MARCH 12, 14 / HARTFORD
1 North Carolina
COACH Bill Guthridge RECORD 30-3
TEAM SCORING 82.6 (FG%: 52.7) (3-pointers: 159-430, 37.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.8 (FG%: 38.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +7.3 TEAM FT% 71.4
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Shammond Williams (90%), Ed Cota (82%)
WHOM TO FOUL Brendan Haywood (62%), Ademola Okulaja (64%)
QUALITY WINS UCLA 109-68, Duke 97-73 and 83-68
PLAYER TO WATCH Probable national player of the year, 6'9"
junior forward Antawn Jamison, is the one to focus on--if you
can, for Jamison scarcely stops moving. Here's the season's most
telling stat: Against Duke on Feb. 5 Jamison touched the ball
for only 53 seconds and scored 35 points.
SCOUTING REPORT The Tar Heels are vulnerable to the three,
whether launched by teams that beat them (N.C. State's C.C.
Harrison knocked down eight) or almost did (Princeton got a lot
of good looks among its 22 missed treys). Guthridge even had two
blowups with Williams over his poor perimeter defense. An often
ignored strength, though, is Okulaja. Whether screening, taking
charges or making deflections, the junior forward provides the
steadying force that Matt Doherty did for the 1982 Tar Heels
title team and Henrik Rodl did for the '93 edition.
PREDICTION North Carolina has the easiest road to San Antone,
with just a short stopover down I-40 in Greensboro.
COACH Don DeVoe RECORD 19-10
TEAM SCORING 71.7 (FG%: 44.1) (3-pointers: 93-313, 29.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 63.9 (FG%: 40.6)
REBOUND MARGIN +6.2 TEAM FT% 66.2
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Michael Heary (87%), Matt Sladky (86%)
WHOM TO FOUL Hassan Booker (59%), Josh Williams (59%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH Sitapha Savane led the Patriot League in blocked
shots this year, but that's nothing. He also speaks four
languages and hopes someday to be president of his native
Senegal. (His father, Landing, came up short in the 1996
presidential election.) What more could you ask for? How about a
boundless learning curve. As a freshman last year, Savane, a
6'7" center, played on the jayvee; this year he made the Patriot
SCOUTING REPORT The Midshipmen play serviceable defense
(standard-issue man-to-man) and know how to crash the boards.
Their offense? Don't ask, don't tell. If you must know, Navy
tries to get by with a 6'3" power forward (Booker) and without a
natural point guard, hence its 405 assists and 475 turnovers, a
bad ratio by any measure. In a 70-54 loss at Auburn early this
season, the Middies struggled to get the ball past half-court.
PREDICTION By halftime of its first-rounder with North Carolina,
Navy will be in extremis.
COACH Melvin Watkins RECORD 19-10
TEAM SCORING 73.2 (FG%: 43.7) (3-pointers: 163-482, 33.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.5 (FG%: 42.2)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.6 TEAM FT% 70.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Sean Colson (87%), Diego Guevara (82%)
WHOM TO FOUL Dalonte Hill (47%), Kelvin Price (48%)
QUALITY WINS Marquette 66-53, Cincinnati 69-62
PLAYER TO WATCH As senior forward-center DeMarco Johnson, the
Conference USA player of the year (20.7 points, 9.0 rebounds),
sat down for a recent interview, the phone rang on the desk next
to him. It was PEOPLE magazine calling with an interview
request--for Antawn Jamison. Uh, hello? Wrong branch of the
University of North Carolina. "If this school wants respect,"
said Johnson, "we have to make a statement in the tournament."
SCOUTING REPORT To keep opponents from sagging on Johnson, the
49ers must score from outside. Price, a 6'8" junior forward who
averaged 9.8 points and 8.2 rebounds, won't help much there: Of
his 111 field goals, 49 were dunks. Senior point guard Colson
could be key. He led Conference USA with 7.7 assists a game and
averaged 15.3 points, but his shooting can be streaky. Whether
the 49ers are, in PEOPLE parlance, a postseason Pick or Pan will
depend largely on him.
PREDICTION After a first-round defeat of Illinois-Chicago in the
battle of the hyphens, the 49ers will lose the battle of the UNCs.
COACH Jimmy Collins RECORD 22-5
TEAM SCORING 75.1 (FG%: 43.7) (3-pointers: 186-439, 42.4%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.7 (FG%: 43.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.4 TEAM FT% 73.5
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Anthony Coomes (86%), K. Stavropoulos (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL Anton Collins (42%)
QUALITY WINS Michigan St. 70-58, Illinois St. 75-67, Detroit 88-83
PLAYER TO WATCH The only star in Chicagoland who has played
consistently better than the Flames' Mark Miller this year has
been number 23. Miller, a senior guard, was the Midwestern
Collegiate Conference's player of the year, led the league in
scoring (20.1) and finished among the conference's top 10 in
rebounding, assists and steals.
