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A Final Four of busted brackets

Only one '1' still standing in NCAA

Knight Ridder Newspapers

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Usually, as teams march across the bracket toward the middle, reality has set in. Those early-round upset winners have been eliminated. The surprise element is gone. The power conference teams have flexed their muscles.

We're left with top-seeded chalk, which is acceptable. The strongest teams during the regular season typically are the same at the end of March.

But once in a while, the NCAA Tournament delivers a curve and a unique story line. The 2003 Final Four is one of those years.

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Kansas against Marquette and Texas against Syracuse isn't a knee-buckling breaker, but enough of an unexpected gathering that tickets, hotel rooms and plane reservations are changing hands right now.

Those cancellations are coming from Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma. Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Florida had extra time to seek refunds.

The lone top seed headed to New Orleans is Texas, which hasn't been in the national semifinals since 1947, long before it was called a Final Four.

The three others all took out top seeds in regional finals, which speaks to the remarkable balance in college basketball and perpetuates the idea that the selection committee did a poor job seeding teams this year.

Second-seeded Kansas, champion of the nation's strongest conference, should have been a No. 1. Marquette, which had the best league record and won the Conference USA tournament, probably was underseeded at No. 3. Same for Syracuse, which matched Pittsburgh for the best record in the Big East.

The Final Four is left with a No. 1, a No. 2 and a pair of threes. It's only the ninth time since the seeding process began and the first time since 2000 that only one top seed has pushed through.

Tournament coverage, Page 5D

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