MARCH 13, 15 / LEXINGTON
COACH Mike Krzyzewski RECORD 29-3
TEAM SCORING 85.6 (FG%: 47.2) (3-pointers: 244-663, 36.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 63.1 (FG%: 41.1)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.7 TEAM FT% 67.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Trajan Langdon (90%), Steve Wojciechowski (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Mike Chappell (60%), Elton Brand (60%)
QUALITY WINS Arizona 95-87, UCLA 120-84; N. Carolina 77-75
PLAYER TO WATCH This time last year Alaskan native Langdon was
ice cold. He had made 14 of 42 (33%) from three-point range over
Duke's last six pre-NCAA tournament games, three of them losses,
and then went 4 for 13 as the Blue Devils were upset 98-87 by
Providence in the second round. But on this year's deeper Duke
team, Langdon played fewer minutes and finished stronger--he
made 17 of 40 (42.5%) treys in his last six games.
SCOUTING REPORT The Blue Devils led the nation in margin of
victory (25.4) in the regular season but rely so much on
three-pointers that big leads can sometimes vanish. Duke blew a
16-point bulge in a loss to Michigan and a 24-point advantage in
a close call over Clemson. The Blue Devils also had trouble with
post defense. Freshman forward Brand, an inside force at both
ends, may help cure both ills.
PREDICTION Duke, which hasn't reached the Sweet 16 since Grant
Hill left in 1994, should get to the regional final for a
rematch of the '92 epic against Kentucky. It says here that Duke
COACH Ron Bradley RECORD 20-9
TEAM SCORING 76.1 (FG%: 47.4) (3-pointers: 235-617, 38.1%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 71.1 (FG%: 43.8)
REBOUND MARGIN +0.5 TEAM FT% 69.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Corey Reed (82%), Rian Everett (75%)
WHOM TO FOUL John Belt (43%), Eric Parker (60%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH Reed, a senior guard, may be a top-notch
chemistry student with a 3.9 grade point average--darn those
B-plusses!--but there is little that is textbook about his shot,
which he launches, with perfect rotation, from around his Adam's
apple. Bizarre as they might look, Reed's missiles very often
find their target: He makes 3.2 threes a game (at a 41% clip),
which ranked 13th in the nation.
SCOUTING REPORT The Highlanders, now on an 11-game winning
streak, don't have a lot of tradition to pin their hopes on:
This is their first NCAA tournament appearance. Their main
weapons are the inside offense of senior forward Kevin Robinson
(a 59.7% marksman, 18th best in the nation) and good three-point
shooting (8.1 threes a game). The main liability? Perimeter
players who don't play defense well against dribble penetration.
PREDICTION Duke's legions of dribble-penetrators will lay the
Highlanders low in the first round.
8 Oklahoma State
COACH Eddie Sutton RECORD 21-6
TEAM SCORING 79.3 (FG%: 46.8) (3-pointers: 158-468, 33.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.3 (FG%: 44.3)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.5 TEAM FT% 70.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Adrian Peterson (80%), Brett Robisch (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL Doug Gottlieb (52%)
QUALITY WINS At TCU 82-81, at Oklahoma 88-84
PLAYER TO WATCH Peterson, a junior guard, is the Cowboy to keep
an eye on, but don't worry if you miss the first half. In
Oklahoma State's 16 Big 12 games he averaged 6.6 points before
halftime and 12.3 after. Besides being a slow starter, he's a
team player. Because starting guards Gottlieb and Joe Adkins are
probably even shorter than their listed heights of 6'1" and
6'2", respectively, the Cowboys needed the 6'4" Peterson to be
more of a swingman. He responded by taking 37 fewer
three-pointers than a year ago and doubled his rebounding
average to 7.0.
SCOUTING REPORT A Sutton-coached team won't beat itself.
