PLAYER TO WATCH With the emergence of spectacular junior college
transfer Steve Francis, 6'9" sophomore forward Terence Morris
has been overlooked by everybody except NBA scouts. Morris
ranked among the top 10 in the ACC in scoring (15.8 points a
game), field goal percentage (58.0%), free throw percentage
(83.6%), rebounding (7.1) and blocks (68). He will have to be a
force inside if Maryland is to reach its first Final Four.
SCOUTING REPORT Maryland's high-octane offense scores 85.6
points a game and its pressing defense creates an average of
22.4 turnovers as the Terps try to turn every game into a series
of wind sprints. Maryland's Achilles' heel is the torn Achilles
tendon of center Obinna Ekezie, who was lost for the season on
Feb. 9. Without his help on the boards, the Terps could struggle
against slowdown teams with large front lines.
Coach Gary Williams Record 26-5
Team scoring 85.6 (FG%: 50.1) (3-pointers: 171-460, 37.2%)
Opponent scoring 66.4 (FG%: 38.9)
Rebound margin +3.7 Team FT% 69.9
Whom not to foul Juan Dixon (84%), Terence Morris (83%)
Whom to foul Lonny Baxter (55%), Laron Profit (67%)
Quality wins UCLA 70-54, Stanford 62-60, at N. Carolina 89-76
PREDICTION Williams will sweat through a few more suits, but this
is his breakthrough season as the Terps make the Final Four.
PLAYER TO WATCH Shortly after Lubos Barton of the Czech Republic
enrolled at Valparaiso last August, coach Homer Drew asked him
how he was doing. "I need to learn bag of words," he replied.
Since then Barton, a 6'7" swingman, has considerably expanded
his vocabulary--and his bag of basketball tricks. After leading
Valpo in scoring (14.0 points per game) and steals (49) this
season, Barton was voted the Mid-Continent Conference's newcomer
of the year.
SCOUTING REPORT Is there any doubt that Drew is one of the best
coaches in the business? The Crusaders lost four seniors from
last year's Sweet 16 team, started three freshmen all year and
still won their fifth straight league title. With 6'10" Ivan
Vujic and 6'11" Zoran Viskovic up front, Valpo has more size
than a typical mid-major, and four players score in double
figures. But the Crusaders also had 42 more turnovers than their
Coach Homer Drew Record 23-8
Team scoring 73.1 (FG%: 47.4) (3-pointers: 202-592, 34.1%)
Opponent scoring 63.4 (FG%: 40.6)
Rebound margin +7.6 Team FT% 70.8
Whom not to foul Greg Tonagel (96%), Lubos Barton (81%)
Whom to foul Ivan Vujic (50%), Zoran Viskovic (64%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION Because of their Cinderella run to last year's Sweet
16, the Crusaders won't catch Maryland napping.
PLAYER TO WATCH How can we feature one Cardinal when every
starter averages between 11.7 and 12.3 points per game? Easy--no
Louisville player works harder than senior center Alex Sanders.
When junior college transfer Dion Edward didn't pan out in the
pivot, the 6'7", 255-pound Sanders moved inside. He pulled down
6.2 rebounds a game. Without him under the boards, these
Cardinals don't fly.
SCOUTING REPORT Louisville averaged 16.8 assists, the most by
the Cards in nine years. On Feb. 5 Louisville also got a huge
assist from the NCAA, which removed the postseason ban it had
imposed in 1998 for a recruiting violation. After that
Louisville went 8-3 to clinch its NCAA bid. Senior point guard
Cameron Murray no longer freezes at the sight of a press, but he
still coughs up the ball three times a game. The Cards benefit
when he shoots more--he hits 40.8% of his threes--and dribbles
Coach Denny Crum Record 19-10
Team scoring 77.4 (FG%: 47.0) (3-pointers: 187-551, 33.9%)
Opponent scoring 70.0 (FG%: 43.7)
Rebound margin -2.0 Team FT% 68.0
Whom not to foul Cameron Murray (78%), Nate Johnson (76%)
Whom to foul Alex Sanders (60%), Tony Williams (60%)
Quality wins Kentucky 83-74, at UNC Charlotte 79-68
PREDICTION Some observers don't think Crum's Cards should be
here, and Creighton will make sure they have a short stay.
PLAYER TO WATCH No one in this year's NCAAs has scored more
points than Rodney Buford (2,090), a 6'5" senior forward who
regularly turns the Omaha Civic Auditorium into Omaha Beach for
opposing teams. Buford (19.0 points and 7.2 rebounds a game)
scored 40 of the Bluejays' 65 points in a Dec. 30 win over
Bradley, and he had 24 points and 11 rebounds in a Nov. 25 upset
SCOUTING REPORT Creighton is riding a six-game winning
streak--including a sweep of the Missouri Valley
tournament--mainly because of the play of Buford and sophomore
off-guard Ben Walker, who has taken control of the offense in
recent weeks. Defense usually tells the story for Creighton:
During a 5-6 stretch in conference play its opponents shot
50.0%, compared with 41.4% in the Bluejays' other games, in
which Creighton had a 16-2 record.
Coach Dana Altman Record 21-8
Team scoring 77.0 (FG%: 46.0) (3-pointers: 226-572, 39.5%)
Opponent scoring 68.8 (FG%: 45.0)
Rebound margin +6.8 Team FT% 71.0
Whom not to foul Ryan Sears (85%), Rodney Buford (82%)
Whom to foul Donnie Johnson (55%), Ben Walker (62%)
Quality wins At Iowa 75-73, Oklahoma State 66-60
PREDICTION Rodney will get his respect during a first-round win
over Louisville, but the Bluejays are no match for Maryland.
