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Indiana teams advance to NCAA Tourney

Sunday, March 16, 2008

By TOM COYNE

AP Sports Writer

NCAA tournament fans in the state of Indiana will be keeping a close watch on the East Region -- unless they are Purdue fans.

Notre Dame, Butler and Indiana were all placed in the East Region, although all are headed in different directions.

The Fighting Irish (24-7) are the highest seeded team from the state of Indiana at No. 5. They will travel to Denver to play 12th-seeded George Mason, which advanced to the Final Four two years ago.

The Irish are hoping to do better than last season, when they were knocked out in the first round by Winthrop.

"Being in the tournament for the first time, we were kind of wide-eyed. It was a new experience for us," senior captain Rob Kurz said. "I feel like that will be different this time."

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told his team before the selections were announce not to worry too much about seedings. But he conceded afterward he liked the karma that comes with being a No. 5 seed. That was the seed the Irish had when they advanced to the round of 16 in 2003 -- their best finish ever under Brey.

"I'm burning the incense," Brey joked.

But Brey said he wants the Irish focused on the other three teams in Denver, which also includes Winthrop (22-11) and Washington State (24-8).

"You look at it like you're playing the Denver Open. There are four teams in the NCAA tournament as far as my guys are concerned," Brey said. "If you can win the Denver Open, then we can talk about the Charlotte Open."

Butler (29-3), the Horizon League tournament champion, is seeded seventh and will face 10th seeded South Alabama (26-6), which received its second bid in three years. The Jaguars, the first Sun Belt Conference team to receive an at large bid since 1994, will have the advantage of staying in their home state when they face Butler in Birmingham on Friday.

Butler coach Brad Stevens said he's not worried South Alabama will only have to make a short trip up Interstate 65 for the game.

"I wasn't a very good student in geography," he said. "I couldn't tell you how far Birmingham is from wherever they play. I don't know how they travel. But you have to play. It's a tournament."

Indiana (25-7), which has gone 3-3 since Kelvin Sampson resigned as coach, received a disappointing No. 8 seed and will play Arkansas (22-11). The winner of that game will likely play top-seeded North Carolina in the second round.

Indiana interim coach Dan Dakich said he's sure some people were surprised the Hoosiers were seeded No. 8, but said he wasn't.

"I have a realistic view of things in the world, and I have a tendency to look a little bit beyond the obvious. Sometimes it is right, sometimes it is wrong. So, no I wasn't (surprised) at all. I'm excited about it to tell you the truth. I think if you are a good team you've got to beat good teams."

Their opponent, Arkansas, qualified for the field for the third straight year, but the Razorbacks haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 1999.

Dakich said the key for Indiana is playing well, shooting the ball better, finding a third scorer and getting contributions from everyone.

"If we're a good team, if we're a team that is supposed to be as good as we were projected to be, we'll have a chance to prove it on the very first weekend," Dakich said.

Sixth-seeded Purdue (24-8) was one of the last teams to find out who they will be playing. The Boilermakers will play 11th-seeded Baylor (21-10) in Washington D.C. on Thursday. That game will have added interest in northwest Indiana because Baylor is coached by former Valparaiso coach Scott Drew.

Drew took over in Waco, Texas, after the Baylor program was marred by the murder of a player by a teammate and wrongdoing by the former coach.

It is Baylor's first NCAA tournament berth in 20 years and only its second since 1950.

"The job that he has done is unbelievable," Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Drew.

Purdue freshman Robbie Hummel, who is from Valparaiso, and was recruited by Valparaiso coach Homer Drew -- Scott's father, and assistant coach Bryce Drew, Scott's brother.

"I don't really know him that well, but I am looking forward to it. I know coach Homer Drew and Bryce Drew very well. They recruited me, but Scott was already at Baylor. They are great people and they run a great college basketball program," Hummel said.

Selection committee chairman Tom O'Connor said Michigan State was seeded ahead of Purdue even though the Boilermakers finished ahead of the Spartans because of strength of schedule.

"We made that decision because you need to look at the whole portfolio. They beat Texas, they beat BYU. And their performance is part of it, too. They (Spartans) are a good basketball team," he said.


AP Sports Writers Michael Marot and Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.



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