Oklahoma State averages only 14.0 turnovers a game and makes its
free throws (52 of 56 in the second halves of the last four
regular-season games). But teams with big front lines give the
Cowboys fits because the 6'11" Robisch gets little help inside.
PREDICTION The Cowboys have been too consistent not to beat
George Washington. But watch Elton Brand and Roshown McLeod lead
Duke to a second-round victory.
9 George Washington
COACH Mike Jarvis RECORD 24-8
TEAM SCORING 73.6 (FG%: 44.8) (3-pointers: 137-431, 31.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.8 (FG%: 40.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.2 TEAM FT% 65.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Shawnta Rogers (77%), Y. Mescheriakov (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Antxon Iturbe (41%), Pat Ngongba (56%)
QUALITY WINS Xavier 78-73, Maryland 70-66
PLAYER TO WATCH Freshman guard Mike King didn't qualify
academically to play at the start of the season, but instead of
sitting out the year he retook the SAT in the fall and got a
good enough score that he was able to suit up for the Colonials
on Jan. 7. Not surprisingly, he fit right in with point guard
Rogers; they played together at Lake Clifton High in Baltimore
and won a state title there. Either King or Rogers led the
Colonials in scoring in eight of their last 10 games.
SCOUTING REPORT George Washington has 10 players who were born
outside of the U.S., led by 7'1" center Alexander Koul (12.3
points and 6.8 rebounds a game) and forward Yegor Mescheriakov
(12.8 points), both Belarussians. When they play well inside and
the Baltimore backcourt of King-Rogers is on target outside, the
Colonials can be a matchup nightmare.
PREDICTION Despite the emergence of King, the Colonials'
first-round opponent, Oklahoma State, has a better backcourt.
This being March, that will make the difference.
MARCH 13, 15 / LEXINGTON
4 New Mexico
COACH Dave Bliss RECORD 23-7
TEAM SCORING 76.6 (FG%: 48.1) (3-pointers: 286-701, 40.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 66.4 (FG%: 42.5)
REBOUND MARGIN +0.6 TEAM FT% 75.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL David Gibson (77%), Kenny Thomas (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Kevin Henry (65%)
QUALITY WINS TCU 98-77, Utah 77-74
PLAYER TO WATCH All the early-season talk was about Thomas (17.5
points, 9.3 rebounds a game) leaving after this year for the
NBA. The 6'8", 255-pound junior center has acknowledged that he
isn't ready, but senior forward Clayton Shields (16.9, 6.7)
might be. He holds the Lobos' career record for three-pointers
(278) and was named the WAC Mountain Division player of the year.
SCOUTING REPORT They say if you live by the three-point shot,
you die by it. Has anyone checked the Lobos for a pulse lately?
After senior long-range shooting specialist Royce Olney, who had
made 80 of 156 threes, blew out his right knee on Feb. 21, New
Mexico lost its next three games by an average of 21 points,
including an 83-62 home defeat at the hands of 20-game loser
BYU. Olney's injury leaves the Lobos with only seven players who
can contribute significant minutes, and three of them are
freshmen. The results speak for themselves.
PREDICTION Given the turn the Lobos' fortunes have taken of
late, a first-round loss to Butler wouldn't be that much of an
COACH Barry Collier RECORD 22-10
TEAM SCORING 67.7 (FG%: 44.5) (3-pointers: 147-459, 32.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 61.7 (FG%: 40.5)
REBOUND MARGIN +4.8 TEAM FT% 66.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Matthew Graves (87%), Jeff Rogers (71%)
WHOM TO FOUL Rolf van Rijn (58%), Otis Frazier (59%)
QUALITY WINS Oklahoma 73-63, Illinois-Chicago 78-76
PLAYERS TO WATCH Senior forward Jon Neuhouser, Indiana born and
bred, would be the quintessential Hoosier shooter--he converts
40.2% of his shots from outside the arc and 55.3% from inside
it--except that he hits only 59.5% from the foul line. His
outside shooting opens things up inside for the 7'2" van Rijn,
who hails from Best, the Netherlands, and is the best Bulldogs
shooter (60.6%). He scores 8.9 points a game.
