|Derrick Gordon and Western Kentucky prepare to play the tournament’s first game. (Al Behrman/Associated Press)|
Despite losses, top of the poll stays the same
Even after a week in which the top four teams lost, The Associated Press’ final poll looks a lot like it did for the last two months of the season.
Kentucky and Syracuse, which both lost in their conference tournaments, were Nos. 1 and 2 in the Top 25 for a seventh straight week Monday.
This was the eighth time the Wildcats (32-2) finished on top of the final poll; of the previous seven, they went on to win the national championship three times - 1949 (the first season there was a poll), 1951, and 1978. The last team ranked No. 1 in the final poll to win the NCAA Tournament was Duke in 2001. Ohio State, last season’s final No. 1, lost in the regional semifinals.
The Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks this season, received 61 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. They lost to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Syracuse (31-2), which lost to Cincinnati in the Big East semifinals, got one No. 1 vote.
Missouri, the only one of the top four teams in the poll not to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, moved up two places to third. The Tigers got two first-place votes, one more than North Carolina, which stayed fourth in the poll.
Michigan State, the fourth No. 1 seed, was fifth, followed by Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Baylor, and Florida State.
Last week’s top four teams - Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, and North Carolina - all lost, just the third time that has happened since 2003.
Graduation gap drops
The gap between graduation rates for white and African-American players at schools in the men’s NCAA Tournament shrunk this year - the first such decline since 2009 - according to a study released Monday.
The annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport shows African-American players’ graduation rates increased from 59 percent to 60 percent in 2012, while white players’ dropped from 91 percent to 88 percent. The disparity was 22 percentage points in 2009.
The overall graduation rate for this year’s tournament teams increased from 66 to 67 percent, and there was a 3 percent increase in teams graduating half their players.
A losing record. Two head coaches in three months. A fan base so disinterested that only 2,000 showed up for a dollar-ticket promotion.
Western Kentucky has spent an entire season redefining the long shot.
The Hilltoppers (15-18) pulled off one of the most remarkable turnarounds, going from a down-and-out team to one that’s ready to open the NCAA Tournament before a presidential audience on Tuesday against Mississippi Valley State.
Not only will the two teams open the 68-year tournament together, they’ll also have the nation’s highest-ranking basketball fan in the stands - President Obama, who loves to play and picks an NCAA bracket each season. Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are flying in on Air Force One to watch the game at UD Arena.
Rice’s status unclear
Georgia Tech is reviewing the status of suspended player Glen Rice Jr., after he and a graduate student manager were charged in a shooting incident outside an Atlanta nightclub shortly before the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Coach Brian Gregory announced Monday that the manager, London Warren, is no longer with the program. Rice, a 6-foot-5-inch junior guard and son of the former NBA star, already had been suspended from the team last month for an unspecified violation of team rules . . . Florida State, Notre Dame, BYU, and Saint Joseph’s have been selected as the host schools for the next season’s Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, which will play its championship at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The four schools will meet in the semifinals and finals Nov. 16-17.