PLAYER TO WATCH In an era when every layup seems to unleash a
fit of hotdogging, 6'8" senior forward Tim James's game remains
refreshingly mustard-free. James, a two-time Big East high jump
champ, vaulted over foes with nary a woof while leading the
Hurricanes in scoring (18.9 points a game) and rebounding (8.3).
SCOUTING REPORT Miami is small in the middle (6'6", 265-pound
Mario Bland starts at center), has only one three-point shooter
(Johnny Hemsley, who made 37.9% of his attempts) and is suspect
at point guard (Vernon Jennings and Michael Simmons averaged 7.8
assists a game but had 4.0 turnovers as well). The Hurricanes
make up for those shortcomings with smothering defense. For
example, they had 22 turnovers at Connecticut but won by holding
the Huskies to 36.9% shooting. "They beat us with muscle and
sweat," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.
Coach Leonard Hamilton Record 22-6
Team scoring 72.9 (FG%: 48.0) (3-pointers: 112-339, 33.0%)
Opponent scoring 65.1 (FG%: 38.2)
Rebound margin +4.1 Team FT% 70.1
Whom not to foul Johnny Hemsley (78%), Kevin Houston (77%)
Whom to foul Dwayne Wimbley (48%), Elton Tyler (53%)
Quality wins Ohio State 72-64, at St. John's 84-79, at UConn
PREDICTION Miami has never won an NCAA tournament game; this
year it will win three before running into the Dukies.
PLAYER TO WATCH Off-guard Brian Ehlers, a 6'4", 195-pound
junior, won the Patriot League player of the year award
unanimously for good reason. He's an old-fashioned shooter who
made 49.7% of his shots, including 39.2% of his three-pointers.
He led the conference in scoring (18.1 points a game) and was in
the top 10 in 10 categories.
SCOUTING REPORT You can't blame the folks in Easton, Pa., for
thinking local hero Larry Holmes would win another title before
their Leopards did. Four years after going 2-25 and 42 years
after its last (and only) NCAA berth, Lafayette won the Patriot
crown, thanks to the basic skills of ball handling and shooting.
Coach Fran O'Hanlon shuttles players in and out as if he's
getting paid per substitution, and four of every 10 shots his
Leopards take are treys. Why not? Outside shooting covers up
their lack of size.
Coach Fran O'Hanlon Record 22-7
Team scoring 72.9 (FG%: 43.6) (3-pointers: 231-674, 34.3%)
Opponent scoring 65.9 (FG%: 39.9)
Rebound margin -1.1 Team FT% 70.8
Whom not to foul Brian Ehlers (83%), Tim Bieg (71%)
Whom to foul Ross Harms (47%), Frank Barr (67%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION All of O'Hanlon's international experience--he played
or coached in three countries--won't save the Leopards.
PLAYER TO WATCH Junior forward Gabe Muoneke (whose parents are
Nigerian) saw boyhood hero Hakeem Olajuwon last year at a
Houston gym. "He remembered me," says the 6'7" Muoneke, who was
stunned considering the two had met only briefly before. These
days nearly everyone in Texas knows of Muoneke, who this year
developed a potent inside-outside game to lead the Longhorns in
scoring average (16.6) and three-point shooting (51.0%).
SCOUTING REPORT Coach Rick Barnes has underlined this passage in
his dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War: "One who has few
must prepare against the enemy. One who has many makes the enemy
prepare against him." Preparation will be key for the
Longhorns--who have only seven scholarship players--as will be
the play of Muoneke's frontcourt mates Kris Clack (14.5 points a
game) and 7-footer Chris Mihm (13.4).
Coach Rick Barnes Record 19-12
Team scoring 68.9 (FG%: 42.5) (3-pointers: 148-457, 32.4%)
Opponent scoring 65.1 (FG%: 40.7)
Rebound margin +4.5 Team FT% 64.7
Whom not to foul Ivan Wagner (72%), William Clay (70%)
Whom to foul DeJuan Vazquez (60%), Gabe Muoneke (61%)
Quality wins Utah 73-68; Oklahoma State 73-70, 73-68
PREDICTION This ain't the Big 12; the Longhorns will stumble
against Purdue, a mediocre team from a good league.
PLAYER TO WATCH Brian Cardinal led the Boilermakers in assists,
steals and bruises. In fact, the 6'8", 230-pound Cardinal just
plain leads them. Count on him to score in double figures (he
averaged 11.2 points per game) and do the little things you
won't read in a box score--and that the officials don't see: He
not only gets bruises, he also gives them, thereby earning the
nickname Citizen Pain.
SCOUTING REPORT The Boilermakers are a team that's less than the
sum of its parts. Keady switched point guards in late January,
but Purdue hardly did better with sophomore Carson Cunningham
(5-5) than with senior Alan Eldridge (2-2) in Big Ten play. The
Boilermakers are good on the offensive boards and take care of
the ball, but they can't shoot from the outside, and their
first-round loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament couldn't
have bolstered their confidence.
Coach Gene Keady Record 19-12
Team scoring 69.1 (FG%: 43.7) (3-pointers: 161-518, 31.1%)
Opponent scoring 65.8 (FG%: 44.8)
Rebound margin +0.5 Team FT% 67.1
Whom not to foul C. Cunningham (80%), Jaraan Cornell (79%)
Whom to foul Cameron Stephens (51%), Greg McQuay (53%)
Quality wins St. John's 70-69, Iowa 90-75, at Indiana 86-81
PREDICTION Keady's coaching will be good enough to pull out a win
over Texas, but the Boilers will get vaporized by Miami.
