MARCH 12, 14 / SACRAMENTO
COACH Lute Olson RECORD 27-4
TEAM SCORING 92.2 (FG%: 49.6) (3-pointers: 243-631, 38.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 75.7 (FG%: 44.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.8 TEAM FT% 72.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Jason Terry (82%), Miles Simon (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL A.J. Bramlett (59%), Bennett Davison (62%)
QUALITY WINS UCLA 87-75, at Stanford 93-75
PLAYER TO WATCH Michael Dickerson, the 6'5" senior known around
Tucson as the Mike-rowave, is the Wildcats' top scorer (18.7)
and bellwether. "When we get Mike going, everything starts to
click," says Terry, the Cats' superb sixth man. Dickerson has a
special NCAA tournament incentive: He's so ashamed of his
2-for-18 shooting in last year's Final Four that he refuses to
wear his championship ring.
SCOUTING REPORT In Dickerson, Simon and Mike Bibby, Arizona
starts the best perimeter trio since UNLV suited up Greg
Anthony, Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt. With Terry the
Wildcats can even field a four-guard set that they call Phoenix
Suns. Up front they're a lot less solid: In a December loss to
Florida State, for instance, the Wildcats got little
productivity out of post players Bramlett, Davison and Eugene
Edgerson and were outrebounded 44-27.
PREDICTION If Arizona fails to reach the Final Four, Maryland or
Cincinnati will do the spoiling.
16 Nicholls State
COACH Rickey Broussard RECORD 19-9
TEAM SCORING 77.4 (FG%: 46.3) (3-pointers: 152-460, 33.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 74.8 (FG%: 48.7)
REBOUND MARGIN -3.3 TEAM FT% 69.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Russell (81%) and Jason (80%) McCutcheon
WHOM TO FOUL Lorenzo Wright (30%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYERS TO WATCH Senior forward Kenderick Franklin, a three-time
all-Southland Conference pick, sacrificed some of his scoring to
make the Colonels a better team. Nicholls State went 5-21 and
10-16 the last two seasons, so Franklin took 123 fewer shots
this year and saw his scoring average decline from 22.1 a season
ago to 16.9. The reason? He finally got some help, most notably
from Russell McCutcheon (16.7), who transferred from South
Alabama with his brother, Jason.
SCOUTING REPORT The Colonels, who don't have a player taller
than 6'7", ran their way into the NCAAs. They averaged 79.7
points per game in conference play. Their running game wasn't
very effective against bigger nonleague opponents, however.
Nicholls State went 2-8 outside the Southland Conference,
including losses to LSU, Lamar and Austin Peay, and that doesn't
bode well for tournament play.
PREDICTION A Southland team will make the Final Four, but not
likely first-round loser Nicholls. Texas-San Antonio is the host.
COACH Jerry Green RECORD 20-8
TEAM SCORING 75.7 (FG%: 42.7) (3-pointers: 201-520, 38.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 70.2 (FG%: 40.6)
REBOUND MARGIN -2.8 TEAM FT% 63.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL C.J. Black (74%), Tony Harris (72%)
WHOM TO FOUL Torrey Harris (43%), Rashard Lee (57%)
QUALITY WINS Mississippi 77-67, South Carolina 70-69
PLAYERS TO WATCH Point guard Tony Harris still makes a lot of
freshman errors--his questionable shot selection has led him to
convert only 37.8% from the field and 33.6% from three-point
range, and his ratio of assists to turnovers is a poor 4 to
3--but he's still the guy who makes the Volunteers go.
Tennessee's other igniter late in the season, when the Vols had
an 8-2 run in SEC play, was 6'6" junior forward Lee, who made
55.7% of his threes and averaged 7.2 rebounds over that span.
SCOUTING REPORT Make sure to patrol the perimeter against
Tennessee. Green once coached under Kansas' Roy Williams, but
his M.O. is more Pitinoesque. The Volunteers took 212 more treys
than they did a year ago under coach Kevin O'Neill. The use of
the three compensates for Tennessee's weakness under the boards.
