Thursday, March 14, 2002

Xavier adds Alabama to schedule

Teams to play next 2 seasons

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier and Southeastern Conference champion Alabama have agreed to a two-year, home-and-home series beginning next season in Tuscaloosa.

        That's the first deal arranged by XU's new staff. Athletic director Mike Bobinski said it's an indication of the kind of schedule he and coach Thad Matta will favor.

        “Our goal is to continue to be as strong as we can in scheduling,” Bobinski said. “Since you're not in one of the big six conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10), you can't rely on your conference to give you all the strength you need.”

        Alabama, which drew a No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, is one of four tourney teams on XU's schedule for next season. The others are Cincinnati and Siena, which XU will visit, and Creighton, which comes to Cintas Center. XU will play in the Preseason NIT, in a field that includes Kansas, Florida, Stanford and North Carolina, and Bobinski said the Musketeers probably will play host to at least one game in that event.

        Matta's staff called the Crimson Tide, who were glad to start a series.

        “It's a great matchup,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “Over the last few years, Xavier has been one of the better teams in the country.”

        Bobinski said XU and NCAA qualifier Western Kentucky are interested in starting a series.

        The other two games set for next season are home against Purdue and Miami University.

        MARCH MAGIC: Matta has made the postseason in all eight of his seasons as a full-time assistant or head coach. Seven were NCAA bids, one an NIT.

        “It's been a great run, though each year has been uniquely different,” Matta said.

        In 1994-95, his first season as a full-time assistant, Miami went 23-7 and upset Arizona in the NCAA. He spent the next season at Western Carolina, which nearly became the first No.16 seed to beat a No.1 (Purdue).

        The next year, he helped Miami University get back to the NCAA, and then he helped Butler go to three NCAA Tournaments and one NIT. Two years ago, eventual national runner-up Florida needed a buzzer-beating shot in overtime to beat the Bulldogs. Last year, Butler upset Wake Forest.

        WEST FINALIST: Center David West is one of 20 finalists for the Wooden All-America teams. UC's Steve Logan and Kentucky's Tayshaun Prince are also finalists. The teams will be announced March 26.


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