SCOUTING REPORT With five seniors, Butler would seem to be the
last team that would need a season to jell. But not until
Collier settled on an eight-man rotation in early February did
the Bulldogs take off, winning seven of their last eight games.
Now they're the kind of team a lot of higher-seeded powers hate
to face in tournament play: They feature a patient half-court
offense that works for good shots rather than firing threes, and
they can gamble on defense because of the shot blocking of van
PREDICTION The Bulldogs are a hot team that could upset New
Mexico, a cool one and weakest of the No. 4 seeds, in Round 1.
COACH Jim Boeheim RECORD 24-8
TEAM SCORING 71.7 (FG%: 43.9) (3-pointers: 180-546, 33.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.4 (FG%: 42.2)
REBOUND MARGIN +0.7 TEAM FT% 67.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Marius Janulis (85%), Todd Burgan (75%)
WHOM TO FOUL Etan Thomas (61%)
QUALITY WINS TCU 82-78, at UNLV 71-64, West Virginia 73-58
PLAYER TO WATCH Etan Thomas. Remember that name, though it is
subject to change. Thomas, a 6'9" sophomore center, was born as
Dedreck, recruited as Derrick before his freshman year and now
prefers Etan--as in, he's been Etan up every shot that comes his
way. He ranked fourth in the nation in blocks (3.9). "He ought
to go pro," West Virginia coach Gale Catlett says. "My 6'11" kid
[Gordon Malone] went pro last year, and he wasn't that good."
SCOUTING REPORT The Orangemen's zone defense gives them a chance
in any game, and experience isn't a worry--senior swingman
Burgan (17.5 points a game) was on the Final Four all-tournament
team two years ago. Their hobgoblin is inconsistency (home
losses to Providence, St. John's and Seton Hall), and it can get
ugly watching the 'Cuse lose. The Orangemen have shot 46.4% in
their wins and only 36.5% in their losses.
PREDICTION Iona's defense, depth and motivation against a Big
East foe could make for a seismic first-round upset.
COACH Tim Welsh RECORD 27-5
TEAM SCORING 81.0 (FG%: 46.7) (3-pointers: 204-583, 35.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.8 (FG%: 40.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +0.1 TEAM FT% 68.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL John McDonald (80%), Ivo Kresta (80%)
WHOM TO FOUL Phil Grant (60%)
QUALITY WINS At Rutgers 70-62, at Providence 68-62
PLAYER TO WATCH At 6'8", 225 pounds, junior center Kashif Hameed
survives inside on quickness and leaping ability more than
strength. He was the Metro Atlantic player of the year,
averaging 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds (42.5% of them off the
offensive glass) and 2.6 blocks, despite playing only 28.6
minutes a game in the Gaels' nine-man rotation. The question in
the NCAAs is whether he can hold his own against bigger
opponents. In a 30-point loss to bruising Clemson, foul trouble
limited Hameed to zero points in 16 minutes.
SCOUTING REPORT Iona usually plays tight man-to-man defense,
which is why Welsh shuttles in players at nearly every whistle.
The effort pays off: Only four opponents made more than half
their shots against the Gaels. On offense, McDonald is a steady
senior point guard who commits few turnovers (1.9 a game) and is
one of four Gaels who averaged in double figures.
PREDICTION Iona will beat Syracuse in a first-round upset
special and then be home by St. Patrick's Day.
