PLAYER TO WATCH Senior guard Trajan Langdon is one of the best
shooters in the country (42.8% from three-point range this
season), but in six career NCAA tournament games he has shot
just 19 for 68 (27.9%) overall and 11 for 38 (28.9%) from behind
SCOUTING REPORT The Blue Devils have overwhelmed their foes by
an average of 26.3 points with an attacking defense and with
devastating inside-outside scoring by Langdon and sophomore
center Elton Brand. If Duke has a weakness, it's the lack of a
backup for point guard William Avery. Also, none of their
starters are taller than 6'8", meaning post defense and
rebounding could be liabilities against a taller team. Duke had
only four games decided by fewer than 10 points, so it's fair to
question how the Blue Devils might react in a close tournament
game--if they play any.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski Record 32-1
Team scoring 93.3 (FG%: 51.5) (3-pointers: 244-635, 38.4%)
Opponent scoring 67.9 (FG%: 39.1)
Rebound margin +9.4 Team FT% 70.6
Whom not to foul Trajan Langdon (85%), William Avery (82%)
Whom to foul Chris Burgess (55%), Chris Carrawell (57%)
Quality wins Michigan State 73-67; Maryland 82-64, 95-77
PREDICTION If Langdon, who had a sore foot last week, is 100%,
Duke can't be beat; if Langdon isn't 100%, it still can't be
16 Florida A&M
PLAYER TO WATCH Monroe Pippins, billed as the man with two
famous NBA names (sort of), wears Michael Jordan's number 23 but
is built more like Vinnie (the Microwave) Johnson. A stocky
6-foot senior guard, Pippins was second in the Mid-Eastern
Athletic Conference in scoring (20.4 points a game), sixth in
rebounding (6.8) and sixth in steals (2.4) and led the Rattlers
with 66 treys.
SCOUTING REPORT Florida A&M, which hasn't had a winning record
since 1991-92, began this season 0-10, finished ninth in its
league and then beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in a
Cinderella-ish conference tournament run to earn the Rattlers'
first NCAA bid. Coach Mickey Clayton will have A&M playing
pressure defense--Pippins and backcourt mate Morris Scott
combined for 163 steals--but the Rattlers lack experience, have
only nine healthy players and regularly shoot bricks from the
field and the line.
Coach Mickey Clayton Record 12-18
Team scoring 73.1 (FG%: 38.8) (3-pointers: 140-510, 27.5%)
Opponent scoring 76.8 (FG%: 42.5)
Rebound margin +3.4 Team FT% 62.6%
Whom not to foul Monroe Pippins (72%), Kevin George (65%)
Whom to foul Kendric Green (53%), Morris Scott (59%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION Boy, we'd love to hear what gimmicks Coach K will use
to get Duke up for its first-rounder against the Rattlers.
8 College of Charleston
PLAYER TO WATCH Every Cougars fan will be focused on Southern
Conference player of the year Sedric Webber--except for his
parents, Marion and James, whose religious beliefs (they belong
to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith,
which looks down on competition) prevent them from watching
their son play. The Webbers missed seeing him finish among the
league's top 10 in points per game (13.8), rebounds (7.2),
steals (2.2) and blocks (.87).
SCOUTING REPORT The Cougars start fast--they jumped out to leads
of 36-6 against Furman and 23-6 against Western Carolina in the
league tournament--and finish strong. They also go nine deep and
make their free throws. With seven seniors, the Cougars won
their last 25 games and went undefeated in the conference. But
they're vulnerable against tall, strong post players who can
bang against their frontcourt, where the starters stand 6'8",
6'6" and 6'3".
Coach John Kresse Record 28-2
Team scoring 73.5 (FG%: 49.4) (3-pointers: 134-363, 36.9%)
Opponent scoring 59.1 (FG%: 38.6)
Rebound margin +7.5 Team FT% 71.1
Whom not to foul Jermel President (91%), Jeff Bolton (79%)
Whom to foul Jody Lumpkin (63%), Carl Thomas (64%)
Quality wins North Carolina 66-64, George Mason 74-70
PREDICTION It's been a great season for the overlooked Cougars,
but Tulsa will be too tough inside.
PLAYER TO WATCH In his off-campus apartment 6'8" senior forward
Michael Ruffin lives with two ferrets, a hedgehog, an African
spur-thighed tortoise, an African bullfrog and a coatimundi, a
member of the raccoon family. Little wonder he's such an animal
around the basket. He led the Golden Hurricane in scoring (12.0
points a game), rebounding (10.4), blocks (2.5) and field goal
percentage (54.1) and was named to the WAC all-defensive team
for the third straight year.
SCOUTING REPORT Tulsa's strengths lie up front with Ruffin,
6'10" Brandon Kurtz and 6'5" Eric Coley. Backcourt play is
another matter. The Golden Hurricane committed 21 more turnovers
this season than its opponents, and it's never a good sign when
a forward (Coley) leads a team in assists (2.6 per game). A
bright spot has been the shooting of guard Marcus Hill, who made
41.7% of his three-point attempts.
Coach Bill Self Record 22-9
Team scoring 71.0 (FG%: 43.8) (3-pointers: 212-598, 35.5%)
Opponent scoring 63.3 (FG%: 38.1)
Rebound margin +4.0 Team FT% 65.5
Whom not to foul Tony Heard (86%), Marcus Hill (76%)
Whom to foul Zac Bennett (42%), Eric Coley (59%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION Ruffin and Co. will be eliminated in the second round
by the most ferocious animal of all--Duke.
