Sooners made No. 1 seed in East

Sunday, March 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's basketball team pulled off quite a daily double Sunday, winning the Big 12 Conference tournament for the third straight year and then being made a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Sooners (24-6) are the top seed in the NCAA East Regional and will play South Carolina State on Thursday in Oklahoma City.

``We're thrilled to death to be a 1 seed,'' said coach Kelvin Sampson, who took his team to the Final Four as a No. 2 seed last year.

Oklahoma State also was placed in the East Regional. The Cowboys (21-9) were made the No. 6 seed and will play 11th-seeded Penn on Friday in Boston.

Tulsa, which earned an automatic NCAA bid by winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament, was seeded 13th in the Midwest. The Golden Hurricane will play Thursday in Spokane, Wash., against No. 4 seed Dayton.

Oklahoma finished third in the Big 12 during the regular season, behind Kansas and Texas. The NCAA selection committee made Texas the No. 1 seed in the South. Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the West and will play in Oklahoma City.

``Kansas won our regular season, they went 14-2. Texas finished second and they had a tremendous year,'' Sampson said. ``But we came on strong and won the conference tournament championship.

``I thought any of those three teams could have been a 1 seed and if it had been Kansas or Texas, I would have said congratulations to them and we would have ran with a 2 seed just like we did last year.''

The Sooners are seeded No. 1 for the first time since 1990.

Sampson said he is looking forward to playing just up the road in Oklahoma City.

``We played everywhere from Milwaukee to Memphis to Orlando to Tucson. We've played in some places,'' he said, laughing. ``So it's going to be fun playing where our fans can have an opportunity to come and support our team.''

South Carolina State (20-10) won the regular-season and conference championships in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs are winless in their previous four NCAA appearances.

``We've gotten heavyweights every time we've played,'' coach Cy Alexander said. ``I consider Oklahoma another national heavyweight.''

The Oklahoma-South Carolina State winner will play the winner of the game between No. 8 seed California (21-8) and ninth-seeded North Carolina State (18-12).

Oklahoma State (21-9) plays Penn in the first round. The Quakers (22-5) won the Ivy League title and enter the tournament on a 14-game winning streak.

A victory would send Oklahoma State against either No. 3 seed Syracuse or 14th-seeded Manhattan.

``I thought we would probably drop to a seven or eight seed,'' said coach Eddie Sutton, whose team lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and has lost eight of its past 12.

``I was pleasantly surprised when we got a six seed. I think the fact that we are the only team to defeat two No. 1 seeds (Oklahoma and Texas) helps.''

Tulsa (22-9), in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years, plays a Dayton team (24-5) that won the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time.

The 22nd-ranked Flyers are balanced and versatile. They had four players in double figures 19 times this season, including each of their final five games.

Tulsa was 11-7 at one point this season, but since then coach John Phillips' team has won 11 of 13 games including the WAC tournament title game Saturday night against Nevada.

``We had a lot of ups and downs this year, but we all stuck together as a team and we all knew we could make it to the tournament,'' forward Marqus Ledoux said. ``Last night before the championship game, coach Phillips told us just to go out and be ourselves and that should be enough. We'll go into the game (against Dayton) with that mindset.''