MARCH 13, 15 / ATLANTA
COACH Tubby Smith RECORD 29-4
TEAM SCORING 79.1 (FG%: 47.7) (3-pointers: 211-502, 36.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 66.0 (FG%: 38.6)
REBOUND MARGIN +10.4 TEAM FT% 67.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Cameron Mills (94%), Scott Padgett (84%)
WHOM TO FOUL Heshimu Evans (59%), Allen Edwards (62%)
QUALITY WINS Purdue 89-75, Arkansas 80-77, at S. Carolina 69-57
PLAYER TO WATCH Just when senior shooting guard Jeff Sheppard
found his touch, he sprained his ankle in the SEC tournament. In
his last 10 games he took over as team scoring leader (13.2),
with a career-high 25 at Auburn and 24 against South Carolina.
His recovery is critical to the Cats.
SCOUTING REPORT Kentucky's three home losses had some Cats
crazies longing for former coach Rick Pitino, but this year's
team, a slower, half-court-oriented outfit, enters the
tournament with virtually the same record as last year's 27-4
mark. The 1997-98 Wildcats have more balanced scoring (six
players average 8.7 points or more a game) and are stronger
under the boards (43.1 rebounds a game to 39.4 a year ago). The
big reason for the latter: the play of junior center Nazr
Mohammed, one of Pitino's last projects, who lost 60 pounds and
has paid large dividends (11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds) ever since.
PREDICTION Svelte Mohammed will outplay Michigan's corpulent
Robert Traylor before the Cats lose to Duke in the regional final.
15 South Carolina State
COACH Cy Alexander RECORD 22-7
TEAM SCORING 74.6 (FG%: 46.5) (3-pointers: 163-411, 39.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.6 (FG%: 43.2)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.9 TEAM FT% 68.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Roderick Blakney (80%), Tyler Brown (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Coray Davis (50%), Raheem Waller (52%)
QUALITY WINS Coppin State 78-76 and 66-61
PLAYER TO WATCH Moo Moo Blakney--so nicknamed by his grandmother
because of his sad, cowlike eyes--scored more than 4,000 points
in high school to win South Carolina's Mr. Basketball award.
Blakney, a senior point guard, is still scoring (20.6) and is a
terror on defense; his 2.9 steals a game ranks ninth in the
SCOUTING REPORT Can the Bulldogs repeat Coppin State's
Cinderella trip as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's entry
last year? In their favor they have a potent backcourt (Brown, a
6'4" senior, adds 15.8 points a game), the experience of a tough
schedule (their 1-5 start included a 98-40 whipping by Duke but
also losses to N.C. State and South Carolina by a total of six
points) and whatever luck is carried in Big Red gum, which they
all chew during games. But they'll struggle if Blakney or Brown
goes cold; no one else averages in double figures.
PREDICTION Dogs usually have their way with cats, but not when
the Cats are Kentucky and the top Dog, Blakney, is only 5'10".
COACH James (Bruiser) Flint RECORD 21-10
TEAM SCORING 70.5 (FG%: 45.2) (3-pointers: 111-316, 35.1%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.5 (FG%: 40.4)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.7 TEAM FT% 69.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Charlton Clarke (79%), Tyrone Weeks (79%)
WHOM TO FOUL Mike Babul (60%), Jonathan DePina (63%)
QUALITY WINS At Xavier 73-62, at Rhode Island 74-57
PLAYER TO WATCH Is there any doubt whom the Minutemen will turn
to in the crunch? Clarke, a junior guard, is so confident under
pressure that he was actually smiling as he made three
game-tying free throws with :06 left against Rhode Island last
month. He may have shot only 35.5% from three-point range, but
he sank two last-second three-pointers in February alone.
SCOUTING REPORT Frontcourt behemoths Lari Ketner (6'10", 270
pounds) and Weeks (6'7", 260) can dominate the glass. Ketner,
the Minutemen's top scorer (15.4), gets 7.5 rebounds a game,
Weeks 8.6. But UMass's soft underbelly is at guard, where Clarke
is not really a natural playmaker and his backcourtmates Monty
Mack and DePina sometimes show their inexperience as first-year
players. If they don't take care of the ball, there won't be any
last-second chances for Clarke to save the day.