The Vols must worry about inexperience, too: They don't have a
single senior who plays significant minutes.
PREDICTION In the battle of Roy's boys--Green versus Illinois
State's Kevin Stallings--the Vols' youth will likely cost them.
9 Illinois State
COACH Kevin Stallings RECORD 24-5
TEAM SCORING 77.0 (FG%: 48.8) (3-pointers: 208-557, 37.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.2 (FG%: 41.9)
REBOUND MARGIN +0.9 TEAM FT% 66.7
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Kyle Cartmill (79%), Dan Muller (71%)
WHOM TO FOUL Skipp Schaefbauer (52%), LeRoy Watkins (64%)
QUALITY WIN Pacific 64-63
PLAYER TO WATCH Rico Hill, a 6'6" junior forward, is the Brady
Anderson of college hoops. Just as, clear out of the blue,
Anderson hit 50 home runs two years ago, this season Hill has
been a sensational surprise. After canning only 20.8% from
three-point range last year, Hill, the Missouri Valley
Conference player of the year, has shot a trey magnifique 49.4%.
"Rico's outside shooting has made it much more difficult to
guard him," says Stallings, "and that makes our inside game even
SCOUTING REPORT Are they the Redbirds or the Graybeards? With
all 14 players back from the team that lost to Iowa State in
last year's first round, Illinois State isn't lacking
experience. What it is lacking is height. At 6'7", Watkins is
the tallest starter on a front line that gave up 29 points and
12 rebounds to the Cyclones' Kelvin Cato in the 1997 tournament
and 20 points and 14 boards to Pacific's Michael Olowokandi this
PREDICTION Mild upset gets Redbirds second-round date with
Arizona. Then everything--State included--returns to Normal.
MARCH 12, 14 / SACRAMENTO
COACH Gary Williams RECORD 19-10
TEAM SCORING 79.0 (FG%: 46.3) (3-pointers: 145-422, 34.4%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 72.1 (FG%: 40.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.3 TEAM FT% 67.9
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Sarunas Jasikevicius (77%), Laron Profit (71%)
WHOM TO FOUL Mike Mardesich (60%), Obinna Ekezie (67%)
QUALITY WINS Kansas 86-83, North Carolina 89-83, Temple 83-66
PLAYER TO WATCH Is there a more underrated ACC player than 6'8",
220-pound senior forward Rodney Elliott? He still answers to his
childhood nickname, Noodles, but he has been rock steady on a
Terrapins team loaded with inconsistent players. Elliott
averaged 7.1 rebounds and scored in double figures in all but
three games. He closed out the regular season with a 20-point,
17-rebound performance against Temple.
SCOUTING REPORT The Terps must stay focused: Big wins over
Kansas and North Carolina were followed by losses to so-so
George Washington and Wake Forest. One hot-and-cold player is
top-scorer Profit (16.1), a junior swingman, who made 45.5% of
his field goals but just 29.6% from three-point range. Another
Terps problem: Terrell Stokes is too much of a shoot-first point
guard, which is why he was benched for three games in January.
PREDICTION If the Terps can get past Illinois in a sexy
second-round matchup, watch them beat Arizona in the regional
13 Utah State
COACH Larry Eustachy RECORD 25-7
TEAM SCORING 72.1 (FG%: 48.6) (3-pointers: 136-313, 43.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 64.3 (FG%: 42.5)
REBOUND MARGIN +6.6 TEAM FT% 69.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Justin Jones (80%), Marcus Saxon (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL Donnie Johnson (53%), Pharoah Davis (65%)
QUALITY WIN At Minnesota 75-64
PLAYER TO WATCH In 1847 the Mormons fled the Midwest for Utah.
In 1995 Saxon did likewise, having failed to meet the necessary
academic standards after signing with Arkansas. His mission has
ended well: The hard-driving senior point guard averaged 27
points in the Big West tournament and showed he could also shoot
the three by making 8 of 12 last weekend.
