Sunday , Mar , 14 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kentucky, Duke, Stanford and St. Joe’s earn No.1 NCAA seeds

Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) – Kentucky, Duke, Stanford and Saint
Joseph’s have been awarded No. 1 seeds for the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky (26-4) won the Southeastern Conference Tournament title on Sunday and
was rewarded with the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. It is the
seventh No. 1 seed for the Wildcats, who won it all as a top seed in 1996 and
last claimed the NCAA crown in ’98.

The Wildcats will play in the St. Louis bracket. The NCAA committee decided to
change the names of the brackets this year, although the St. Louis bracket is
essentially the old Midwest Region.

Duke (27-5) garnered a top seed despite losing the ACC Tournament title game
in overtime to Maryland on Sunday. The ACC regular-season champs will headline
the Atlanta bracket, or the South. The Blue Devils are a No. 1 seed for the
eighth time and for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Stanford (29-1) earned the top seed in the Phoenix, or West, region. The
Cardinal won the Pac-10 regular season and tournament titles, losing only to
Washington last Saturday. It is the third No. 1 seed for Stanford.

Saint Joseph’s (27-1) gained the top seed in the East Rutherford, or East,
region. There was some speculation as to whether the Hawks would receive a top
seed for the first time in school history after a blowout loss against Xavier
in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic-10 Tournament this past Thursday. The
previous best seed for Saint Joseph’s was No. 4 in 1997.

This year’s Final Four will take place in the Alamodome in San Antonio. The
national semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, April 3 with the championship
game set for Monday, April 5.

The St. Louis and East Rutherford regional winners will meet in one national
semifinal, while the Atlanta and Phoenix winner will square off in the other.

This year’s No. 2 seeds are Big East Tournament champion Connecticut (27-6),
Big 12 regular season and tournament champion Oklahoma State (27-3), SEC
regular season champion Mississippi State (25-3) and West Coast Conference
champion Gonzaga (27-2).

The Atlanta bracket could be the toughest region this year. In addition to
Duke and Mississippi State, the bracket features Texas, Cincinnati, Illinois,
North Carolina, Arizona and Louisville. Each of those eight teams has reached
a Final Four, including Texas last year. Xavier, which handed St. Joe’s its
lone loss and won the Atlantic-10 Tournament, is also in the bracket as the
seventh seed, while Mountain West regular season champion Air Force is the
11th seed.

The last two national champions — Syracuse and Maryland — were placed in the
Phoenix bracket as the four and five seeds, respectively. The two could meet
in the second round.

The SEC, ACC, Big East and Conference USA each placed six teams in this year’s
tournament. The Big 12 and Atlantic-10 each received four bids. The Big Ten
and Pac-10 — perennial power leagues — only had three teams chosen, as did
the Mountain West. The Western Athletic and Missouri Valley each got two bids.

The WAC probably had the last at-large team selected as regular-season co-
champion UTEP was given a 13 seed in the Phoenix bracket. Mountain West
schools BYU (12-Phoenix) and Utah (11-St. Louis) were also among the last at-
large teams chosen, as was Richmond (11-East Rutherford) out of the

The most surprising omission was probably Utah State, which was ranked for a
couple of weeks late in the season. The Aggies finished the year 25-3 and were
co-champions of the Big West, but lost in the conference tournament

Others that had its bubbles burst included Colorado (18-10), which finished
fourth in the Big 12 with a 10-6 record, and Missouri (16-13), which was 9-7
in the Big 12 after a strong late-season run. Florida State (18-13) had a
couple of big victories in ACC play, but a winless conference road record
likely did in the Seminoles.

The tournament tips off Tuesday when Patriot League champion Lehigh meets MEAC
winner Florida A&M in the opening round game in Dayton, Ohio. FAMU is the only
team in this year’s field with a losing record and the winner of that game
will meet Kentucky in the first round on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

The main portion of the tournament opens Thursday with 16 games from four
sites. The selection committee again used the “pod” system that was first
instituted two years ago, in which different regions are played at the same
site for geographical purposes.