3 St. John's
PLAYER TO WATCH Versatile 6'7" sophomore forward Ron Artest
leads the Red Storm in scoring (14.8 per game) and blocked shots
(34), is second in assists (4.4) and steals (2.0) and is third
in three-point-shooting percentage (.382). Artest's teammates,
however, haven't always taken kindly to his domineering
leadership. He said his team "choked" in a loss to Connecticut,
drawing this rebuff from St. John's coach Mike Jarvis: "He's
more effective when he doesn't say a word."
SCOUTING REPORT The Red Storm boasts one of the nation's
quickest trio of forwards in Artest, 6'6" Lavor Postell and 6'7"
Tyrone Grant, but it is vulnerable against taller teams.
(Georgetown almost beat St. John's twice by pounding the ball
inside.) Freshman Erick Barkley adeptly sets up Postell, Artest
and fellow guard Bootsy Thornton, all of whom are hitting at
least 38% from three-point range.
Coach Mike Jarvis Record 25-8
Team scoring 79.3 (FG%: 45.8) (3-pointers: 200-570, 35.1%)
Opponent scoring 65.9 (FG%: 41.8)
Rebound margin +5.1 Team FT% 68.8
Whom not to foul Erick Barkley (78%), Lavor Postell (78%)
Whom to foul Tyrone Grant (64%), Reggie Jessee (64%)
Quality wins Syracuse 75-70, Miami 62-59
PREDICTION The Red Storm suffered agonizingly close losses to
Stanford, Duke and UConn. We see another coming against GW.
PLAYER TO WATCH Samford's baseball team will have to wait at
least another week before it has the services of relief pitcher
Reed Rawlings, a two-sport athlete who led the Bulldogs
basketball team into its first NCAA tournament game. Rawlings, a
6'7" junior forward who grew an inch and added 25 pounds of
muscle since the start of last season, was the Trans America
conference player of the year after averaging 16.7 points, 5.1
rebounds and 2.1 assists. He is also a useful ball handler
against a full-court press.
SCOUTING REPORT Coach Jimmy Tillette has taught his players how
to run Princeton's offense. Now we'll see if they can perform
the Tigers' role as the NCAAs' favorite David. Rawlings and 6'4"
guard Will Daniel have the deadliest slingshots--both shoot
better than 38% from beyond the arc--while Samford's biggest
starter, 6'9" Marc Salyers, is second on the team in assists.
Coach Jimmy Tillette Record 24-5
Team scoring 74.0 (FG%: 49.8) (3-pointers: 271-729, 37.2%)
Opponent scoring 62.5 (FG%: 41.8)
Rebound margin -2.2 Team FT% 69.0
Whom not to foul Will Daniel (75%), Chris Weaver (74%)
Whom to foul Corey Green (58%), Mario Lopez (64%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION The slowdown will slow down St. John's but not nearly
enough to create a monumental 14-over-3 upset.
PLAYER TO WATCH Down the stretch, junior guard A.J. Guyton's
game was as loud as the red-and-white candy stripes on the
Hoosiers' warmups. After a midseason slump in which he averaged
only 8.0 points over a five-game period, Guyton has poured in
20.0 a game since Jan. 9. Indiana has only one win in its past
four NCAAs, but that's not Guyton's fault. He has averaged 19.0
points in three tournament games over the last two years.
SCOUTING REPORT Thanks to Guyton and forward Luke Recker (16.2
points per game), the Hoosiers righted a sinking ship with wins
in their last three regular-season games. But can anyone besides
Guyton and Recker score? A typical Bob Knight response came
after Indiana's 70-64 victory over Illinois on Feb. 24: "Well,
damn it, [center Kirk] Haston is 0 for 50 and [forward Larry]
Richardson is 0 for 40! Who the hell do you want to shoot it?"
Coach Bob Knight Record 22-10
Team scoring 74.9 (FG%: 46.6) (3-pointers: 188-513, 36.6%)
Opponent scoring 68.5 (FG%: 41.6)
Rebound margin -1.4 Team FT% 69.1
Whom not to foul Michael Lewis (78%), A.J. Guyton (77%)
Whom to foul Larry Richardson (59%)
Quality wins Utah 52-49, Temple 63-62, at Purdue 87-76
PREDICTION Knight's NCAA frustrations continue: The Hoosiers
won't be able to play in Shawnta Rogers's neighborhood.
11 George Washington
PLAYER TO WATCH Shawnta Rogers, a remarkably versatile 5'4"
senior point guard, earned Atlantic 10 player of the year honors
by becoming the first player to lead the conference in points
(20.1 per game), assists (6.9) and steals (3.7). He also ranked
fifth among the Colonials in rebounding (4.0).
SCOUTING REPORT First-year coach Tom Penders's frenetic up-tempo
system has helped pesky George Washington generate 6.4 more
turnovers per game than its opponents. It has also helped
camouflage the Colonials' suspect 41.4% shooting from the field,
including 31.2% from three-point range. George Washington is
disturbingly three-dimensional: Only Rogers, 6'9" forward Yegor
Mescheriakov and 6'4" guard Mike King average more than eight
points a game. The Colonials went 12-0 at the Charles E. Smith
Center but 8-8 away from home.
Coach Tom Penders Record 20-8
Team scoring 79.2 (FG%: 41.4) (3-pointers: 172-552, 31.2%)
Opponent scoring 72.8 (FG%: 44.5)
Rebound margin +0.3 Team FT% 72.4
Whom not to foul Shawnta Rogers (87%), Patrick Ngongba (78%)
Whom to foul Antxon Iturbe (52%), Andry Sola (44%)
Quality win At Rhode Island 81-74
PREDICTION Penders has had a better time this season than in his
miserable final days at Texas. The fun ends in the Sweet 16.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Sudden impact Francis came out of junior college to become one of the nation's top newcomers, leading the potent Maryland offense with 17.2 points a game.