SCOUTING REPORT The Aggies aren't big--their tallest starter is
Johnson, a 6'6" center--but they found a way to finish 15th in
the country in REBOUND MARGIN. That ranking is a manifestation
of their Rosie O'Donnell playing style: physical and not too
attractive, yet somehow winning. Utah State is ranked second
nationally in three-point shooting, led by Jones, who at 50.4%
is the best long-range shooter in the tournament. With 429
turnovers and only 343 assists, however, the Aggies figure to
have trouble against pressure defenses.
PREDICTION Utah State beat Pacific in its last game; Maryland
has a Nigerian center too, but the Aggies won't defeat the Terps.
COACH Lon Kruger RECORD 22-9
TEAM SCORING 70.2 (FG%: 44.3) (3-pointers: 206-564, 36.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 63.8 (FG%: 41.4)
REBOUND MARGIN -0.4 TEAM FT% 67.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Matt Heldman (86%), Jerry Hester (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL Sergio McClain (44%), Jarrod Gee (62%)
QUALITY WINS Clemson 71-61, Michigan State 84-63
PLAYER TO WATCH No, his full name never became Jerry Hester
Prynne. It only seemed that way over the past four years for
Hester, a forward who wore a scarlet letter for his unfulfilled
star potential. Given a fifth year of eligibility after
undergoing back surgery last year, he began shouldering an ever
greater share of the scoring load, his production increasing
every month, from 12.1 points a game in December to 18.6 in
SCOUTING REPORT All starters for the Illini, the Big Ten
regular-season co-champs, are seniors, including guard Kevin
Turner, who led Illinois with 17.9 points a game and 74
three-pointers. The Illini are quick and deep on the perimeter,
but they're vulnerable in the paint, where Gee and Brian
Johnson, a 6'6" forward, have been pushed around by bigger
teams. It's not a good sign when your top rebounder, Hester,
gets only 5.5 a game.
PREDICTION If the Illini can beat Maryland, they'll match up
well with Arizona. But the Terps should stop Illinois in Round 2.
12 South Alabama
COACH Bob Weltlich RECORD 21-6
TEAM SCORING 65.5 (FG%: 48.6) (3-pointers: 125-309, 40.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 54.1 (FG%: 40.8)
REBOUND MARGIN +7.3 TEAM FT% 64.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Dusty Dubbs (82%), Toby Madison (79%)
WHOM TO FOUL Jason Hamm (55%), Rico Alderson (57%)
QUALITY WIN Washington 69-52
PLAYER TO WATCH After his third knee operation in two years, in
October, 6'4" senior point guard Jerome Coaxum has sacrificed
much of his own offense to set up his teammates (3.0 assists a
game) and become arguably the best defender in the Sun Belt
Conference. His block--despite playing on a sprained right
ankle--of a Southwestern Louisiana three-point attempt with less
than 10 seconds left in the league tournament final saved a
62-59 win for the Jaguars.
SCOUTING REPORT This South Alabama team is not as deep as the
one that led eventual champion Arizona in the final three
minutes before losing 65-57 in the first round last year, but it
might be better. Weltlich, who is taking his third school to the
NCAAs, has scrapped former coach Bill Musselman's multiset
offense in favor of a simpler attack that features well-balanced
scoring. Madison (14.9) is tops among four double-figure scorers.
PREDICTION Jags might have ridden leftover Olympic U-S-A! cheers
to first-round upset, but Illinois is too steady to stumble.
