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Tournament tidbits: Losses don’t matter

Associated Press

The NCAA Tournament never has had so many teams with so many losses make it so far.

Six of the regional semifinalists have 10 or more losses, including three with 13. The reaction around college basketball has been a collective shrug.

There simply are more opportunities to lose nowadays.

That’s because teams are playing more regular-season games than ever, and top programs are trying to schedule mostly high-caliber nonconference opponents which can enhance their resumes for the NCAA Tournament selection committee and seeding.

“There was a time years and years ago where you’d feel like if you had 20 wins you’d get in the tournament,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “Now it comes down to who you schedule. You may lose some games because you’re playing a difficult nonconference schedule. And then in our league, it’s tough night in and night out with 18 games in the ACC.”

N.C. State, Xavier and UCLA all have 13 losses heading into this week’s games. Michigan State and North Carolina have 11 each and Oklahoma has 10.

The previous record for number of Sweet 16 teams with double-digit losses was five, last year and in 1985 and ‘86, according to STATS. The only other time there were even two 13-loss teams was 2000.

The NCAA has allowed teams to play as many as 31 regular-season games since 2006-07. Before that the maximum was 28. With conference tournaments, some teams now play 34 or 35 games before the NCAA Tournament.

As of this week, 58 teams had played at least 35 games. A decade ago, only 13 teams played that many.

Arizona’s Miller, Xavier’s Mack get their reunion

Nearly six years after Sean Miller left Xavier for Arizona, the bonds between the schools’ coaching staffs still run wide and very deep.

That friendship will get a little spice tonight when coach Chris Mack’s sixth-seeded Musketeers (23-13) attempt to pull off a major upset of his former boss’ second-seeded Wildcats (33-3).

When Miller left Cincinnati, he lobbied for his longtime lead assistant to replace him. Mack has maintained Xavier’s consistent success with three Sweet 16 trips, while Miller has led his West Coast powerhouse to this round four times in five years.

Although their game plans and coaching styles still have many similarities all these years later, Mack is pretty sure he has a little more fun.

The serious Miller “needs to loosen up,” according to his former assistant.

Re-energized Brey leads Notre Dame

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has relied heavily on the toughness instilled with him by his mother while preparing for a Sweet 16 showdown against Wichita State tonight.

Brey’s mother Betty died last Saturday, hours before Notre Dame beat Butler in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32. Brey didn’t tell his team until afterward.

The coach says he didn’t want to provide a distraction.

Brey spent last Sunday with his family in Florida to celebrate his mother’s life before returning to South Bend to prepare for the Shockers.