Nova, Temple earn high NCAA seeds

Maybe Temple should have entered the NCAA tournament in a

slump.

The three-time defending Atlantic 10 tournament champion Owls

were surprised with their fifth seed in the East Regional and will

play No. 12 seed Cornell (27-4) in the NCAA tournament. Local rival

Villanova shook off a miserable slide and earned the No. 2 seed

Sunday in the South Regional and will play No. 15 Robert Morris

(23-11) in the tournament.

The Owls (29-5) have won 10 straight games, shared the A-10

regular season championship with Xavier and beat Richmond 56-52

earlier Sunday to clinch another conference tourney title.

The Wildcats (24-7) have lost five of seven after a 20-1 start.

The Wildcats, who last won a national championship in 1985, are

trying to reach the Final Four for the second straight year.

Temple defeated Villanova 75-65 in December.

Villanova opens the tournament Thursday in Providence, R.I.

Villanova’s six straight NCAA trips are the second-longest run in

team history, trailing only the seven straight appearances from

1980-86. The Wildcats are 48-30 in 30 overall trips.

“We lost to some good teams at the end of the season and I

think the committee saw that we’re still a very good basketball

team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think it’s also a

product of maybe some of the success that the previous teams have

had, a kind of respect for the program in the tournament.”

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw called the Owls’ fifth

seed “disappointing.”

“Someone said last week that the committee was not at all

interested in how you finished,” Bradshaw said. “There’s no

better examples of that than Temple and Villanova. That might be

true.”

Temple opens the tournament Friday in Jacksonville, Fla., trying

to win an NCAA game for the first time since 2001. The Owls, who

have their highest seed since they were No. 2 in 2000, lost

first-round games in 2008 and ’09.

Cornell coach Steve Donahue was an assistant and recruiting

coordinator for 10 years under Temple coach Fran Dunphy at

Penn.

The Temple-Cornell winner will play the winner of No. 4

Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Wofford. Cornell won the Ivy League

championship.

“I think this was a planned endeavor by the committee,” Dunphy

said. “They do some things to have this be a matchup. That’s my

sense.”

The Owls gathered in front of a few hundred fans at the

Liacouras Center and were cheered when they entered shortly before

the selection show holding the A-10 trophy. Temple’s bracket was

announced first, and the crowd booed when Villanova’s No. 2 seed

flashed on the screen.

“They got a two seed!” Temple forward Lavoy Allen said when

the Wildcats’ bracket was announced.

Dunphy refused to be drawn into a Temple-Villanova debate.

“There’s nothing I can do, I have no control over it, so

there’s no need to worry about it,” Dunphy said.

The Owls are in the tournament for the 28th time and are

31-27.

Wright made no apologies for the Wildcats’ high seed because of

Villanova’s overall record in the toughest conference in the

country. Villanova, which went 13-5 in the Big East, is a No. 2

seed for the first time in team history.

“It’s not like we got blown out or we didn’t play well. We just

played good teams,” Wright said. “When you look at it, we’re as

deserving as anybody, but if we would have been a three you

couldn’t argue it.”

Guard Scottie Reynolds, whose half-court dash for a last-second

basket against Pittsburgh in last year’s regional final sent

Villanova to the Final Four, was surprised the Wildcats got that

coveted No. 2 seed.

“I like to follow things and see where people say we’re going

to be. I was thinking a three or a four, and then when I saw a two

come up, I was like, ‘All right,”’ Reynolds said. “I think people

are emphasizing too much on the end of the season, but we have

gotten a lot better, and we’re going to just approach it like

that.”

This is the second straight Northeast Conference title for

Robert Morris, which also was a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament

last season. The Colonials are the first repeat NEC champion since

Rider won back-to-back conference titles in 1993 and 1994.

The winner will advance to a second-round game on Saturday

against either No. 7 seed Richmond (26-8) or No. 10 Saint Mary’s

(26-5).

Patriot League champion Lehigh, north of Philadelphia in

Bethlehem, Pa., faces No. 1 overall seed Kansas (32-2). The

Mountain Hawks (22-10) are going to the tournament for the fourth

time and earned the automatic bid with a win Friday over

Lafayette.