Monday , Mar , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Duke headlines the tough Atlanta region

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Another year, another top seed in the NCAA
Tournament for the Duke Blue Devils.

The ACC regular season champions, despite an overtime loss to Maryland in the
conference tournament final, are the top seed in the Atlanta region, formerly
known as the South Region.

It is the sixth time in the past seven years Duke has received a top seed in
the NCAA Tournament, missing out only last year. The Blue Devils have twice
won it all as a top seed — 1992 and 2001.

The Atlanta bracket, though, could give Duke a devil of a time this year. In
addition to Duke and No. 2 seed Mississippi State (25-3), the SEC regular
season champion, the loaded bracket features Texas, Cincinnati, Illinois,
North Carolina, Arizona and Louisville. Each of those eight schools has
reached a Final Four, including Texas just last year.

Xavier, which handed Saint Joseph’s its lone loss this season 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.

“There hasn’t been one team that has been dominant in college basketball this
year,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “There have been a lot of really
good ones. That means it’s going to be a very wide open tournament.”

The Atlanta region will start Thursday in Raleigh with 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 matchup in
the second round, a rematch of the 2001 NCAA title game.

Also in the Atlanta region, Mississippi State will meet Northeast champion
Monmouth (21-11) on Friday in Orlando, while Xavier (23-10) will take on 10th-
seeded 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).

Illinois won the Big Ten regular season crown and fell to Wisconsin in the
conference tournament final, while Cincinnati shared the regular-season crown
in Conference USA and won the league tournament.

Both teams will probably advance and meet in what should be a great second-
round game, which also means that one of those teams will go home early.

A Duke/Arizona second-round matchup is something the selection committee, and
CBS for that matter, is drooling over, but don’t count out Seton Hall. The
Pirates have beaten a number of good teams already this year and Lute Olson’s
Arizona squad doesn’t always show its true talent.

The bottom of the bracket is just as tough.

Fans on Tobacco Road are hoping for the third Duke/North Carolina game they
were denied in the ACC Tournament, but the Tar Heels have a tough road to the
potential regional final matchup with the Blue Devils. New Carolina head coach
Roy Williams, who took Kansas to the national title game last year, could meet
former Big 12 opponent Rick Barnes and Texas in the second round. Advantage:

Mississippi State should make it through the first two rounds for a meeting
with North Carolina, which the Heels would probably win, setting the stage for

The first two games were close — an 83-81 overtime game at Chapel Hill and a
70-65 thriller at Cameron just last week. Both were won by Duke and the Blue
Devils will likely prevail in the Georgia Dome to make a 14th trip to the
Final Four.