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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kansas overall No. 1 seed in tournament

NEW YORK (AP) An injury hurts as much as a loss in the days before the brackets are drawn up for March Madness. Syracuse endured both and will have to rack up some major airplane time to make a run to the Final Four.

Kansas, Kentucky and Duke won their conference tournaments and the top seeding that went with them when the selection committee rolled out its 65-team NCAA tournament bracket Sunday.

The Orange, meanwhile, also got a No. 1 seed, but was ranked fourth of the four top teams and sent West — the result of an early loss in the Big East tournament in which center Arinze Onuaku injured his right quadriceps.

Onuaku, who averages 10 points, five rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game, isn't expected to play Friday when Syracuse opens against Vermont.

Syracuse's road to the Final Four, set for April 3-5 in Indianapolis, will have to go through Salt Lake City, a 3,378-km trek from home.

"We're proud to be a No. 1 seed," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "This team has worked extremely hard, been consistent all year. Obviously, the tournament is always going to be challenging. It'll be challenging right off the bat."

America's largest, three-week office pool starts getting sorted out Tuesday with an opening-round game between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop. The tournament goes into full swing Thursday, with Kansas the overall No. 1 seed.

The Big East led the field with eight teams, tying its own record and marking the third time the conference has put that many teams in the tournament.

But winning the toughest conference's regular-season title wasn't the accomplishment it might have been for Syracuse. The Orange (28-4) lost to Georgetown in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. That pushed Syracuse down, below Duke, which was expected to vie with West Virginia for the final No. 1 spot.

Winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament helped Duke vault over Syracuse and the Mountaineers.

"Once again, we're talking about the entire season," selection chairman Dan Guerrero said. "We place value on that. Obviously, the big center for Syracuse got banged up. That's an issue to some degree."

Before the committee even met, there was no question there will be a new national champion.

Defending titlist North Carolina was on a long list of traditional powerhouses that didn't receive spots in this year's tournament. That list also included UCLA, Indiana, Connecticut and Arizona, which saw its NCAA-leading string of appearances snapped at 25 years.

It will mark the first time since 1966 that all five of those big-name schools failed to make the tournament.

"It is strange because obviously those are formidable teams with great traditions," Guerrero said. "But I believe it's reflective of the culture of college basketball this year."

Now holding the longest current streak is Kansas (32-2), making its 21st straight appearance and coming into 2010 as the early 5-2 favorite in Vegas to win its second national title in three years.

Leading the Jayhawks in the Midwest Region are Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, two key pieces in the team's 2008 title run. The Jayhawks earned the overall No. 1 seed based on an 18-1 record against Big 12 foes, which includes three wins over Kansas State, a team in the mix for a top seed until falling to KU in the conference final Saturday.



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