PLAYER TO WATCH No player in WAC history has more victories than
point guard Andre Miller, and none of the Utes are more
responsible for Utah's current 22-game, school-record winning
streak. Miller led the Utes in scoring (15.9 points a game),
assists (5.8) and steals (2.5) and was second in rebounding
(5.5). His biggest triumph, however, came last June when he
earned his sociology degree four years after sitting out a
season as an academic nonqualifier.
SCOUTING REPORT These Utes are significantly less formidable
than the group that lost to Kentucky in the 1998 title game.
Still, Utah is good enough defensively (third in the nation in
scoring defense) to stop anyone. On offense, forwards Alex
Jensen and Hanno Mottola must supplement Miller's scoring. Also,
given that guard Jeremy Killion is the only consistent
three-point threat, Utah might have trouble beating a zone.
Coach Rick Majerus Record 27-4
Team scoring 71.4 (FG%: 47.8) (3-pointers: 199-574, 34.7%)
Opponent scoring 54.9 (FG%: 39.4)
Rebound margin +8.3 Team FT% 69.5
Whom not to foul Hanno Mottola (83%), Alex Jensen (72%)
Whom to foul Nate Althoff (52%), Tony Harvey (58%)
Quality wins New Mexico 57-39, 77-47, 60-45
PREDICTION The Utes will avenge three straight NCAA losses to
Kentucky but will fall to Arizona just short of the Final Four.
15 Arkansas State
PLAYER TO WATCH Chico Fletcher, a 5'6" junior point guard known
fondly in Jonesboro as Little Big Man, was second in the nation
in assists with 8.5 per game and has already broken the Indians'
career assist record. Fletcher, a two-time Sun Belt Conference
player of the year, also paced Arkansas State in scoring, with
16.9 points a game, and had a league-leading 11 double doubles.
SCOUTING REPORT The Indians set a school record with 257 steals
by playing aggressive defense that produced more than 18
turnovers a game and led to easy points in transition. Arkansas
State's half-court offense is inconsistent because the Indians
shoot only 32% from three-point range, they've been outrebounded
in 16 games, and they lack a dependable scorer in the paint.
Their best post player is sixth man C.J. Pepper, who averaged
12.0 points a game. Alas, he's only 6'4".
Coach Dickey Nutt Record 18-11
Team scoring 74.1 (FG%: 45.9) (3-pointers: 155-481, 32.2%)
Opponent scoring 68.3 (FG%: 43.9)
Rebound margin -1.9 Team FT% 68.6
Whom not to foul Antonio Harvey (77%), Freddy Hicks (77%)
Whom to foul DeShawn Denson (55%), Eric Beatty (65%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION Chico won't be the man--at least not the best man--when
he encounters Utah's Miller in the first round.
PLAYER TO WATCH Freshman point guard Senque (Q) Carey's first
name (pronounced SEN-cue) sounds a lot like thank you, which is
exactly what coach Bob Bender should say to his new floor
general. After taking over for injured sophomore Dan Dickau on
Jan. 9, Carey averaged 12.1 points and 3.9 assists. "Q gives us
something we haven't had in the past, someone who can score at
point guard," Bender says. "Maturity-wise, he's ready for the
SCOUTING REPORT If Washington is to return to the Sweet 16, it
will have to be on the back of 7-foot senior center Todd
MacCulloch, who averaged 19.0 points and was the nation's most
accurate shooter (66.2%) for the third straight year. He gets
little help. The Huskies' rebounding margin is thin, and one has
to question their big-game moxie after they lost by 32 at home
to Stanford on Feb. 18.
Coach Bob Bender Record 17-11
Team scoring 74.8 (FG%: 47.7) (3-pointers: 135-394, 34.3%)
Opponent scoring 71.9 (FG%: 43.1)
Rebound margin +1.2 Team FT% 66.6
Whom not to foul Deon Luton (80%), Senque Carey (76%)
Whom to foul Todd MacCulloch (60%), Donald Watts (69%)
Quality wins UCLA 93-83, Arizona 90-84
PREDICTION The Huskies have been a puzzle all season, and
mid-major Miami of Ohio will end their disappointing year.
10 Miami (Ohio)
PLAYER TO WATCH After having been the nation's best unknown
player, 6'8" forward Wally Szczerbiak moved into the spotlight
as a senior and never blinked. He came up a handful of rebounds
shy of leading the Mid-American Conference in both scoring (23.6
points per game) and rebounding (8.7). A slightly sprained right
knee suffered in a practice led to a poor showing in the MAC
tournament, however, and that could spell trouble for the
SCOUTING REPORT Miami is a smart, veteran team, starting three
seniors and two fourth-year juniors. Damon Frierson, a 6'4"
point guard and four-year starter, loves to penetrate and come
away with points inside or at the line--he made 32 of 34 free
throws in the last three minutes and in overtime this season.
Big physical teams that slow the pace gave Miami fits, however:
The RedHawks averaged only 57.7 points in their seven losses.
Coach Charlie Coles Record 22-7
Team scoring 68.8 (FG%: 45.1) (3-pointers: 174-518, 33.6%)
Opponent scoring 60.7 (FG%: 41.7)
Rebound margin +1.6 Team FT% 76.2
Whom not to foul Damon Frierson (85%), Wally Szczerbiak (83%)
Whom to foul Jason Stewart (55%), Refiloe Lethunya (58%)
Quality wins Tennessee 68-62, Kent 73-60
PREDICTION The RedHawks can beat Washington despite Szczerbiak's
sore knee, but they won't get past Utah.
