The sentimental favorite for the NCAA tournament is 68-year-old Temple coach John Chaney, whose distinguished career lacks just one accomplishment -- an appearance in the Final Four.
The selection committee didn't make the task easy, though, parking the Owls as a No. 2 seed in the East bracket right behind No. 1 Duke, a team that has broken Chaney's heart before, most recently last year in the regional finals.Chaney was asked about his team's tournament prospects after Temple won its first Atlantic-10 title in 10 years. "It might help if we didn't run across Duke," he said.
Now the Owls will have to play the Blue Devils if form holds in the East bracket.
Chaney wasn't interested in looking that far ahead.
"Which bracket doesn't matter," he said. "Everybody will try to be as good as they can possibly be. Win one, you buy one. Lose, it's next year.
"It's difficult to tell how far we'll go, but the first game certainly is important. It will tell us a lot."
The Owls open on Friday against No. 15 Lafayette in an all-Pennsylvania matchup at Buffalo, N.Y. Meanwhile, Duke, equipped with its third straight No. 1 seed, probably won't learn much from its first game. The Blue Devils get Lamar, whose 15-15 record is the worst of any team in the tournament, at Winston-Salem, N.C., on Thursday.
Never has a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 16. Lamar coach Mike Deane called his team's situation very tough.
"The thing that concerns you is that they are so close to home, that they are the most formidable offensive team in the country, they are the deepest team, they are the most athletic team and they certainly are the best team in the country right now."
Chaney has noticed that, too.
Oklahoma State owns the No. 3 seed in the East and draws No. 14 Hofstra in the first round. Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton was pleased with that ranking following late losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State.
"I was a little surprised," he said. "I really thought we probably would be looking at a four or a five.
"I think it is a very tough regional. I think the committee does a good job, though, in spreading out the talent. Temple, I think, probably could have got a No. 1 seed. They're that good. Duke, of course, is probably as tough a team to play as any other."
Chaney probably has noticed that, as well.
If Sutton was pleased with Oklahoma State's No. 3 seeding, Florida coach Billy Donovan was a bit disappointed with the Gators' No. 5.
"I don't think there's any question that our seed was extremely low," he said. "I felt we should have been a four seed. With the way college basketball is going, with the parity, we realize that if you're a three seed or lower, you're going to play good teams early and you're going to keep playing them if you advance."
If Florida gets by No. 12 Butler, and No. 5 Illinois defeats No. 13 Penn, it would set up an intriguing second-round meeting. Illini coach Lon Kruger took the Gators to the Final Four in 1994.
"I know there are a lot of people who want to see us play Illinois," Donovan said. "It would be a tremendous matchup. But Butler is my main focus right now. If we have a chance to play Illinois, so be it."
Other first-round East pairings have No. 6 Indiana against No. 11 Pepperdine; No. 7 Oregon against No. 10 Seton Hall; and No. 8 Kansas against No. 9 DePaul.
DePaul coach Pat Kennedy was happy with his No. 9, but Kansas coach Roy Williams was not exactly thrilled with his No. 8.
"We're not complaining," Kennedy said. "We had two legitimate goals -- to win 20 and get to the NCAAs. It's a total success for us. This is a major stamp of approval. It's a tremendous success in our eyes. We can't look at it any other way."
Williams could and did.
"I'll admit I was surprised we were an eighth seed," he said. "They say they want you to play a difficult schedule. What they don't say is they want you to win."
Williams, a longtime North Carolina assistant before taking the Kansas job, noted the game was in Winston-Salem and that the Jayhawks would play Duke if both teams won their first-round games.
"Duke fans are not going to root for anybody with North Carolina ties," he said.