PREDICTION There's probably no bigger postseason liability than
a young backcourt. UMass will fall in Round 2 to Kentucky.
10 Saint Louis
COACH Charlie Spoonhour RECORD 21-10
TEAM SCORING 68.07 (FG%: 43.7) (3-pointers: 175-489, 35.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 63.1 (FG%: 42.9)
REBOUND MARGIN -4.5 TEAM FT% 66.2
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Virgel Cobbin (72%), Larry Hughes (69%)
WHOM TO FOUL John Redden (50%), Jamall Walker (62%)
QUALITY WINS Illinois 57-51, UNC-Charlotte 83-80
PLAYER TO WATCH "There are only seven letters to describe
Hughes," Valparaiso coach Homer Drew says. "L-O-T-T-E-R-Y."
Whether Hughes, the nation's best freshman, goes pro remains to
be seen, but this may be your last (and probably first) chance
to catch him in a college uniform. Scary but true: If Hughes
hadn't sprained both wrists this season, he would have had even
gaudier numbers than his 21.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.
SCOUTING REPORT Stop Hughes, and you stop the Billikens. Saint
Louis lost five straight games at midseason while Hughes was
playing hurt. The onus is on Ryan Luechtefeld, who averaged 10.1
points in the low post, and Cobbin, the Billikens' best
three-point shooter (.413) on the perimeter, to keep Saint Louis
from becoming a one-man gang. Spoonhour's trademark man-to-man
defense--spiced with a zone trap--must create turnovers to
minimize the Billikens' rebound deficit.
PREDICTION Saint Louis has a backcourt advantage over UMass but
not enough of one to beat the bigger Minutemen in Round 1.
MARCH 13, 15 / ATLANTA
COACH Brian Ellerbe RECORD 24-8
TEAM SCORING 77.1 (FG%: 49.1) (3-pointers: 240-573, 41.9%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 66.8 (FG%: 39.5)
REBOUND MARGIN +6.7 TEAM FT% 69.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Louis Bullock (91%), Robbie Reid (90%)
WHOM TO FOUL Travis Conlan (55%), Robert Traylor (67%)
QUALITY WINS Duke 81-73, Michigan St. 79-69, Indiana 112-64
PLAYER TO WATCH In December, frustrated by a shooting slump,
Bullock stopped by the home of former Wolverines coach Steve
Fisher to get encouragement. "There's no better shooter in
America than you," Fisher told him. "You're too good to let a
handful of bad games cause you doubt." Bullock's response? He
made all four of his three-point tries in Michigan's upset of
Duke later that week and went on to lead the Wolverines in
scoring (17.0) and three-point shooting (46.3%).
SCOUTING REPORT The most talented team in the Big Ten is also
its least predictable, in large part due to Traylor, a
game-breaker some days and a slam-clanging enigma on others.
Michigan has balance--Traylor (16.2), Jerod Ward (13.0) and a
healthy Maceo Baston (13.9, before missing the last four
regular-season games with a broken foot) inside, Bullock and
Reid (7.6) outside--but is sloppy. The Wolverines had more
turnovers than assists.
PREDICTION If steady guard play in its Big Ten tournament run is
a harbinger, Michigan will give Kentucky fits in regional semis.
COACH Bob McKillop RECORD 20-9
TEAM SCORING 71.6 (FG%: 43.6) (3-pointers: 202-573, 35.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.8 (FG%: 42.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +3.2 TEAM FT% 67.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Stephen Marshall (75%), Ali Ton (74%)
WHOM TO FOUL Ben Ebong (61%), Chadd Holmes (64%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH When you see Ebong come off the bench bristling
with aggressiveness, it's not hard to imagine the 6'6" junior
forward on the gridiron for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, which is
where he once hoped to end up. (He was born in Nigeria but grew
up in Omaha.) Ebong has been the Wildcats' best player in the
last 10 games, averaging 12.7 points and 7.4 rebounds and
shooting 64% from the field.
