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Oklahoma, Wake Forest top seeds in East

3/17/2003

On the 20th anniversary of its stunning NCAA championship, North
Carolina State gets another shot at the title.

The Wolfpack stepped off the bubble and into the bracket on
Sunday, rewarded with a spot in the East Region after reaching the
championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Seeded No. 9, N.C. State opens against No. 8 California at
Oklahoma City. Tucked in the same bracket is Oklahoma, the region's
top seed, which will be playing about 20 minutes away from its
campus in Norman.

That would seem to stack the deck against the Wolfpack, but
coach Herb Sendek was not complaining.

"This team has defied a lot of odds and been resilient, crusty
and gritty all season,'' he said. "This is a very joyous moment
for all of us.''

N.C. State had a 15-point second-half lead in the ACC title game
against Duke before wilting. That may have helped the Wolfpack's
case with the committee.

"The way we finished playing down the home stretch, and the way
we played in the tournament, we felt we were moving in the right
direction,'' Sendek said. "What the final game did for us no one
will know except the committee. Our play this weekend probably
helped us.''

N.C. State finished its season 18-12, including one-sided losses
against Temple and Boston College, both non-NCAA tournament teams.
But there were also two wins over North Carolina, one over Duke and
another over Wake Forest in the ACC tournament.

In 1983, Jim Valvano's longshot Wolfpack climbed off the NCAA
bubble by winning the ACC tournament and then went on to win the
national championship.

Oklahoma, a Final Four team last year, was rewarded for its Big
12 title with a No. 1 seed that most analysts thought would go to
Kansas. Instead, the Jayhawks got a No. 2 in the West. Another Big
12 team, Texas, got the No. 1 seed in the South.

"It was not a surprise,'' Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said.
"Kansas won the regular season at 14-2. Texas was second. We came
on strong and won the conference championship. Any one of us could
have been a No. 1.''

The Sooners open against No. 16 South Carolina State.

Other teams in the East also stayed near home, none more than
third-seeded Syracuse. The Orangemen open as close as they could
have to campus, playing No. 14 Manhattan in Boston. Also in that
section are No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 11 Penn. If Syracuse gets
through those first two games, it travels for the regional finals
to nearby Albany, N.Y.

"We're excited to be playing in this tournament again and to
have a chance to stay close to home is tremendous,'' coach Jim
Boeheim said. "I don't think we've been close to home -- I can't
remember the last time. It's been a long time.

"I've been a big critic of staying close to home, so I'm kind
of surprised we weren't sent out to Spokane or someplace. We're
happy.''

The rest of the East region had No. 5 Mississippi State against
No. 12 Butler and No. 4 Louisville against No. 13 Austin Peay in
Birmingham, Ala.; No. 7 St. Joseph's vs. No. 10 Auburn and No. 2
Wake Forest playing No. 15 East Tennessee State in Tampa.

East Tennessee State coach Ed DeChellis and Wake Forest coach
Skip Prosser are close friends, and spoke a couple hours before the
selection show.

"It's very ironic how this thing works. I never thought out of
64 teams we'd be paired up with them,'' DeChellis said.