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Originally published March 17, 2014 at 9:20 PM | Page modified March 18, 2014 at 12:12 AM

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Atlantic 10 defends its six teams selected for NCAA tournament

VCU coach says Coach K shouldn’t try to compare the leagues

The Associated Press

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If LoRo blows it next year I would welcome having Shaka as the next UW coach. MORE


Shaka Smart isn’t amused by people taking shots at the strength of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The Virginia Commonwealth coach said Monday the A-10 needs to apologize to no one for getting six teams in the NCAA tournament, including five at-large bids, because they all earned the right to be included.

The Rams (26-8), who lost in the championship to Saint Joseph’s (24-9), received an at-large bid along with other A-10 schools: Massachusetts (24-8), Saint Louis (26-6), George Washington (24-8) and Dayton (23-10).

Saturday, after Duke beat North Carolina State in the ACC semifinals, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said he thought the Wolfpack deserved an at-large berth, even ahead of an A-10 team.

“I’ll get in trouble probably for saying it. (I) like the Atlantic 10, they’re a really good conference,” Coach K said. “I hear people saying there are six teams in there. Come on. I mean, they’re good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through.”

Smart said he sees no point in comparing leagues in discussing tournament viability.

“First of all, comparing your own league to someone else’s league is like me saying that my daughter is cuter than your daughter,” he said. “There’s a level of bias that comes into play that you shouldn’t even make those comments. Secondly, coaches are too busy to be an authority on someone else’s conference.”

Smart said a coach lobbying for his league is one thing, but taking potshots at another league “is low-level.”

“You kind of want to stand up for your league,” he said, “... a lot of this league solidarity, like a Duke guy standing up for N.C. State, that’s all self-serving too. Let’s be honest. ‘Our league is great because it’s our league.’ It’s a lot of that. Let’s just have a level of respect for each other and let’s respect the nine people on the selection committee and the work they put into to picking the 68 teams.”

George Washington, though, felt like it wasn’t getting a lot of respect.

After Krzyzewski took a shot at the Colonials’ conference, the NCAA mistakenly put the logo for crosstown rival Georgetown on T-shirts for sale on the official tournament website.

It’s only the third time in more than 50 years (1993, 2005) that GW is dancing while the two behemoths in the area — Georgetown and Maryland — are not, making it all the more surreal that the NCAA should have the wrong logo — a gray “G” in place of a buff-and-blue “GW” — on some of the “March Madness Men’s Basketball Championship” T-shirts on the organization’s website.

“A T-shirt mistake by the NCAA is not going to impact enjoying all the progress our team and staff have made. Not a big deal,” tweeted athletic director Patrick Nero.

Xavier to feel at home in opener

Get on an interstate, drive less than an hour, play in an arena that’s been a mainstay on your schedule. Seems like Xavier has a built-in advantage for its opening NCAA game. The Musketeers (21-12) play a First Four game against North Carolina State (21-13) Tuesday night at Dayton Arena, where Xavier has played many memorable games against the rival Flyers before moving into the Big East this season. Coach Chris Mack expects the Musketeers to get booed by the home crowd.

The other game Tuesday features Albany (18-14) against Mount St. Mary’s (16-16).

Las Vegas likes the Spartans

There will be 1,000 people lined up early Thursday morning in Las Vegas to get a seat at the LVH sports book for the start of the NCAA tournament, and most of them don’t care that Michigan State was somehow relegated to a No. 4 seed.

Oddsmakers in this gambling city are treating the Spartans like a No. 1 seed anyway. Their numbers show a team that will likely be favored against everyone except Florida, no matter what the NCAA selection committee thinks.

“We certainly can point out the committee flaws like no one else can,” said Jay Kornegay, who runs the popular LVH sports book. “Michigan State is a 4 seed yet we have them as the second favorite to win it all. That doesn’t make much sense to us.”

Oregon below the grade

An annual study of the schools in the men’s tournament shows a slight increase in teams that fall below graduation rate standards, and Oregon is one of those teams.

The University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport said in its report Monday that eight teams that made the 2014 men’s bracket fall below the NCAA-mandated Academic Progress Rate score of 930, equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate. Last year six teams didn’t reach that benchmark.

Teams in the field this year falling below that line are Cal Poly (925), Coastal Carolina (921), North Carolina Central (903), Oklahoma State (928), Providence (915), Texas Southern (900), Connecticut (897) and Oregon (918).

Trying times for Iowa coach

The highlight of coach Fran McCaffery’s career at Iowa so far coincides with a serious family health issue.

The Hawkeyes play their first NCAA tournament game in eight years Wednesday night against Tennessee in Dayton, Ohio. While fans spend the morning getting ready, McCaffery will be in an Iowa City hospital praying for his 13-year-old son, Patrick.

The younger McCaffery will have surgery to remove a thyroid tumor, just hours before Iowa (20-12) and fellow No. 11 seed Tennessee (21-12) tip off.

McCaffery planned to fly to Dayton with his team Monday, return to Iowa City for Patrick’s surgery and then get back to Ohio in time to coach against the Volunteers.


• Virginia Tech fired coach James Johnson after two seasons. The Hokies (9-22, 2-16) finished last in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference this season, their third last-place finish in a row.

• Utah State center Jarred Shaw has been sentenced to 10 days in jail after pleading guilty earlier this year to possession of a controlled substance.

• Duke forward Jabari Parker has won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation’s top freshman. The 6-foot-8 Parker is second in the ACC in scoring (19.3) and leads in rebounding (8.8).

• Florida was No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll.

• Four Missouri athletes were arrested Saturday night on suspicion of possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana during a traffic stop in Columbia, Mo. Guards Wes Clark and Shane Rector of the basketball team and defensive backs Aarion Penton and Shaun Rupert from the football team were each issued a court summons and released. Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith said Clark and Rector were suspended for the team’s practice, but not necessarily for the NIT opener Tuesday against Davidson.

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