Arizona stays as No. 1 seed, but key injury costs Cincinnati

Published: Monday, March 13 2000 12:00 a.m. MST

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- It's all about timing.

Even with an injury to star center Loren Woods, Arizona kept the No. 1 seed in the West. But Cincinnati, stunned by an injury to star center Kenyon Martin, dropped to No. 2 in the South.The difference? The 10 members of the NCAA selection committee felt Martin's loss hurt the Bearcats more than Woods' loss hurt the Wildcats, as evidenced by Arizona's victory over Stanford even without the 7-foot-1 Woods.

"We talked about Cincinnati very early and came back to them a couple times," Craig Thompson, chairman of the selection committee, said of the decision to drop the Bearcats. "But when you lose a potential player of the year, that's going to affect your team."

The NCAA on Sunday announced the pairings for the 64-team men's tournament that begins on Thursday and ends at the Final Four in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on April 1-3.

Arizona, Stanford, Michigan State and Duke were seeded No. 1. The injury to Martin was the only reason Cincinnati wasn't seeded No. 1, Thompson said, but Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins didn't buy the argument.

"It's ridiculous, totally ridiculous," Huggins said. "We must be the first team in history to be No. 1 in the RPI and not get a No. 1 seed. That's a historical thing those guys just did. How do they know how good we'll be without Kenyon?"

That's where the poor timing comes in.

Arizona played five games, including a victory over Stanford, after Woods injured his back. But Martin broke a leg early in a Conference USA tourney loss to St. Louis last week, the same day the NCAA committee began making its selections.

"We didn't have an opportunity other than one span in one game to judge how they play without Martin," Thompson said. "They're clearly a different team without Kenyon Martin. The issue we had was, how different?"

In Arizona's case, he said, "There was a test there."

Thompson said every school was asked to notify the committee by Friday if any player would not participate in the tournament, and Arizona told them Woods would not play. That was news to coach Lute Olson, however, who said doctors hadn't told him Woods would be out the whole tournament.

Even so, he said, Olson wasn't surprised by the committee's decision.

"I frankly didn't see any way they could not put our guys as the No. 1 seed in the West," Olson said, "particularly because we've played so long without Loren Woods."

Arizona will open the tourney Thursday against 16th-seeded Jackson State at Salt Lake City. Stanford wound up as the top seed in the South and will play South Carolina State on Friday at Birmingham, Ala.

Michigan State (26-7), which has the most losses ever for a No. 1 seed, will open in the Midwest against Valparaiso on Thursday at Cleveland, and Duke was picked No. 1 in the East and will play Lamar on Friday at Winston-Salem, N.C.

Lamar (15-15), an automatic qualifier as Southland Conference champion, has the worst record among the 64 teams.

Michigan State and Duke also were No. 1 seeds last year. Connecticut, which beat Duke for the title a year ago, was seeded fifth in the South and will play Utah State on Friday at Birmingham.

"This was the most difficult selection process, with injuries, suspensions, tourney upsets," Thompson said.

"It seemed like every new game brought a different result to make us reconsider. It brings back in perspective the whole college basketball landscape and how comparable the teams are. It got to a position that those were factors we had to constantly look at and sometimes change our thinking a bit."

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