PLAYER TO WATCH Point guard Tony Harris can dish it out (4.9
assists per game) and take it (46.6% from behind the arc in the
regular season, first in the SEC). He has run the team so well
that it has gone unnoticed that his turnovers are up over last
season (2.9 to 3.4 a game).
SCOUTING REPORT It's hard to figure how Tennessee lost eight
games. It has guards who know how to handle the ball (Harris and
senior Brandon Wharton), inside bodies to control the paint
(C.J. Black and Isiah Victor) and the conference's best sixth
man in senior forward Rashard Lee, who adjusted easily when
freshman Vincent Yarbrough won the starting small forward job.
The Volunteers led the SEC in blocked shots (5.9 per game), were
second in field goal defense (38.9%) and finished February with
six straight wins. But March is a different story: No Vol,
including coach Jerry Green, has won an NCAA tournament game.
Coach Jerry Green Record 20-8
Team scoring 73.8 (FG%: 43.1) (3-pointers: 192-560, 34.3%)
Opponent scoring 64.9 (FG%: 38.2)
Rebound margin 0.0 (yes, dead even) Team FT% 69.3
Whom not to foul C.J. Black (81%), Tony Harris (79%)
Whom to foul Isiah Victor (60%), Vincent Yarbrough (65%)
Quality wins At Kentucky 47-46, Florida 91-56
PREDICTION After getting upset by Delaware, the Vols will be free
to watch the Tennessee women go for their fourth straight title.
PLAYER TO WATCH Junior Mike Pegues is the prototype for a
mid-major forward, a 6'5", 245-pound banger whose pedal is
forever slammed to the metal. He averaged 35.2 minutes and
fouled out five times, which means Blue Hens coach Mike Brey
doesn't believe Pegues should sit. Here's why: his 21.7 points,
7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game.
SCOUTING REPORT Delaware got hot once it stopped putting all its
eggs in Pegues's basket. He led the Blue Hens in scoring in 14
of their first 17 games but has done so only four times during
their current 13-game winning streak. Guards John Gordon and
Kestutis Marciulionis fill it up from outside (combined 45% on
three-pointers), and center John Bennett does the dirty work on
rebounds (8.2 per game) and blocks (3.0). The Blue Hens lack
brawn, but they're quick, and if their three-point shooting
stays hot, they can be tough to handle.
Coach Mike Brey Record 25-5
Team scoring 78.1 (FG%: 47.3) (3-pointers: 205-541, 37.9%)
Opponent scoring 67.9 (FG%: 41.0)
Rebound margin -0.7 Team FT% 72.9
Whom not to foul K. Marciulionis (82%), John Gordon (82%)
Whom to foul John Bennett (39%)
Quality win Lafayette 92-78
PREDICTION One upset, over Tennessee, will be enough for the
little-known Blue Hens, who'll fall to Southwest Missouri State.
PLAYER TO WATCH Senior guard Sean Mason's 17.0-point scoring
average should be graded on a curve. Imagine how much he would
have scored had he played for a team that took more than 49.2
shots a game. Mason, who sat out the better part of two seasons
because of knee injuries, is the first--and at times,
only--option in the Badgers' motion offense, and foes have been
able to rattle him lately with increasingly physical play. He
shot just 35.0% after Jan. 30.
SCOUTING REPORT Coaches who want to run would rather have an
appointment with the dentist than with coach Dick Bennett's
teams. Wisconsin wears foes out with a slowdown offense and
smothering man-to-man defense. However, the Badgers were
outrebounded in 12 of their 18 Big Ten games--and
offensive-rebound baskets are murder on a half-court team like
Wisconsin--and have trouble containing quick scoring guards.
Coach Dick Bennett Record 22-9
Team scoring 63.1 (FG%: 44.1) (3-pointers: 202-556, 36.3%)
Opponent scoring 55.6 (FG%: 40.8)
Rebound margin -0.9 Team FT% 73.9
Whom not to foul Sean Mason (81%), Mark Vershaw (81%)
Whom to foul Andy Kowske (44%)
Quality wins Michigan State 66-51, at Iowa 72-52
PREDICTION Wisconsin won't be able to respond when Southwest
Missouri State turns their Round 1 game into a track meet.
12 SW Missouri State
PLAYER TO WATCH Junior point guard William Fontleroy made only
14 three-pointers in his first two seasons with the Bears, but
this year he added an outside touch to complement his
considerable athletic ability. He was 32 for 76 (42.1%) from
long range this season, hit 47.0% of his shots overall, led the
team in assists (4.3 per game) and was third in scoring average
SCOUTING REPORT With 10 Bears playing about 10 minutes or more a
game, coach Steve Alford has more options than in past years.
However, that has been a detriment at times. Alford has used
five starting lineups, and the shuffling has led to
inconsistency. Danny Moore, a 6'11" senior center, is a capable
scorer and passer, but he averaged only 5.9 rebounds. Southwest
Missouri State tries to make up for its inside deficiencies by
pushing the tempo.
Coach Steve Alford Record 20-10
Team scoring 74.3 (FG%: 46.2) (3-pointers: 162-449, 36.1%)
Opponent scoring 67.1 (FG%: 42.4)
Rebound margin -0.2 Team FT% 71.0
Whom not to foul Kevin Ault (80%), Allen Phillips (77%)
Whom to foul Ron Bruton (52%), Ken Stringer (57%)
Quality win At Missouri 72-69
PREDICTION The Bears will upset Wisconsin and beat Delaware
before Duke makes an unhappy little lord out of Fontleroy.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Runaway trainBrand and the Blue Devils come into the tournament as formidable favorites, having rolled over opponents by an average of 26.3 points a game.