PLAYER TO WATCH Following 22- and 31-point efforts in December
wins over Indiana and Maryland, respectively, Heshimu Evans, a
6'6" senior forward, went into a ghastly swoon, scoring in
double figures once in his next nine games. He still hasn't
regained his shooting touch--he converted just 27.7% of his
three-point attempts this season--but he had success in the last
six weeks by mixing it up inside.
SCOUTING REPORT The Wildcats' decline started around Groundhog
Day. They went 3-4 in February, mostly because of a dearth of
good shooting. Kentucky was the third-worst team in the SEC in
three-point shooting (32.3%), a deficiency that invites defenses
to sag on big men Michael Bradley and Jamaal Magloire. The
Wildcats have size and depth, but if they don't start shooting
straight, they're headed for an early spring vacation.
Coach Tubby Smith Record 25-8
Team scoring 75.8 (FG%: 47.5) (3-pointers: 196-607, 32.3%)
Opponent scoring 62.3 (FG%: 37.7)
Rebound margin +6.0 Team FT% 62.7
Whom not to foul Ryan Hogan (88%), Heshimu Evans (73%)
Whom to foul Michael Bradley (45%), Jamaal Magloire (56%)
Quality wins Maryland 103-91; Auburn 72-62, 69-57
PREDICTION Defending champs will win two before Utah prevails.
14 New Mexico State
PLAYER TO WATCH Junior point guard Billy Keys is one of five
Aggies who transferred from Northeastern Illinois after that
school dropped basketball last season. Keys keys a smart,
deliberate offense with his penetration moves, and he averaged
19.7 points a game to earn MVP honors in the Aggies' victorious
run through the Big West tournament.
SCOUTING REPORT Welcome back the Lou 'do, which returns--along
with its wearer, coach Lou Henson--to the NCAAs for the first
time since 1995. The reasons for the Aggies' current seven-game
winning streak? Stingy man-to-man defense, good outside shooting
and the play of Keys and 6'9" forward Charles Gosa. The latter
was one of the nation's most accurate shooters (60.9%) and New
Mexico State's top scorer (14.8 points per game). He's also its
only inside presence on offense or defense.
Coach Lou Henson Record 23-9
Team scoring 69.2 (FG%: 46.6) (3-pointers: 192-505, 38.0%)
Opponent scoring 64.5 (FG%: 41.3)
Rebound margin +1.7 Team FT% 65.9
Whom not to foul Brad Bestor (86%), Eric Channing (83%)
Whom to foul Daveeno Hines (42%), Aaron Brodt (61%)
Quality wins Wisconsin 66-52, New Mexico 76-55
PREDICTION Even with the Lou 'do, the Aggies lose to Kentucky.
PLAYER TO WATCH When 6'5" sophomore forward Kenny Gregory
exceeded his scoring average of 11.3 points, Kansas was 11-2.
When he didn't, it was 11-7. Although Gregory was still the
Jayhawks' third-leading scorer, he was dropped from the starting
lineup in January by coach Roy Williams and has scored more than
11 points in only six of the season's last 20 games.
SCOUTING REPORT Seven-foot sophomore center Eric Chenowith began
dominating in the paint late in the season, scoring 24 and 25
points in crucial wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Still,
this is Williams's lowest-scoring team in his 10 years at
Kansas--by a whopping 9.6 points a game--and while the defense
is solid, experience is lacking in a crucial spot: The offense
is orchestrated by a freshman, point guard Jeff Boschee.
Coach Roy Williams Record 22-9
Team scoring 70.9 (FG%: 44.2) (3-pointers: 151-442, 34.2%)
Opponent scoring 63.3 (FG%: 38.5)
Rebound margin +3.4 Team FT% 65.0
Whom not to foul Ryan Robertson (86%), Jeff Boschee (72%)
Whom to foul Kenny Gregory (48%), Lester Earl (56%)
Quality wins Texas 76-67, at Missouri 73-61
PREDICTION Another second-round exit, this time to Kentucky.
PLAYER TO WATCH The Purple Aces' trump card is 6'3" senior guard
Marcus Wilson, a deadeye shooter who tied an NCAA single-game
record by hitting all nine of his three-point attempts against
Tennessee-Martin. He averaged 20.3 points per game and shot
46.2% from three-point range to win the Missouri Valley
Conference player of the year award.
SCOUTING REPORT Coach Jim Crews brought back sleeved jerseys in
1986 as a tribute to Hall of Fame coach Arad McCutchan, who
started the tradition 50 years ago when gyms were colder. This
year the Aces were downright hot--all five starters shot better
than 50%, and Evansville was in the nation's top five in three
shooting categories: field goals (50.7%), three-pointers (40.7%)
and free throws (77.2%). Still, D is the key. The Aces were 23-2
when opponents shot less than 50%, 0-7 when they didn't.
Coach Jim Crews Record 23-9
Team scoring 75.9 (FG%: 50.7) (3-pointers: 217-533, 40.7%)
Opponent scoring 71.1 (FG%: 43.9)
Rebound margin +0.6 Team FT% 77.2
Whom not to foul Marcus Wilson (90%), Craig Snow (80%)
Whom to foul Kwame James (65%), Curt Begle (73%)
Quality win At Creighton 84-79
PREDICTION Crews's ace coaching won't matter against Kansas.