In addition to the Kentucky game in the St. Louis region, the eight-nine game
in the bracket pits Washington (19-11) against Alabama-Birmingham (20-9) on
Friday in Columbus. Gonzaga is the No. 2 seed in the region and will meet Mid-
Continent champion Valparaiso (18-12) in the first round on Thursday in
Seattle, while Michigan State (18-11) and WAC champion Nevada (23-8) will play
in the region’s other game in Seattle.

St. Louis region first-round games will also be played Friday in Kansas City,
as fourth-seeded Kansas (21-8) takes on Horizon League champion Illinois-
Chicago (24-7) and fifth-seeded Providence (20-8) meets Big West champion
Pacific (24-7). On Friday in Milwaukee, third-seeded Georgia Tech (23-9) will
face Missouri Valley Tournament champion Northern Iowa (21-9) and sixth-seeded
Boston College will battle Utah (24-8).

The Atlanta region will start Thursday in Raleigh with top-seeded Duke facing
SWAC champion Alabama State (16-14) and Seton Hall (20-9) taking on Arizona
(20-9) in the eight-nine game. That could set up a possible Duke/Arizona game
in the second round, a rematch of the 2001 NCAA title game.

Also in the Atlanta region, second-seeded Mississippi State will meet
Northeast champion Monmouth (21-11) on Friday in Orlando, while seventh-seeded
Xavier (23-10) will take on Louisville (20-9). In Denver on Thursday, third-
seeded Texas (23-7) will face Ivy League champion Princeton (20-7) and sixth-
seeded North Carolina will square off against Air Force (22-6). Atlanta region
games on Friday in Columbus will pit fourth-seeded Cincinnati (24-6) against
Southern Conference champion East Tennessee State (27-5) and fifth-seeded
Illinois versus Ohio Valley champion Murray State (28-5).

The Phoenix region will have six of its eight first-round games played on
Thursday. Stanford will meet Southland champion Texas-San Antonio (19-13) in
Seattle and the eight-nine game in the region will pit Alabama (17-12) against
Missouri Valley regular-season champion Southern Illinois (25-4).

On Thursday in Buffalo, second-seeded Connecticut will match up against AEC
champion Vermont (22-8) and seventh-seeded DePaul (21-9) will take on Dayton
(24-8). Thursday’s Phoenix region games in Denver will pit fifth-seeded
Syracuse (21-7) against BYU (21-8) and fourth-seeded Maryland (19-11) against
UTEP (24-7). On Friday in Orlando, third-seeded North Carolina State (20-9)
will meet Sun Belt winner Louisiana-Lafayette (20-8) and sixth-seeded
Vanderbilt will face MAC champion Western Michigan (26-4).

Saint Joseph’s will open the East Rutherford bracket in Buffalo against Big
South champion Liberty (18-14). The eight-nine matchup in the region will pit
Texas Tech (22-10) against Charlotte (21-8). Thursday’s East Rutherford region
games in Raleigh will feature fourth-seeded Wake Forest (19-9) against
Colonial champion Virginia Commonwealth (23-7) and fifth-seeded Florida
(20-10) against MAAC champion Manhattan (24-5).

On Friday in Kansas City, second-seeded Oklahoma State will take on Big Sky
winner Eastern Washington (17-12) and seventh-seeded Memphis will meet South
Carolina (23-10). Friday’s East Rutherford region games in Milwaukee will see
sixth-seeded Wisconsin (24-6), the Big Ten tourney champs, playing near home
against Richmond (20-12) and third-seeded Pittsburgh (29-4) against Atlantic
Sun champion Central Florida (25-5).

The East Rutherford regional semifinals and final will take place at the
Meadowlands on March 25 and 27, while the Phoenix regional semifinals and
final are slated for the same days at America West Arena. The Georgia Dome
will host the Atlanta regional semifinals and final on March 26 and 28, while
the Edward Jones Dome will welcome the St. Louis regional semifinals and final
those two days.