SCOUTING REPORT Point guard Ton, a native of Turkey whose 6.6
assists a game ranks 14th in the nation, has a lot of options to
dish to. Seven Davidson players have made at least 12
three-pointers (at 0 for 9, Ebong is about the only Wildcat
without the green light), but they can also hurt you inside, as
Duke found out when Marshall, a 6'8" sophomore center, had 20
points and 14 rebounds against the Blue Devils. (Before you
change your pool picks, though, remember: Davidson lost 100-65.)
PREDICTION Duke beat Davidson by 35; Michigan beat Duke by
eight. Ergo the Wolverines will beat the Wildcats in Round 1
COACH Steve Lavin RECORD 22-8
TEAM SCORING 84.2 (FG%: 49.8) (3-pointers: 152-438, 34.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 80.5 (FG%: 46.3)
REBOUND MARGIN +0.9 TEAM FT% 66.3
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Kris Johnson (84%), Toby Bailey (73%)
WHOM TO FOUL Travis Reed (27%), J.R. Henderson (65%)
QUALITY WINS New Mexico 69-58, Illinois 74-69
PLAYER TO WATCH Just how crucial to the Bruins' success is
Henderson, UCLA's leading scorer (19.2) and rebounder (7.9)?
When the Bruins faced Duke on Feb. 22, Henderson was hampered by
foul trouble and played a season-low 18 minutes. UCLA gave up a
school-record 15 three-pointers and lost 120-84. It was the
fifth worst defeat in school history--Lavin already has three of
those five--and the most points ever scored on UCLA.
SCOUTING REPORT The Bruins limped to the end of the regular
season, losing three of their last five games after junior
center Jelani McCoy quit the team on Feb. 15. His departure left
UCLA with five players who averaged 32.6 minutes a game and with
virtually no bench. Freshman guard Baron Davis, who led the
Bruins in assists (159) and steals (73), must now play more
conservatively: He's fouled out of nine games so far this year.
PREDICTION A year ago the Bruins reacted well to a
perils-of-Pauley season; this year the strain will show with a
COACH Leonard Hamilton RECORD 18-9
TEAM SCORING 70.4 (FG%: 44.3) (3-pointers: 108-380, 28.4%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.6 (FG%: 37.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.0 TEAM FT% 66.5
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Kevin Norris (81%), Johnny Hemsley (80%)
WHOM TO FOUL Mario Bland (60%), Elton Tyler (62%)
QUALITY WINS Connecticut 76-67, West Virginia 70-66
PLAYER TO WATCH Miami native Tim James led the Hurricanes with a
near double-double average (16.9 points, 9.5 rebounds) He has
the size (6'7", 220) and athletic skills (two-time Big East high
jump champion) to be a small forward in the NBA, but Miami needs
him to play inside, so his jumper is undeveloped and his passing
is Yinka Dare-esque. He had 12 assists this season, or one for
every 30.8 shots.
SCOUTING REPORT After the Hurricanes got off to a 14-4 start,
Hamilton suspended his starting forwards: Hemsley for violating
unspecified team rules, and Lucas Barnes for threatening
Barnes's girlfriend. Hemsley returned after four games, but
Barnes quit the team, which never regained its rhythm. The
emphasis shifted to the three-guard backcourt of Norris, Steve
Frazier and Vernon Jennings, who shot a combined 34.2%, meaning
Miami will see zones until it proves it can beat them.
PREDICTION The Hurricanes lost three of their last five to
stagger to their first NCAA appearance in 38 years. It should be
a brief one.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO HE'S INTO DENIAL The Blue Devils' Brand is a one-man unwelcoming committee in the paint. [Elton Brand and others in game]
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO SIX SHOOTERS When guard Edwards is covered, he can dish to any of five other Wildcats who average between 8.7 and 13.2 points a game. [Allen Edwards and others in game]