NCAA men's notebook

On second thought, Xavier calls off Dawgs

Xavier's Derrick Brown (left) and Josh Duncan were pulling for Georgia in the SEC tournament, but won't be in the NCAAs. Xavier's Derrick Brown (left) and Josh Duncan were pulling for Georgia in the SEC tournament, but won't be in the NCAAs. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)
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Associated Press / March 20, 2008

Everybody appreciates an underDawg, including Stanley Burrell and his Xavier teammates.

So Burrell and the rest of the Musketeers, members of the not-enough-respect Atlantic 10 Conference, gathered at coach Sean Miller's home last weekend to watch the SEC tournament final, rooting for Georgia to complete its out-of-nowhere surge to that title.

"We were going on, like, 'Come on! Come on! Y'all can do it!"' Burrell said yesterday. "They're America's team right now. Everybody loves them for everything they've gone through."

After Georgia managed to beat Arkansas to claim an improbable conference title and NCAA Tournament berth, Xavier stayed tuned to Miller's TV to see the bracket announcement. And, lo and behold, how did that turn out?

"It's crazy. We're sitting there, 'Come on Georgia, hang in there,' and all of a sudden it's, 'Xavier matches up against Georgia,' " Burrell said. "Oh, man. You serious?"

That's when Xavier's love for Georgia ended, of course. The No. 3-seeded Musketeers (27-6) face the No. 14 Bulldogs (17-16) today in the West Regional.

There was little sign that Georgia was capable of doing what it did to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. After all, the team won a total of four SEC games throughout the entire regular season, and entered the conference tournament three games under .500 overall. There was talk that coach Dennis Felton was on the way out, talk of which he and his players were all too aware.

"All coaches know - and I'm no different - that your employers have the right to fire you whenever they want. So we live with that all that time," Felton said. "It was the first time in my career I've ever dealt with actual speculation like that."

Sutton changes role

Eddie Sutton is back at the NCAA Tournament - not as a coach this time, but as a very interested fan.

Sutton is in Denver to watch his son, Scott, lead Oral Roberts in its first-round game against Pittsburgh this afternoon.

The 71-year-old Eddie Sutton took the coaching job at the University of San Francisco in the middle of this season and surpassed the 800-win mark for his career. He is not expected to return to the Dons next season.

"It was an interesting experience in that we got there in the middle of the year and it took us a while to get everything going in the right direction," the elder Sutton said. "We had one player that probably could play in the Big 12."

The patriarch of a coaching family that also includes Sean, who took over at Oklahoma State after Eddie retired in 2006, said he's here only as a spectator, trying to stay out of the way.

Rating a 10

Marquette and Kentucky will meet for the 10th time in the NCAAs, making it the most common matchup in tourney history. The schools play this afternoon in Anaheim. The teams have different memories of their most recent NCAA game, in the 2003 Midwest Regional final. The Golden Eagles defeated the top-seeded Wildcats, 83-69, ending Kentucky's 26-game win streak. "I kind of remember it," Kentucky senior Joe Crawford said. "Dwyane Wade [of Marquette] kind of put on a show." Marquette junior guard Dominic James has a clearer memory. He grew up in Richmond, Ind., and hadn't thought much about playing for Marquette until he watched that game. "That's probably the first time I really heard of Marquette," he said. "I feel like that's the first time Marquette became a household name to the entire country." . . . Arizona is in the NCAAs for the 24th consecutive season, the longest current string in men's basketball and only three short of the record of 27 set by North Carolina from 1975-2001. If history means anything, then 10th-seeded Arizona has a decided edge over No. 7 West Virginia, its opening-round opponent tonight in the West Regional. A victory by the underdog Wildcats (19-14) would enable Arizona to stretch to 21 its run of successive 20-win seasons, yet another streak unmatched in men's college basketball today.

Brady starts over

Two years removed from the Final Four, John Brady will try to resurrect his career at Arkansas State. Brady was hired as the new coach less than six weeks after being fired by LSU. He takes over a team that finished 10-20 this season and hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999. "I think there's an opportunity to win here," Brady said. "I think there's an opportunity to win the [Sun Belt] conference tournament." Brady went 192-139 in 11 seasons at LSU - the highlight was a Final Four appearance in 2006. A year after the Tigers reached the Final Four, they went 17-15 and then opened this season 8-13 before Brady was dismissed. Brady, 53, replaces Dickey Nutt, who stepped down Feb. 19 after going 189-187 in just under 13 seasons . . . Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez was suspended by the university for next season's first Big East Conference game for criticizing the officiating after a loss to Rutgers in the regular-season finale.

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