SCOUTING REPORT Illinois-Chicago attained its best record ever
because it was uncanny from behind the three-point line, whence
the Flames ranked fourth nationally in accuracy. They also have
four senior starters, a fact that should assuage any concerns
that Illinois-Chicago's first NCAA bid will cause stage fright.
Senior forward Bryant Lowe, one of those three-point threats
(55.6%), also averages 8.9 rebounds, but how deep into the
tournament can a 6'5" 190-pounder remain effective under the
PREDICTION The Flames burned brightly enough to get a No. 9
seed, but they'll flame out against UNC-Charlotte's perimeter D.
MARCH 12, 14 / HARTFORD
4 Michigan State
COACH Tom Izzo RECORD 20-7
TEAM SCORING 74.0 (FG%: 45.2) (3-pointers: 160-445, 35.9%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 63.7 (FG%: 40.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +9.3 TEAM FT% 65.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Charlie Bell (79%), Jason Klein (74%)
WHOM TO FOUL Morris Peterson (50%), Antonio Smith (54%)
QUALITY WINS At Purdue 74-57, at Iowa 78-57, Michigan 80-75
PLAYER TO WATCH Big Ten player of the year Mateen Cleaves, the
Spartans' sophomore point guard, cleaves to a work ethic worthy
of Flint, Mich., his blue-collar hometown. After enduring the
pain of a chronic back injury last year, he pumped iron all
summer and lost more than 15 pounds. The result? A healthy
Cleaves led the Spartans in scoring (14.4) and was sixth in the
nation in assists (7.0).
SCOUTING REPORT Michigan State started the season with a 4-3
record that included losses to Detroit and Illinois-Chicago and
then went 13-3 in Big Ten play. What happened? The Spartans got
physical, ranking second in the country in rebound margin,
thanks mainly to Smith, a 6'8" junior who pulls down 8.9 boards
a game. They're vulnerable to slow starts, however: Witness 19
first-half points in a 56-54 loss to Temple and a 17-point
halftime deficit in their 79-69 defeat at Michigan.
PREDICTION Upset loss to Minnesota in Big Ten tournament and
draw of slingshot-toting Eastern Michigan suggest an early exit.
13 Eastern Michigan
COACH Milton Barnes RECORD 20-9
TEAM SCORING 80.1 (FG%: 47.2) (3-pointers: 208-553, 37.6%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 75.3 (FG%: 45.3)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.4 TEAM FT% 65.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Earl Boykins (81%), Derrick Dial (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL James Head (46%), Jon Zajac (56%)
QUALITY WINS At Michigan 89-83, at Ball State 89-77
PLAYERS TO WATCH Call him Earl the Twirl or Earl the Seed Pearl.
Either way, Boykins, a 5'5" senior point guard, is probably the
most electrifying performer in the tournament. And he's coming
into the Big Dance on a roll: After winning the regular-season
finale with a 42-footer at the buzzer to stun Toledo 87-86,
Boykins scored a Mid-American Conference tournament-record 89
points in three games to lead the Eagles to the title. Playing
in Boykins's, uh, shadow, his backcourtmate Dial scored 20.6
points a game and was the MAC defensive player of the year.
SCOUTING REPORT Boykins and Dial take 53% of Eastern Michigan's
shots and score 56% of its points. The frontcourtmen, like
everyone else, tend to watch as their guards work magic. The
lack of an inside game can be seen in the Eagles' being
outscored by 119 points at the free throw line, but Head is a
short, quick pivotman who can give a bigger center fits.
PREDICTION We know about the Eagles' Earl. Here's their URL:
COACH Bill Carmody RECORD 26-1
TEAM SCORING 66.8 (FG%: 50.0) (3-pointers: 249-630, 39.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 50.9 (FG%: 40.8)
REBOUND MARGIN -2.0 TEAM FT% 68.3
WHOM NOT TO FOUL James Mastaglio (82%), Brian Earl (76%)
WHOM TO FOUL Steve Goodrich (65%)
QUALITY WINS N.C. State 38-36, Wake Forest 69-64
PLAYER TO WATCH Mitch Henderson is the best at the Tigers'
signature skill, the backdoor pass. Says Penn coach Fran Dunphy,
"In my nightmares I see Henderson coming up from the baseline,
throwing a bounce pass off the dribble for a layup."
