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NCAA introduces 'First Four'

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA unveiled its plans for the expanded 68-team men's basketball tournament Monday. Beginning in March, eight teams will play in a "First Four" round with the winners advancing to games Thursday or Friday.

Two of the early games will match the lowest seeds, Nos. 65-68. The other two will match the last four at-large qualifiers.

"I think some people are going to look at it and say it looks like a compromise," said Laing Kennedy, a retired Kent State athletic director who is on the men's basketball committee that developed the format. "What we look at is that it really does preserve the integrity of the 31 automatic qualifiers."

There has been only one play-in game since 2001, when the tournament expanded from 64 to 65 teams.

Including the lowest at-large teams probably will prevent mid-majors from being overrepresented in the first round. But it could mean two teams from bigger conferences will be out before the tournament really gets going.

"You're not going to come up with a model that is going to appease every constituency out there," UCLA athletic director and committee chair Dan Guerrero said. "But we felt that this model provided the opportunity to do something special for the tournament."

Guerrero and NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen noted three of the four at-large teams wouldn't have qualified at all under the 2010 format. Still, they said the committee was sensitive to the fact that some big-name teams could exit shortly after the brackets are filled out.

"That would have been the consideration if all eight at-large teams had been a part of the 'First Four,' " Guerrero said. "The expanded tournament allowed for three new at-large teams to get into the tournament. We felt it was appropriate since we had a 68-team model that those three teams be a part of that equation along with the 34th at-large team."

There was concern that the new additions will always be smaller schools. Since 2001, a school from the SWAC has been in the play-in game five times. Athletic director Skip Perkins, whose Arkansas-Pine Bluff team (from the SWAC) won last season's play-in game, said he believes the committee did a good job.

"I hope it's not a situation where the MEAC and the SWAC always have the play-in games," he said. "And I would hope that it would never be two play-in games at one time. I would at least hope that out of those four that each would have their own life."

Iowa St.: Forward Royce White, Minnesota's Mr. Basketball in 2009 who signed with but never played for Minnesota, will transfer to the Big 12 school. White was suspended last fall after pleading guilty to theft and disorderly conduct. He left Minnesota in February after being charged with trespassing in connection to an alleged theft of a laptop computer from a dorm. The NCAA has not determined if he must sit out a season.

Football: Florida punished for Facebook violations

A school turned Florida in to the SEC for improper use of Facebook, leading to minor penalties being imposed by the NCAA.

An unidentified Florida assistant posted comments on the Facebook walls of two recruits Aug. 5, and a school, also unidentified, monitoring the walls reported it. Florida self-reported a separate incident Aug. 7.

Coaches can have electronic conversation with recruits through e-mail and direct messaging via Facebook, but posting on a recruit's Facebook wall is not allowed.

For each offense, the coach was reminded of the rule's interpretation and prohibited from written communication in recruiting for two weeks.

Florida also self-reported violations for "impermissible protective gear" Sept. 11 and two assistants calling a recruit twice in the same week in October. The protective gear violation led to conduct rules education with the coaches and equipment staff. For the calls, Florida prohibited its staff from calling the recruit for two weeks.

USF transfer: Spencer Boyd, a cornerback/receiver from Cape Coral, is leaving Notre Dame for USF. Boyd, who is transferring after enrolling in January, got an A in an anthropology summer class at Notre Dame, assuring him of being admitted to USF. He will sit out this fall as required by NCAA rules then have four seasons of eligibility. Boyd, who also considered West Virginia, is the second transfer to USF over the past week. Former East Carolina fullback/tight end Kevin Gidrey is following coach Skip Holtz for his final year of eligibility. In addition, former Auburn running back Dontae Aycock will be a walk-on this season.

Montana: The NCAA granted another season of eligibility to cornerback Jimmy Wilson, who was acquitted of murder in the June 2007 shooting death of his aunt's boyfriend. A starter in 2004-06, he was jailed in California for two years before his trial.

North Carolina: Coach Butch Davis said he will discipline All-ACC linebacker Quan Sturdivant after Saturday's citation for misdemeanor marijuana possession but didn't specify.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report, which used information from the Orlando Sentinel.

Fast Facts

Revised NCAA men's basketball tournament

• There still will be 31 automatic qualifiers — conference tournament winners — but now 37 at-large qualifiers, four more than before.

• The first round, taking place on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the field is announced, will have eight teams playing to advance to the second round (the first Thursday-Friday of the tournament).

• Two first-round games will match teams seeded 65-68, the winners advancing to play a No. 1 seed. These likely will be small schools. Last season, no 15 or 16 seeds came from a BCS conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10). The other two games will match the last four at-large teams selected, likely teams from BCS conferences. These teams will be seeded where they would normally be placed in the bracket. For example, a game between No. 10 seeds would result in the winner playing a No. 7 seed. All four games will air on Turner Broadcasting's truTV.

• Locations for first-round games have not been determined.

• Higher-seeded teams will continue to be assigned to the closest available sites for second- and third-round games.

• Regular-season rematches will continue to be avoided.

NCAA introduces 'First Four' 07/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 12:26am]
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