PLAYER TO WATCH Melvin Levett, a 6'3" senior guard with a
43-inch vertical leap, has the ability to dominate, witness his
25-point performance (on 11-of-14 shooting) in the Bearcats' win
over Duke on Nov. 28. Levett also has the ability to shoot Cincy
out of games (he shot just 40.9% for the season) and had more
turnovers (66) than assists (44). If he gets hot from outside,
the Bearcats could Levettate over the rest of the field. If not,
they could be in for a crash landing.
SCOUTING REPORT With its speed, strength and depth, Cincinnati
can devastate teams, but it has shown no killer instinct when it
gets a lead, and it suffers from the same weakness that led to
second-round losses in the last two NCAAs: erratic point guard
play. The most experienced point, senior Michael Horton, is a
liability at game's end because he's a poor foul-shooter, and
the playmaker who makes free throws, Steve Logan, is a freshman.
Coach Bob Huggins Record 26-5
Team scoring 74.6 (FG%: 46.9) (3-pointers: 157-476, 33.0%)
Opponent scoring 61.5 (FG%: 38.4)
Rebound margin +6.5 Team FT% 67.6
Whom not to foul Steve Logan (80%), Ryan Fletcher (76%)
Whom to foul Michael Horton (49%), Kenyon Martin (56%)
Quality wins Duke 77-75; Louisville 81-55, 91-78
PREDICTION The bad-boy Bearcats are better than they looked at
season's end, but Miami will spank them in the Sweet 16.
14 George Mason
PLAYER TO WATCH George Evans, a 6'7" sophomore forward, is a
28-year-old Persian Gulf war vet who's older than Patriots
assistant coach Derek Kellogg. "He's the biggest kid on the
team," says forward Keith Holdan. Evans, who admits to a passion
for pro wrestling, can throw his own weight around: He was the
Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, averaging 17.8
points and 8.6 rebounds a game.
SCOUTING REPORT Evans and point guard Jason Miskiri (15.9 points
per game) make a potent inside-outside combo. The Patriots are
10-0 since coach Jim Larranaga started using the Green Team, a
five-player unit that enters en masse for a few minutes each
game and sparks the Scramble defense, a frenetic trapping scheme
that helped the Patriots force 19.4 turnovers a game. Still, the
Pats have no starter taller than Evans and will be without
forward Erik Herring, who broke his foot in the league tournament.
Coach Jim Larranaga Record 19-10
Team scoring 74.7 (FG%: 46.3) (3-pointers: 192-526, 36.5%)
Opponent scoring 67.6 (FG%: 43.0)
Rebound margin -0.4 Team FT% 62.0
Whom not to foul Ahmad Dorsett (76%)
Whom to foul George Evans (55%), Jason Miskiri (62%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION If Evans likes it tough, he'll get what he wants in
the first round against Cincinnati, which should jar the Masons.
PLAYER TO WATCH The Owls' Argentine point guard, Pepe Sanchez,
the most valuable 32% shooter in the country, had a 2.9-to-1
assist-to-turnover ratio, ranked second in the Atlantic 10 in
assists (5.8 per game) and fourth in steals (3.0), led the
league's guards in defensive rebounding (4.5) and is the key man
in Temple's celebrated matchup zone.
SCOUTING REPORT The Owls' oppressive defense and conservative
offense helped Temple produce 159 fewer turnovers and 156 more
shots than its opponents. The Owls' success is based largely on
their ability to make and defend against the three-point shot.
Temple split its first 12 games but improved its long-range
shooting percentage from 28.6% to 31.0% and reduced its foes'
three-point accuracy from 38.5% to 36.3% while winning 15 of its
last 19. Forward Mark Karcher (13.4 points per game) has emerged
as the Owls' most reliable offensive threat.
Coach John Chaney Record 21-10
Team scoring 66.6 (FG%: 40.9) (3-pointers: 201-648, 31.0%)
Opponent scoring 58.1 (FG%: 38.0)
Rebound margin +0.9 Team FT% 65.2%
Whom not to foul Rasheed Brokenborough (82%), Quincy Wadley (71%)
Whom to foul Kevin Lyde (51%), Lamont Barnes (63%)
Quality wins Michigan State 60-59, George Washington 72-56
PREDICTION Sure, the Owls play confounding D, but poor O will
doom them against Cincinnati after a first-round defeat of Kent.
PLAYER TO WATCH Ed Norvell, a former starting point guard, had
more assists (4.4 per game) than any other small forward in the
Mid-American Conference. The 6'2" senior, who changed positions
to make room in the backcourt for sophomore Andrew Mitchell, is
also one of the league's best defenders. Norvell has matched up
against players as tall as Ohio's 6'8" forward Shaun Stonerook,
whom he guarded in Kent's 86-77 victory last month.
SCOUTING REPORT The Golden Flash won 10 of its last 11 to earn
its first NCAA bid. Coach Gary Waters quenches his thirst for
running by using 10 players at least 10 minutes a game. He
sometimes substitutes five at a time. It works: In five wins
Kent overcame 10-point deficits. But the Flash doesn't shoot
well from the outside, and 6'8" forward John Whorton (12.8
points and 6.1 rebounds per game) is it, as far as an inside
Coach Gary Waters Record 23-6
Team scoring 72.5 (FG%: 44.9) (3-pointers: 160-462, 34.6%)
Opponent scoring 63.6 (FG%: 43.5)
Rebound margin +1.1 Team FT% 69.1
Whom not to foul Kyrem Massey (80%), Trevor Huffman (79%)
Whom to foul Nate Meers (62%), John Whorton (64%)
Quality wins At UNC Charlotte 53-50; Miami (Ohio) 68-62, 49-43
PREDICTION If Kent could shoot outside, it would have an outside
shot at beating Temple. Alas, it ends up on the outside looking
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Hurricane forceMiami isn't always pretty to watch, but as Dwayne Wimbley showed Ohio State in December, it often succeeds by outscrapping foes.