SCOUTING REPORT North Carolina's Antawn Jamison sums up the
Tigers best: "You know exactly what will happen, but for some
reason they're hard to stop." In its only loss, to the Tar
Heels, Princeton stopped itself, clanking 22 of 26
three-pointers. Aside from another cold-shooting fit, the Tigers
could also be vulnerable if foul trouble benches center
Goodrich, whose shooting, passing and ball handling make him the
hub of the offense. His sub, Mason Rocca, is just getting back
after missing most of league play with a broken wrist; if he's
not ready, 6'7" Nate Walton will have to make like Nate's Hall
of Famer dad, Bill.
PREDICTION It's strange to be the hunted rather than the hunter,
but the Tigers should get past UNLV, though no further.
COACH Bill Bayno RECORD 20-12
TEAM SCORING 69.8 (FG%: 42.0) (3-pointers: 188-549, 34.2%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 66.5 (FG%: 40.1)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.1 TEAM FT% 65.5
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Kevin Simmons (72%), Kaspars Kambala (72%)
WHOM TO FOUL Issiah Epps (47%), Edwin (Greedy) Daniels (55%)
QUALITY WINS E. Michigan 84-66, Utah 54-51, New Mexico 56-51
PLAYER TO WATCH New Zealand's Mark Dickel was the WAC Pacific
Division's freshman of the year for 1996-97, yet his point guard
job was practically handed to Daniels, a heralded recruit,
during the preseason. Dickel split time between the two guard
spots and averaged just 5.5 points. With Daniels seeing limited
time because of a pulled right hamstring, however, there was
Dickel running the point and pushing the ball upcourt as the
Runnin' Rebels clinched an unlikely NCAA bid by sweeping four
games in the WAC tournament. He had 12 assists with just one
turnover in the final against New Mexico.
SCOUTING REPORT UNLV has won six straight since its best player,
center Keon Clark, quit the team on Feb. 24 following a
suspension for "violating team rules." Simmons--who was himself
suspended for the season's first 14 games by the NCAA for
accepting favors from an agent--has been a force in his stead.
PREDICTION Unable to downshift from the frenetic WAC tournament,
UNLV will be numbed by Princeton in Round 1.
MARCH 12, 14 / WASHINGTON
COACH Jim Calhoun RECORD 29-4
TEAM SCORING 76.5 (FG%: 45.9) (3-pointers: 194-544, 35.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 62.5 (FG%: 38.4)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.5 TEAM FT% 72.9
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Richard Hamilton (85%), Khalid El-Amin (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL Souleymane Wane (55%), Rashamel Jones (62%)
QUALITY WINS West Virginia 88-75, UMass 72-55, Stanford 76-56
PLAYER TO WATCH Freshman assist leader El-Amin (4.2 a game) and
sophomore scoring leader Hamilton (21.4) get most of the
attention, but sophomore forward Kevin Freeman does the dirty
work that allows them to flourish. He's certainly the Huskies'
toughest player; he fractured his wrist on Jan. 19 but missed
only one game, and he leads UConn in rebounding despite being an
undersized, 6'6", power forward.
SCOUTING REPORT Calhoun passed the 500-victory mark this season,
but he'd probably trade a few hundred wins for his first Final
Four berth. His Huskies are at their best against bigger, slower
teams like Stanford, thanks to running, pressing guards El-Amin
and Ricky Moore and dangerous sixth man Monquencio Hardnett, who
may be UConn's best defender. On the downside the Huskies' small
front line was pushed around in losses to St. John's and West
PREDICTION If the Huskies, who shot poorly in winning the Big
East tournament, meet Xavier in the regional semis, they're done.
15 Fairleigh Dickinson
COACH Tom Green RECORD 23-6
TEAM SCORING 83.7 (FG%: 45.2) (3-pointers: 223-611, 36.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 74.5 (FG%: 41.3)
Rebounding margin +9.5 TEAM FT% 67.5
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Elijah Allen (80%), Tedaryl Fason (75%)
WHOM TO FOUL Jonas Sinding (36%), Ike Williams (50%)
QUALITY WINS LIU 105-91, at LIU 110-100 (OT)
PLAYER TO WATCH Senior forward Rahshon Turner is as stand-up as
he is go-to: After getting into a fracas with a Monmouth player
on Jan. 17, Turner wrote a letter of apology to Monmouth's Dave
Calloway for besmirching a game that had been Calloway's debut
as a head coach. Turner is just as demanding of himself on the
court. Besides averaging 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds--the
latter places him third in the nation--he shares the Knights'
single-season record in blocks, with 63.