MARCH 12, 14 / BOISE
COACH Bob Huggins RECORD 26-5
TEAM SCORING 76.5 (FG%: 45.7) (3-pointers: 169-487, 34.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 62.6 (FG%: 38.9)
REBOUND MARGIN +7.9 TEAM FT% 68.1
WHOM NOT TO FOUL D'Juan Baker (86%), Bobby Brannen (85%)
WHOM TO FOUL Michael Horton (47%) Kenyon Martin (48%)
QUALITY WINS UNC-Charlotte 68-67, Massachusetts 74-66
PLAYER TO WATCH Hours after learning that his mother, Charlene,
had died, senior forward Ruben Patterson scored 32 points in an
emotional tribute to her as the Bearcats beat UAB 93-76 two
weeks ago. Do you think tournament pressure is going to stop him?
SCOUTING REPORT Patterson, forward Brannen (14.0 points, 8.0
rebounds a game) and sophomore center Martin, who had
Cincinnati's first triple double (24 points, 23 rebounds, 10
blocks against DePaul) in 31 years, give the Bearcats a powerful
inside game. The question marks are at guard where junior Melvin
Levett, an excitable player nicknamed the Helicopter because of
his leaping ability, leads the Bearcats with 73 threes. Point
guard Michael Horton, who was suspended for three games on Feb.
20, could be a liability: He didn't make a three all season and
shot only 46.9% from the foul line.
PREDICTION Backcourt play has been the Bearcats' bugaboo most of
the year, but not as they have won 10 of their last 11. They're
the West team most likely to beat Arizona and reach the Final
15 Northern Arizona
COACH Ben Howland RECORD 21-7
TEAM SCORING 80.9 (FG%: 51.4) (3-pointers: 246-567, 43.4%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.5 (FG%: 43.7)
REBOUND MARGIN +3.8 TEAM FT% 73.3
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Andrew Mavis (80%), Ross Land (79%)
WHOM TO FOUL Dan McClintock (62%), Billy Hix (65%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH Howland persuaded a reluctant Mavis to transfer
from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, two years ago, and the proud
senior forward from Canada--Mavis has a maple leaf tattoo on his
right ankle--hasn't regretted his decision. He shot 48% from
three-point range this season and was named Big Sky player of
SCOUTING REPORT After Northern Arizona went 14-38 and shot 43.3%
during Howland's first two years, he decided to recruit better
shooters. The strategy has worked. The Lumberjacks have jacked
up threes better than any other team in the country the last two
seasons (42.7%) while going 42-14. They've also discovered an
inside force in 7-foot sophomore center McClintock, who came off
the bench to become the conference tournament MVP. Northern
Arizona is slow-footed though, as it found out in losses at
Arizona State (87-76) and UCLA (90-68).
PREDICTION After Northern Arizona's first-round date with fleet
Cincinnati, flags will be at half-mast in Flagstaff.
COACH John Chaney RECORD 21-8
TEAM SCORING 66.1 (FG%: 40.4) (3-pointers: 210-624, 33.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 59.9 (FG%: 38.2)
REBOUND MARGIN -2.3 TEAM FT% 68.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Quincy Wadley (82%), Lynn Greer (81%)
WHOM TO FOUL Julian Dunkley (46%), Lynard Stewart (57%)
QUALITY WINS Indiana 59-53, at Mich. St. 56-54, at UMass 61-47
PLAYER TO WATCH Sophomore center Lamont Barnes would be a
success if he simply played college basketball, much less
excelled at it, as he has for the Owls. His mother, Georgetta,
was murdered when he was eight; the man he considered his
father, Michael Gilian, was killed when he was 17. But Barnes
endured and now leads Temple in both scoring (14.1) and
rebounding (8.1). His performance has softened the sting of the
early departure for the NBA of Marc Jackson, last season's top
scorer and rebounder.
SCOUTING REPORT Lost in the celebration of Temple's renowned
zone defense is a grim reality: The Owls have a punchless
offense. Rasheed Brokenborough (11.8 points a game) hasn't been
the perimeter threat he was expected to be; he and backcourtmate
Pepe Sanchez shot just 29.3% from the field and 30.6% from
three-point range. If Temple doesn't find a go-to player--and so
far it hasn't--all that defense may go to waste.
