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Shark warnings heard at San Diego State

Because UNLV is on NCAA probation and unable to appear on television or in the NCAA Tournament, we haven't heard much from Jerry Tarkanian this year.

A season after coaching what many considered to be among the best college basketball teams ever, the Nevada-Las Vegas coach is in near exile as he coaches his last Runnin' Rebels team. Tarkanian, who has spent most of his years at UNLV fighting the NCAA, agreed to retire after this season amid more troubles at his school.

But Tarkanian may live to coach another year _ and another team.

There is speculation that Tarkanian will become the next coach at San Diego State. And it is not all that far-fetched.

Jim Brandenburg, who had great success at Wyoming before moving to San Diego State five years ago, was fired Tuesday. The Aztecs were 2-19, including an 0-9 record in the Western Athletic Conference. His overall record was 52-87.

His slow-down, disciplined, low-post style apparently was unpopular in Southern California, where most recruits preferred an up-tempo style. In less than five seasons, 11 players have quit the program.

Here's where Tarkanian comes in: Fred Miller, the San Diego State athletic director, hired Tarkanian as coach at Long Beach State in the 1960s and reportedly has recommended Tarkanian to school president Thomas Day.

With all of Tarkanian's NCAA troubles _ a point-shaving investigation is the latest _ Day is understandably skeptical.

But Tarkanian, who has a home in San Diego, would bring the school a big boost in publicity _ good and bad _ and his high-powered, fast-paced offense would be an attraction to recruits.

Before Brandenburg was fired, Tarkanian, whose name had already been mentioned for the job, was asked about it: "I have great respect for Fred Miller," Tarkanian said. "It's a great area. It's a great community. And Fred Miller is the finest AD in America. He's so much smarter than everybody and he's so tough. But they've got a coach and it's not for me to say anything right now."

Now they don't have a coach (although Jim Harrick Jr., 27, son of the UCLA coach, is filling in on an interim basis). There could be another college basketball life for Tarkanian, after all.

NCAA Tournament: Roy Kramer, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and a member of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, predicted earlier this week that it will be more difficult than ever to select the 34 at-large teams for the 64-team field. Because of conference realignment, the Metro and the new Great Midwest do not have automatic bids. Their schools will need to get an at-large berth into the tournament.

"The amount of parity in the overall situation is going to perhaps make our whole selection process, in particular the seeding process, more difficult than ever before," Kramer said. "I do think perhaps we have seen more good middle-level teams, but of course those records have to be evaluated."

The day the pairings will be announced is not far away. It is Sunday, March 15.

A cure for bricks: Colorado was shooting so poorly from the free-throw line that coach Joe Harrington decided to try something during practice to snap his team out of its troubles.

At the end of practice, each player was required to shoot 25 free throws. If a player made less than a prescribed number _ usually 18 or 20 _ he would be required to take two bricks out of a shopping cart and run up and down a certain section of steps in the arena.

"It's just something to lighten things up," said junior forward Randy Robinson. "And guys have been laughing and joking about joining the "All-Brick Team.' But the point is, we need to shoot our free throws better."

The first game after the drill, the Buffaloes defeated Oklahoma, hitting 24 of 38 from the line (63 percent). Going into that game, they had hit only 32 of 69 (46 percent) in their previous three games. On Wednesday night, the Buffaloes won again, upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State.

For a tie, a loss: Southern Utah is one of the few Division I independents left, and with a 15-5 record, was considered a possibility for the NIT. And coach Neil Roberts was being praised for doing an excellent job of building the program after it moved to Division I four years ago.

But last week, Roberts was arrested after allegedly stealing a tie from a Moscow, Idaho, department store. Roberts ended up resigning because of the publicity that came from the arrest.

"I don't know if I'll coach again," said Roberts, who claimed he inadvertently left the store with the tie after he began talking with well-wishers. "I don't want to be in the limelight."

The price tag on the tie was $29.50.

Money talk: UCLA coach Jim Harrick often refers to the fact that he is underpaid. But a Southern California newspaper reported that Harrick's income, including salary and other outside benefits, is $381,000 a year. Nobody's feeling sorry for him, but he does make considerably less than one of his Pac-10 counterparts, Arizona's Lute Olsen, who reportedly makes near $800,000 a year.