SCOUTING REPORT Fairleigh Dickinson has strong leadership (four
starters are seniors, as are two top reserves), good depth (11
strong) and terrific rebounding (its margin is fourth in the
nation). And the Knights aren't some walk-it-up,
work-the-ball-around outfit. They went shot for shot with
high-scoring LIU three times and won twice. Their fast-break
style, however, led to 18 turnovers a game, a fairly ridiculous
PREDICTION The Knights' future will be fairly Dickensian: From
best of times (Northeast champs) to worst (first-round fodder).
COACH Bob Knight RECORD 19-11
TEAM SCORING 76.5 (FG%: 48.8) (3-pointers: 173-457, 37.9%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 72.7 (FG%: 44.2)
REBOUND MARGIN -0.8 TEAM FT% 73.1
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Michael Lewis (85%), Andrae Patterson (80%)
WHOM TO FOUL William Gladness (54%), Rob Turner (57%)
QUALITY WINS Purdue 94-88, Michigan 80-62
PLAYER TO WATCH A 24-year-old junior who never played high
school ball, Gladness was plucked by Knight from the junior
college tumbleweeds (Carl Albert State in Poteau, Okla.). The
forward shot a team-leading 55.3% from the field, which makes
him No. 1 with a bullet--the one that's lodged near Gladness's
spine as the result of a shooting while he was in high school in
West Memphis, Ark.
SCOUTING REPORT Knight considers sophomore guard A.J. Guyton
(16.6 points per game) the Hoosiers' MVP because he has been
their only consistent player. Consistency--or lack thereof--has
been the fatal flaw that has haunted Patterson; in what seems to
be a paradigm of his career, he dropped 27 points on Purdue one
night but was shut out by Michigan three games later. The
Hoosiers are quicker since 7-foot center Jason Collier left the
team in January, but their poor rebounding has hurt them.
PREDICTION Patterson and Charlie Miller will become Knight's
first four-year players to fail to win an NCAA tournament game.
COACH Kelvin Sampson RECORD 22-10
TEAM SCORING 74.2 (FG%: 44.4) (3-pointers: 172-494, 34.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.5 (FG%: 42.5)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.1 TEAM FT% 70.2
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Corey Brewer (80%), Michael Johnson (75%)
WHOM TO FOUL Ryan Humphrey (58%), Evan Wiley (59%)
QUALITY WINS Coppin State 83-72, Texas 81-74
PLAYER TO WATCH A gunshot that hit him in the arm didn't stop
Brewer at age 15, so what chance did bruised ribs, two sprained
ankles and a dislocated finger have this season? Brewer, a 6'2"
senior guard who spent last summer playing on a USA Basketball
team that went to Australia and another that played in Sicily,
averaged 35.4 minutes this season. It's quality time too. Brewer
gets his 20.8 points per game from the outside (making 42.7% of
his threes) and at the free throw line (making 5.6 foul shots
per game), which shows he can drive, too.
SCOUTING REPORT These Sooners do what Sampson's teams usually do
well. They rebound and play tough defense. But injuries have
reduced Oklahoma to eight players, one of whom, forward Edward
Najera, hasn't fully recovered from a stress fracture in his
left foot. Depth could be the Sooners' undoing: In their five
Big 12 losses, they led in the second half in four of them
PREDICTION Sampson (four straight NCAA defeats) will end his
streak against Indiana before UConn tells the Sooners, "Later."
MARCH 12, 14 / WASHINGTON
3 South Carolina
COACH Eddie Fogler RECORD 23-7
TEAM SCORING 71.7 (FG%: 44.2) (3-pointers: 171-515, 33.2%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.5 (FG%: 41.1)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.5 TEAM FT% 69.2
WHOM NOT TO FOUL BJ McKie (78%), Melvin Watson (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Herbert Lee Davis (48%), William Gallman (58%)
QUALITY WINS Maryland 76-72, Cincinnati 67-65
PLAYER TO WATCH Strong guard play and a knack for winning close
games are key elements for success in the tournament, and the
Gamecocks have both in one player, junior shooting guard McKie.
His scoring (18.7) and his cool in tight situations--he drained
the winning basket with 1.2 seconds left to beat Georgia on Feb.
24, for instance--are the main reasons that South Carolina is
9-1 in games decided by five points or less.
SCOUTING REPORT Freshman forward Antonio Grant tipped in the
game-winner with 0.9 of a second left against Florida and, three
days later, on Feb. 1, pumped in a miracle three-pointer at the
buzzer to cap a 23-point comeback victory against Cincinnati. So
do all those late-game heroics make the Gamecocks clutch winners
or a team capable of a first-round loss, like the South Carolina
squad of a year ago? Living dangerously could take its toll.