PREDICTION Defense alone should conjure a win over West
Virginia, but Cincinnati, unlike the Owls, is a two-way team.
10 West Virginia
COACH Gale Catlett RECORD 22-8
TEAM SCORING 80.9 (FG%: 45.9) (3-pointers: 158-478, 33.1%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.7 (FG%: 43.6)
REBOUND MARGIN +3.0 TEAM FT% 61.5
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Adrian Pledger (78%), Jarrod West (70%)
WHOM TO FOUL Damian Owens (54%), Brent Solheim (60%)
QUALITY WINS St. John's 86-70, Connecticut 80-62
PLAYER TO WATCH Owens, a 6'6" senior forward, is arguably the
most valuable player in the Big East. Before he injured his back
at Syracuse on Feb. 14, the Mountaineers were averaging 84.0
points a game. In the four games during which Owens was hurt (he
failed to play in only one of them), West Virginia averaged 69.0
and lost twice. Owens's 17.1-point average leads the
Mountaineers, and he's second in rebounding (6.7), but he's even
better on defense. He was sixth in the nation in steals (3.0)
and was the Big East's defensive player of the year.
SCOUTING REPORT West Virginia has five seniors in its starting
lineup and a sixth on the bench; together they account for 69%
of the Mountaineers' scoring. With all that experience, it's no
wonder the Mountaineers commit so few turnovers (13.2 a game, a
school-record low). So why do they shoot free throws at such a
dismal clip, second worst in the Big East?
PREDICTION First-round foe Temple will challenge those ball
handlers; expect the Mountaineers to head for the hills after
MARCH 12, 14 / BOISE
COACH Rick Majerus RECORD 25-3
TEAM SCORING 69.5 (FG%: 47.4) (3-pointers: 153-400, 38.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 56.1 (FG: 37.8%)
REBOUND MARGIN +8.0 TEAM FT% 73.4
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Michael Doleac (80%), Andre Miller (76%)
WHOM TO FOUL Britton Johnsen (50%), Drew Hansen (66%)
QUALITY WINS At Wake Forest 62-53, New Mexico 65-55
PLAYER TO WATCH Last season Miller was something of a liability
at point guard, especially late in games because he shot only
58.2% from the line. Now the Utes would be lost without him. He
has boosted his scoring (9.8 to 13.7), his three-point shooting
(29% to 39%) and his free throw shooting (to 76%). He'll be
hard-pressed, though, to top the postseason performance of his
mom, Andrea, who in 1996 rode a bus 29 hours each way from Los
Angeles to Dallas to see Andre play in the Midwest Regional.
SCOUTING REPORT Opponents may look to the Utes' last loss for a
clue to beating them. UNLV sat back in a zone, and Utah missed
16 of 20 threes while losing 54-51 in the WAC tournament. Those
may be more telling numbers than the 56.1 points a game Utah
allowed (fourth lowest in the nation) or the impressive +8.0
rebounding margin because the Utes played only one Top 15 team
all season, New Mexico--and lost.
PREDICTION Utes' tumble in the WAC tournament, plus distraction
of Majerus-to-Arizona State rumors, could mean a Round 2 exit.
14 San Francisco
COACH Philip Mathews RECORD 19-10
TEAM SCORING 73.4 (FG%: 46.8) (3-pointers: 170-497, 34.2%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.7 (FG%: 44.7)
Rebounding margin +5.8 TEAM FT% 70.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL M.J. Nodilo (90%), Ali Thomas (82%)
WHOM TO FOUL Damian Cantrell (56%), Jamal Cobbs (63%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH Cantrell can take a charge and take charge on
the boards (9.9 a game); though he missed eight games with mono,
he had 20 more offensive boards than anyone else in the West
Coast Conference. Not bad for a guy who's only 6'6".
