphis once each. The Bruins beat USC in two of their three meetings, most recently 57-54 last Friday in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals. USC lost to Kansas and Memphis by four points each.
``We've had a lot of games against Top 10 teams,'' Trojans coach Tim Floyd said. ``We've been tested, but they have been as well. I don't think anybody has an advantage in that area.''
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SANS SMITH: For the first time in 15 seasons, the NCAA tournament will be held without Tubby Smith.
Minnesota did not receive a bid despite winning 20 games in Smith's first season in Minneapolis.
The Gophers (20-13) more than doubled their win total from a year ago when they went 9-22 during one of the most miserable seasons at Williams Arena in recent memory. But a lack of ``quality wins'' and falling short during a spirited run in the Big Ten tournament left them on the outside looking in.
Minnesota will play in the NIT, hosting Maryland on Tuesday, and Smith was plenty proud of that achievement.
``We know it will be a challenge, but I'm excited for our program,'' Smith said. ``I'm happy for our players. I know they'll be ready to play.''
The last time Smith didn't make the NCAA tournament was in 1993, his second season at Tulsa. He led the Golden Hurricane to two NCAA appearances in 1994 and '95 before leaving for Georgia.
Two more NCAA appearances with the Bulldogs, including a regional semifinal in 1996, got him the coveted job at Kentucky, where he won a national title in his first year and made the tourney in all 10 seasons.
All told, Smith had made 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances, with nine trips to the Sweet 16 and four to the Elite Eight.
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PHILADELPHIA FLAVOR: Villanova was a surprise pick for the NCAA tournament Sunday and joined Temple and Saint Joseph's in the 65-team field, putting three Philadelphia teams in the tournament for the first time since 1999.
``It makes Philadelphia better. It makes the Big 5 better,'' Owls coach Fran Dunphy said.
The Owls earned the automatic berth with a 69-64 victory over St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 tournament title game Saturday night.
Temple will play in the tournament for the first time since 2001, when it lost in the regional final. That ended a string of 12 straight tournaments under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, though he never took the Owls to the Final Four.
The Hawks and Wildcats each earned at-large bids.
``We're just thrilled to be in. It's great for us and our young team,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ``I felt good about how we've been playing and I thought it was possible we would get in, but also possible that it wouldn't happen. It was exciting, but I wouldn't want to go through it again.''
The 12th-seeded Wildcats will play No. 5 Clemson in the Midwest. The Owls also earned a No. 12 seed and play No. 5 Michigan State in the South. The Hawks are a No. 11 seed and play No. 6 Oklahoma in the East.
The Wildcats made their fourth straight NCAA tournament while the Hawks are back in for the first time since reaching the regional final in 2004.
``The guys were all nervous. I couldn't sleep last night,'' Wildcats forward Dwayne Anderson said. ``We just erupted. I still can't feel my stomach right now.''
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WEST COAST POWER: Saint Mary's joins WCC tournament winner San Diego and regular-season champion Gonzaga in the tournament, the first time the conference has placed three teams in the NCAAs.
The little-heralded WCC got in a higher percentage of teams than traditional power conferences such as the Big Ten and the ACC.
That probably riled up a few teams, considering the three WCC teams to make the tournament were the only ones in the conference to finish in the top 150 in the RPI.
``Based on their seedings, Saint Mary's and Gonzaga were clearly not bubble teams,'' incoming commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said. ``Because of the great schedules they played and the great results they had, they should have been in and I'm glad the committee recognized that. There's no better time to be involved with the WCC.''
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ONE YEAR LATER: A year ago UConn failed to make the postseason for the first time in 20 years.
``I had no interest at all last year in Selection Sunday,'' UConn guard A.J. Price said. ``It's a different feeling this year, totally different. We're very excited. We have the chance to do something special, and we're going to make the most of it.''
This season, the No. 15 Huskies (24-8) have been slotted as the fourth seed in the NCAA's West Regional. They'll play 13th-seeded San Diego (21-13) in Tampa, Fla., on Friday.
The Toreros upset Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference tournament championship last week.
Forward Jeff Adrien said he knows almost nothing about the Huskies' opponent, and doesn't stay up late enough to watch West Coast basketball on TV.
``I sleep,'' he said. ``I get to sleep really early.''
Last year, the Huskies were 17-14, lost 13 of their final 19, went 6-10 in conference play, barely made the Big East tournament as the No. 12 seed and lost in the opening game to Syracuse. This year, the Huskies were 13-3 to end the season.
``If you can win 13 out of 16 every year at the end, we're going to be going to a lot of NCAA tournaments and probably win a lot of games,'' Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.
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LOOSE BALLS: Arizona made the NCAA tournament for the 24th straight year. The Wildcats had to sweat out the release of the bracket as they were only 19-14. They are a 10-seed in the West Region and will play No. 7 West Virginia in the first round. ... Pittsburgh was only a No. 7 seed in the Big East tournament, but the Panthers are a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
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AP Sports Writers Josh Dubow in Moraga, Calif., Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and John Nadel in Los Angeles, and Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford contributed to this report.
 

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