Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Woodling: Carolina matchup not likely


Coaches play 'em one at a time, but sports writers have no such restriction, so I've been wondering about the chances of Kansas University and North Carolina meeting in the NCAA Tournament.

I know it's early, but I think it's safe to say that, short of winning a national title, KU men's basketball fans would enjoy nothing more than meeting and beating Ol' Roy.

It's been three seasons now since Williams returned to Tobacco Road, and we're still waiting for that first clash between the Tar Heels and Jayhawks.

Will it be in March?

I don't like the odds. The stickler is that Kansas and North Carolina have virtually the same records. In fact, KU is ranked No. 22 this week in the AP poll, and the Heels are No. 23.

The closer the Jayhawks and Tar Heels remain record-wise and, of course, in the omnipotent RPI, the closer they'll be to landing the same seed.

For instance, if both schools are No. 5 seeds, they couldn't meet until the Final Four semis at the earliest. By then, of course, one or both could have dropped off the bracket.

Then again, when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, those who assume are doomed. They are the same people who assume the halfpipe is a legitimate sporting event just because it is in the Winter Olympics.

Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, it appears the top two teams in the Big 12 Conference will be spending back-to-back weekends in the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Less than a week after the Big 12 Tournament ends in the Dallas arena, eight of the NCAA's 65 chosen will descend on the same venue for first- and second-round tournament games.

Surely, Texas will be one of those eight schools, while a strong finish by Kansas could send the Jayhawks back to Big D, too - in another pod, of course.

Still, you can't ignore the historical imperative. One of the other eight first- and second-round sites next month is Dayton, Ohio, and Dayton and Kansas are like Wilbur and Orville. The home of the Wright brothers has played host to four previous NCAA first- and second-round sessions, and KU has been in every one of them.

For a few years now - or ever since nobody showed up at Kemper Arena for a first- and second-round session with no area teams - the NCAA has been committed to keeping high seeds as close to home as possible.

Not since being sent to Dayton in 2001 has KU been dispatched to a far-flung first tourney stop. In the last four years, the Jayhawks have traveled to Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis and Oklahoma City twice.

If Kansas isn't sent to Dallas, the next closest sites are Dayton and Auburn Hills, Mich., a suburb north of Detroit, and who wants to be in Detroit in March?

Or Philadelphia, for that matter. The Wachovia Center - where KU was blasted by Villanova during a raging snowstorm last season - is the Philly venue.

Of the other four sites, the plum is San Diego. Oh, to be so lucky. The remaining three are Greensboro, N.C. (think Duke might be there?), Salt Lake City and Jacksonville, Fla.

Sure, I'm counting chickens, but in college basketball mid-February is for cheep-cheeping.


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