NCAA hoops will have 68 in tourney
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The road to the men's basketball Final Four will have a new look next season.
Yesterday, the NCAA's board of directors in Indianapolis approved expansion from 65 to 68 teams and endorsed a proposal to add three more opening-round games to the schedule. The board also approved new rules governing concussions, and may sanction schools that do not comply.
It's only the second time in a quarter-century the NCAA has increased the number of teams competing for the national championship.
"Expanding to 68 teams gave us an opportunity to involve more teams in the championship, and in doing that, we were able to enhance the experience of the opening-round game," Clemson president James Barker, the committee chairman, said in a statement.
NCAA officials recommended the 68-team field last week after the public loudly complained that going to 80 or 96 teams would water down the NCAA's marquee event.
The format must still be approved by the men's basketball committee later this summer, and NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen is hoping it is done by July. The NCAA went from 64 to 65 teams in 2001, after increasing from 48 to 64 teams in 1985.
SHARKS WIN OPENER
Joe Pavelski picked up where he left off in the first round by scoring two goals to lead the host San Jose Sharks to a 4-3 victory last night over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the second-round Western Conference series.
Pavelski scored in the first period to start a three-goal outburst in 79 seconds with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Pavelski added his seventh goal of the postseason on a two-man advantage in the opening minute of the third period.
"We just got the early jump — a couple quick goals bang, bang," Setoguchi said.
NADAL ROLLS ON
Four-time winner Rafael Nadal improved his record at the Rome Masters to 24-1 with a 6-3, 6-2 win yesterday over 39th-ranked Victor Hanescu.
The third seed will face Stanislas Wawrinka, the 2008 runner-up, who beat Robin Soderling, 6-3, 6-2. Second-seeded Novak Djokovic ousted Thomaz Bellucci, 6-4, 6-4, and will meet Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals. Verdasco edged Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-4, 7-6 (2), to improve his record to 13-2 on clay this year.
Justine Henin outlasted Belgian teammate Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3, 7-5, yesterday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany.
Henin's path to the final was eased when top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, still bothered by a sore ankle, lost 6-4, 6-4 to Lucie Safarova. Second-seeded Dinara Safina beat Agnes Szavay, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-0.