PREDICTION Alas for the Gamecocks, a No. 14 seed usually takes
out a No. 3, and first-round foe Richmond has a knack for the
COACH John Beilein RECORD 22-7
TEAM SCORING 70.4 (FG%: 46.1) (3-pointers: 226-555, 40.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 61.3 (FG%: 44.4)
REBOUND MARGIN -1.2 TEAM FT% 69.4
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Daryl Oliver (83%), Jarod Stevenson (79%)
WHOM TO FOUL Nick Patrick (50%), Eric Poole (62%)
Quality win Virginia 83-79
PLAYER TO WATCH "Daryl Oliver is a kid no one wanted," Spiders
assistant coach Jeff Neubauer says, and he's including his own
team. Oliver, a senior guard, got a scholarship from Richmond
only after another recruit bailed out at the last minute, and he
lost his starting job before this season started. No problem. He
has made himself a sixth-man extraordinaire in Richmond's new
three-guard offense, averaging 13.7 points a game in the
Colonial conference tournament to win the MVP award.
SCOUTING REPORT If the itsy-bitsy Spiders (tallest starter: 6'8"
forward Poole) are to add to their glorious tournament
history--upsets of Auburn, Indiana, Georgia Tech and Syracuse
between 1984 and '91--two things have to happen: Forward
Stevenson (18.9) must stay hot (he shot 47.5% from three-point
range this year), and the Richmond D, an aggressive man-to-man
with zone traps, must be suffocating.
PREDICTION Given the Spiders' past and backcourt depth,
arachnophobia will do in South Carolina and scare Xavier.
COACH Skip Prosser RECORD 22-7
TEAM SCORING 84.1 (FG%: 48.8) (3-pointers: 168-472, 35.6%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.8 (FG%: 44.4)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.4 TEAM FT% 73.5
WHOM NOT TO FOUL James Posey (82%), Gary Lumpkin (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL Maurice McAfee (56%)
QUALITY WINS Cincinnati 88-68, at Temple 79-73
PLAYER TO WATCH The Musketeers have two unflappable junior
guards in Lumpkin and Lenny Brown, but their surprising
offensive star is 6'4" junior forward Darnell Williams. There
was enough preseason speculation about Williams losing his
starting spot to Posey that Williams said he hoped to win the
Atlantic 10's sixth-man award. Not gonna happen. Williams
started every game but one and led Xavier in scoring (17.3
points a game).
SCOUTING REPORT "Overrated!" was the cry of opposing fans as the
Musketeers stumbled to a 4-3 start in league play. Maybe so, but
they rallied to win seven of their last eight games--including
three straight to win the Atlantic 10 Conference
tournament--using a go-go press that made their attack both
prolific (the Musketeers led the A-10 in scoring) and democratic
(five players averaged more than 12 points). Looking for a
weakness? Fouls. Brown and forward T.J. Johnson have combined
for nine DQs this season.
PREDICTION With six solid contributors second only to North
Carolina's in this bracket, X could mark a spot in the Elite
COACH Bob Bender RECORD 18-9
TEAM SCORING 79.1 (FG%: 48.6) (3-pointers: 131-372, 35.2%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 77.4 (FG%: 46.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.7 TEAM FT% 70.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Deon Luton (77%), Donald Watts (72%)
WHOM TO FOUL Thalo Green (62%), Patrick Femerling (62%)
QUALITY WINS UCLA 95-94
PLAYER TO WATCH As a redshirt freshman working as a messenger at
the 1995 Final Four in Seattle, 7-foot, 280-pound center Todd
MacCulloch was mistaken time and again for another mountainous
post player, Oklahoma State's Bryant Reeves. MacCulloch played
along, obliging autograph-seekers until his conscience took
over. Three years later this Big Country from Another Country
(Canada) is the second-best shooter in the nation (65.9%) thanks
to his having developed his game north of the border, where
dunking is forbidden.
SCOUTING REPORT The good news: Washington has a smart half-court
offense and consistent shooters. The bad news: The Huskies'
perimeter defense isn't too frisky. Six players--five of them
guards--have had 30 points or more against Washington. Then
again, if the Pac-10's fifth-place team could win the title last
year, think of how well the fourth-place Huskies could do.
PREDICTION Seattleite Bill Gates didn't fare too well in D.C.;
neither will the jet-lagged Huskies against the Xavier press in
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO HANG MAN Vince Carter elevates long enough to order doughnuts on some of his dunks. [Vince Carter and others in game]
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN DANGEROUS DRIVER Huskies reserve guard Jones gives UConn a lift when he speeds through traffic to the hoop. [Rashamel Jones and others in game]