SCOUTING REPORT On Feb. 14 the Dons were 4-7 in league play, so
Mathews gave his team a jolt by replacing his senior backcourt
of Nodilo and Cobbs with freewheeling freshmen Thomas and Dony
Wilcher. Since then San Francisco has increased its scoring by
17.5 points a game. Also rejuvenated is Nodilo, who shot 54.6%
from beyond the arc in the last seven games after hitting just
27.9% in his first nine games back from a stress fracture in his
right foot. With everyone healthy, the Dons had the depth to
press and improved their defense with 3.1 more steals a game.
Consequently, the Dons are hot: They've won six straight, by an
average of 19.0 points.
PREDICTION Don't make like Tony Bennett and leave your heart in
San Francisco, for the Dons will be done after Round 1.
COACH Nolan Richardson RECORD 23-8
TEAM SCORING 83.0 (FG%: 44.6) (3-pointers: 224-635, 35.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 72.5 (FG%: 41.6)
REBOUND MARGIN -0.2 TEAM FT% 63.9
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Pat Bradley (90%), Kareem Reid (74%)
WHOM TO FOUL Nick Davis (47%), Derek Hood (52%)
QUALITY WINS Mississippi 100-87, South Carolina 96-88
PLAYER TO WATCH If you're going through Seinfeld withdrawal,
fret not. Davis, 6'9" and barely 205 pounds, is built and
coiffed like Kramer and has an ugly shot that looks like
something Kramer might hoist. Over the years the Hogs have had
their share of porky big men (e.g., Oliver Miller, Dwight
Stewart), but Davis's knack around the basket--he's a
double-figure scorer and rebounder--will cheer all endomorphs.
SCOUTING REPORT Since a January loss at Kentucky, Arkansas has
pressed virtually nonstop--harkening back to its
40-minutes-of-hell heyday of the early 1990s. When guards
Bradley and Tarik Wallace are sinking threes and the Razorbacks
can get into their pressure defense, they score in bunches.
Eleven Hogs logged double-figure minutes on a team that
Richardson calls "a bunch of misfits who fit in." And you've got
to like a group with a player, Sunday Adebayo, named after the
day bids go out.
PREDICTION Razorbacks' tempering in the SEC should get them past
Big 12 (Nebraska) and WAC (Utah) entrants before losing.
COACH Danny Nee RECORD 20-11
TEAM SCORING 71.8 (FG%: 44.8) (3-pointers: 147-420, 35.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.3 (FG%: 39.8)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.3 TEAM FT% 62.4
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Tyronn Lue (82%)
WHOM TO FOUL Andy Markowski (37%), Venson Hamilton (56%)
QUALITY WINS At Oklahoma State 67-62, Virginia 80-65
PLAYER TO WATCH Scouts for the Mavericks and the Nuggets have
been tailing Lue all season, which might be reason enough for
the shifty junior point guard to stay in Lincoln for one more
year. Lue led the Cornhuskers in scoring (21.3 a game) and
assists (4.1), and Nee calls him the best player he has coached
in his 12 years at Nebraska--yes, even better than the Clippers'
Eric (the Polish Rifle) Piatkowski.
SCOUTING REPORT Which Huskers will show up? The ones that lost
five out of six a month ago or the ones that swept their last
six regular-season games (in which Lue averaged 24.3 points a
game)? Lue's explosiveness certainly makes him fun to watch;
unfortunately, the observers often include his teammates. The
sublimely named Cookie Belcher (11.1 points a game), Lue's
cousin and backcourtmate, is about the only Cornhusker who can
keep up with him.
PREDICTION This team of three-letter words (Lue, Nee) makes
acquaintance of another--O-U-T--in Round 1 loss to Arkansas.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH CAT SCRATCH FEVER That's what opponents get when they fall into the paws of Bramlett, Davison and the rest of the Arizona defense. [A.J. Bramlett, Bennett Davison, and another player in game]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO TALL ORDER Sophomore center Martin looms large as the Bearcats' top rebounder and shot blocker. [Kenyon Martin and another player in game]