Sports around the country

Tourney ranks with best
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Let the argument begin: Was this the best tournament ever?
Plenty of NCAA tournaments have had great first and second rounds or tremendous regional weekends. There have been Final Fours that have become part of the sport’s lore.
The 1998 version covered all three weekends. It started strong, stayed exciting and finished with the greatest comeback in the history of championship games.
The numbers will say 16 games decided by a 3-pointer or less and four games, including one of the national semifinals, went to overtime.
The memories will always be of Bryce Drew’s first-round buzzer-beater against Mississippi that made Valparaiso a household name and coaches and fathers smart for at least a day or two; of Richard Hamilton falling down in the lane after he let go Connecticut’s third shot in the final eight seconds to beat Washington in the regional semifinals; of Jarrod West calmly walking the ball up the court before beating the buzzer and Cincinnati in the second round.
Utah upset Arizona and North Carolina, two Nos. 1 seeds, on the way to the title game, raising the profile of its unheralded players and giving coach Rick Majerus a national stage.
There was also Rhode Island, which sent Kansas to another crushing pre-Final Four loss before being stung itself by Stanford’s wild final-minute comeback. The Rams’ run brought Jim Harrick back to the regional final three years after winning the national championship and two years after being fired by UCLA.
But most of all there was Kentucky, which overcame double-digit deficits in the second half of its last three games in capturing its seventh national championship.
Tubby Smith got to cut down the nets at the Alamodome on Monday night after his Wildcats beat Utah 78-69 in their third straight championship game. Kentucky rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit, the largest ever overcome in a championship game.
Smith still remembers the all-white Kentucky teams of the Adolph Rupp era and the memories are not fond ones. When he took the Kentucky job last May, there were concerns that as the first black Wildcat coach he would be treated especially hard if the team didn’t measure up to Rick Pitino’s national championship team of 1996 and runner-up team of last year. The championship finally put those concerns to rest.
Smith was asked if he felt this was one of the best and most exciting tournaments ever.
“It is hard to appreciate it when you are in the midst of it because you are so involved in preparing your team and watching tapes,” he said. “You don’t have a chance to really enjoy it until it’s over.
“But with the games the way there were, the competitiveness, the closeness and the parity of the teams, I think that’s helped to generate some of the excitement, more than anybody could witness, in this tournament.”
The focus of college basketball briefly moved from the basketball court to the court room last week when two Northwestern basketball players were indicted for shaving points in three Wildcat games from 1994-95. But even that couldn’t overshadow the tournament.
“It’s the greatest NCAA tournament ever. I don’t even think there is one that can come even close,” said New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari, who was in a Final Four with Massachusetts just two years ago.
“The problem is that every NCAA now is going to be judged against this one and that is just not fair. Next year’s NCAA will be judged the same way, like if there is not 100 games decided by a point or overtime, we’ll all be upset and say this is boring.”
Hurry up and start the discussion: Was this the best NCAA tournament ever? Practice starts Oct. 17. The talk can go on for a while.

Ratings low for title game
NEW YORK (AP) — The championship of one of the most exciting NCAA tournaments in history brought CBS the lowest prime-time title game rating ever.
Kentucky’s victory against Utah on Monday night got a 17.8 rating/28 share, the lowest for the NCAA championship game since the 1972 UCLA-Florida State final, played in the afternoon, got a 16.0/35.
The rating is 6 percent below the 18.9 for Arizona’s 1997 overtime win against Kentucky and 22 percent below the 22.7 from the Michigan-Duke final in 1992. Since that game, the rating has slipped every year except 1997.
Since 1992, the ratings for the NBA Finals have jumped 18 percent since 1992, the Super Bowl is up 10 percent since that year and the World Series has slipped 17 percent.