Storm Warning: Iowa State draws UConn, Kentucky

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, March 11 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

"I wanted to be a head coach, and Red Auerbach said, 'You'd better take that job. Even you can do better than 1-27,'" Patsos recalled.

Loyola went 6-22 in his first season and never fared better than 19-14 — until now.

The Greyhounds (24-8) won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship for their first NCAA tournament bid since 1994 and received a No. 15 seed in the East Regional. They open Thursday in Pittsburgh against Big Ten power Ohio State.

TOURNEY TIDBITS: North Carolina received a No. 1 seed for the 14th time, the most in NCAA history. The Tar Heels have reached the Final Four in five of the past six years they've had a top seed, including national-title runs in 2005 and 2009 under coach Roy Williams. ... Michigan State is in the NCAA tournament for the 15th straight year. Only Kansas (22) and Duke (17) have longer active streaks. Texas received its 14th consecutive bid and has never missed the NCAA tournament under coach Rick Barnes. ... Belmont is in the tournament for the fifth time in seven years but is still seeking its first win. The 14th-seeded Bruins (27-7) play No. 3 seed Georgetown on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. Belmont has won 14 straight — tied for the nation's longest winning streak with Montana. Champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Bruins will move in July to the Ohio Valley Conference, home to Murray State. ... Saint Mary's received a No. 7 seed in the Midwest Regional, their best ever. It topped the No. 8 seed the team got in 1989 before losing to Clemson in the first round.

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: Ray Harper brought a "now plan" to the Western Kentucky head coaching job when the school removed the interim tag from his title in February.

Under their new coach, the Hilltoppers (15-18) became the first team to reach the NCAA tournament with a losing record since Coppin State in 2009.

The Hilltoppers won their last two regular-season games and then ran off four more to win the Sun Belt Conference tournament and earn the conference's automatic berth. They face Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the First Four. The winner plays top overall seed Kentucky on Thursday in Louisville as part of the South Region.

Harper was named WKU's head coach on Feb. 19 after an interim stint. The Hilltoppers were 5-11 when the school fired former coach Ken McDonald on Jan. 5.

"This is the now plan," athletic director Ross Bjork told more than a thousand fans on hand to watch Sunday's selection show at E.A. Diddle Arena. "But I think it should be renamed to the right now plan."

Harper is the 12th consecutive WKU coach to make at least one NCAA tournament.

"I'll see you Tuesday in Dayton," he told fans, "and I'll see you again Thursday in Louisville."

The Hilltoppers, the No. 7 seed entering the Sun Belt tournament, secured their NCAA berth by overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit to beat North Texas in the title game.

Western Kentucky is one of the youngest teams in the NCAA tournament with seven freshmen, including leading scorer and rebounder Derrick Gordon. In all, freshmen account for 59.4 percent of the Hilltoppers' points and 61.6 percent of their rebounds.

"I don't think we're your traditional, standard 16 seed," freshman forward Vinny Zollo said.

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