Tuesday, March 18, 2003

BYU's no-Sunday stance could cause NCAA shuffle

By Doug Alden
The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY - By winning its first two games, Brigham Young could bring a whole new meaning to March Madness.

The Cougars drew the No. 12 seed in the South and were scheduled to play on a Sunday if they reached the national quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. That would violate a long-standing policy of the school owned by the Mormon church, which recognizes Sunday as a day of rest and does not allow the Cougars to compete on that day.

The NCAA has come up with a backup plan that would reshuffle the brackets.

"If we win our first two games, then we become the ultimate bracket buster," BYU athletics director Val Hale said Monday. "Around here people are more upset about the No. 12 seed than they are this issue."

A lot has to happen for it to be an issue. The Cougars, disappointed in their seeding after tying Utah for the Mountain West Conference regular-season title, would have to upset fifth-seeded Connecticut in the first round Thursday for any of the controversy to matter.

Then, they would have to beat either Stanford or San Diego on Saturday. If that happens, office pools are history, because the Cougars would have to switch regions.

"It's kind of funny to me," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "It's not like BYU is a newcomer to the NCAA tournament."

BYU (23-8) would move from the South to the Midwest region if it wins its first two games. Either Dayton, Wisconsin, Weber State or Tulsa would switch from the Midwest. That means it's possible that Texas, the No. 1 seed in the South, could draw Big 10 champion Wisconsin, a No. 5 seed, rather than No. 12 BYU, in the round of 16. "I haven't looked at it. I'm just thinking about what it means for this weekend," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Once you get down to the Sweet 16, you've got to be ready to go regardless of who your opponent is."

The Midwest games in Minneapolis are played on Thursday and Saturday. The San Antonio games, which BYU was originally scheduled for, are on Friday and Sunday.

"I don't really know. I never got an explanation," Cleveland said. "I guess they didn't want to mess up anybody's office pools."

The Cougars are in the NCAA field for the 20th time, and the no-Sunday policy has existed all along. Two years ago in the NCAA baseball regionals in Lincoln, Neb., there was a contingency plan that would have pushed the final game from Sunday to Monday had BYU advanced. The Cougars didn't, but they made their stance clear.

The NCAA baseball playoffs, however, do not draw nearly the attention the basketball tournament does. Because of that, NCAA basketball selection committee chairman Jim Livengood has been fielding calls ever since the scheduling was noticed.

"It just was human error," said Livengood, a 1968 BYU graduate. "There were 32 eyes looking at it. It just wasn't caught."

Last year, the tournament format changed within the regionals. Teams that opened with Thursday and Friday rounds could now be placed in a Friday-Sunday schedule if they advanced to the regional semifinals. And the one team in this year's field that it was an issue for slipped through.

The scenario for BYU advancing and putting the tournament in turmoil is a long shot, but long shots have made the NCAA championship so popular.

"I think right now rather than get ahead of ourselves let's see what happens first," Livengood said. "It's unfortunate that it happened. We looked at it in every possible way."

The Cougars, scheduled to leave Provo on Tuesday night for Thursday's game in Spokane, Wash., aren't worrying about anybody's brackets right now.

"I have no idea what the committee did or what they were thinking," BYU senior Travis Hansen said. "We're just ready to play."

Special NCAA hoops section; Bracket contest

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Pressure and expectations smother winning coaches
Ohio State suspends Williams
BYU's no-Sunday stance could cause NCAA shuffle
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Blue Devils to stick with perimeter lineup
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NIT: Iowa 62, Valparaiso 60
UCLA fires Lavin