PLAYER TO WATCH Sophomore guard Khalid El-Amin is short (5'10")
and pudgy (203 pounds) and a streaky shooter (41.1%). But he's
also at his best in big games (23 points and five assists at
Stanford in the Huskies' biggest win of the season, when star
forward Richard Hamilton was out with a right-thigh bruise) and
in the clutch (only 12 points in a one-point win over Pittsburgh
on Dec. 12, but two came on his last-second, game-winning runner).
SCOUTING REPORT The Huskies struggled late in the season,
narrowly avoiding a number of losses, but convincing victories
over Syracuse and St. John's to win the Big East tournament have
them entering the NCAAs on a high. Hamilton made just five of 35
three-point attempts in the six games after recovering from his
injury but was 5 of 9 in his last two games and seems to have
regained his shooting touch.
Coach Jim Calhoun Record 28-2
Team scoring 77.5 (FG%: 46.4) (3-pointers: 153-440, 34.8%)
Opponent scoring 60.8 (FG%: 39.0)
Rebound margin +7.2 Team FT% 73.0
Whom not to foul Richard Hamilton (84%), Ricky Moore (82%)
Whom to foul Jake Voskuhl (61%), Edmund Saunders (63%)
Quality wins Michigan State 82-68, at Stanford 70-59
PREDICTION After many almosts, Calhoun at last gets to the Final
Four, but without a Brand name inside, he'll lose to Duke.
16 Texas-San Antonio
PLAYER TO WATCH San Antonio's alltime top high school scorer and
the most acclaimed recruit in Roadrunners' history, freshman
guard Devin Brown, turned down Texas Tech and Wichita State to
play for his hometown college. The Southland Conference freshman
of the year was one of the top freshman scorers in Division I at
16.9 points per game; he also averaged 6.2 rebounds.
SCOUTING REPORT Texas-San Antonio, which earned just its second
NCAA bid, is a perimeter-oriented club that spent the season
among the nation's top 10 in field goal percentage, despite a
roster full of streak shooters. Guard Steve Meyer, who missed
five games with a broken hand, came back to win conference
tournament MVP honors by averaging 24 points a game. But with a
6'8", 215-pound center, a 6'6", 210-pound power forward and
three guards, the lineup lacks height and width.
Coach Tim Carter Record 18-10
Team scoring 77.9 (FG%: 47.6) (3-pointers: 193-552, 35.0%)
Opponent scoring 74.9 (FG%: 44.8)
Rebound margin -1.4 Team FT% 62.0
Whom not to foul Devin Brown (76%), Steve Meyer (73%)
Whom to foul Leon Watson (42%), McEverett Powers (55%)
Quality wins None
PREDICTION The Roadrunner mascot couldn't be more appropriate--for
scurrying for cover against Connecticut.
PLAYER TO WATCH The Tigers haven't been to the NCAAs since 1995,
but that doesn't mean they're all tournament neophytes. Albert
White, a 6'5" junior forward, played for Michigan in the '96
tournament, then transferred to Mizzou the following year.
Perhaps the best all-around player in the Big 12 and the Tigers'
leading scorer (16.3 points per game) and rebounder (8.6), White
has turned every arena into his very own royal Albert hall.
SCOUTING REPORT Missouri is deep--coach Norm Stewart rotates
nine quality players--and can shoot. Thanks in part to sophomore
guard Brian Grawer, the third-best three-point shooter in the
country (50.4%), the Tigers had the second-best field goal
percentage in the Big 12 (45.0). They aren't as good at
rebounding, however, and it doesn't help that at times White is
their tallest player on the court.
Coach Norm Stewart Record 20-8
Team scoring 72.2 (FG%: 45.0) (3-pointers: 176-457, 38.5%)
Opponent scoring 63.3 (FG%: 39.4)
Rebound margin +0.4 Team FT% 64.6
Whom not to foul John Woods (80%), Brian Grawer (79%)
Whom to foul Monte Hardge (43%), Johnnie Parker (61%)
Quality wins At Kansas 71-63, at Texas 54-47
PREDICTION After disposing of New Mexico, the Tigers will be too
inexperienced and too tiny to keep up with UConn.
9 New Mexico
PLAYER TO WATCH Kenny Thomas, a 6'8" senior center who's 20
pounds lighter than he was a year ago, finished fourth in the
WAC in rebounding (9.9 per game) and eighth in scoring (19.8).
In six NCAA tournament games, however, he has averaged 8.5
points and fouled out three times. Says coach Dave Bliss, "I
think Kenny's matured past the point where we have to discuss
SCOUTING REPORT The Lobos, who were already hurting for depth,
are the walking wounded these days. Thomas (groin pull), 6'4"
forward Lamont Long (thigh bruise) and 6'8" forward Brian Smith
(sprained knee) will all be playing in pain this week. To
compensate, Bliss will probably use the 2-3 zone that worked so
well during the WAC tournament. One good sign is forward Damion
Walker's 12-point, 13-rebound performance in the WAC final. He'd
barely played since a Feb. 1 run-in with Bliss.
Coach Dave Bliss Record 24-8
Team scoring 76.2 (FG%: 47.7) (3-pointers: 237-625, 37.9%)
Opponent scoring 67.8 (FG%: 43.2)
Rebound margin +2.5 Team FT% 74.8
Whom not to foul Kevin Henry (90%), Lamont Long (81%)
Whom to foul Greg Davis (53%), Roland Hannah (59%)
Quality win Arizona 79-78
PREDICTION Thomas is still trying to show he's a lottery pick;
he'll have only one game, against Missouri, to display his stuff.
PLAYER TO WATCH Four years after arriving unheralded from
Everett, Mass., 6'2" guard Pat Bradley hasn't picked up an
Arkansas drawl, but he's right at home in coach Nolan
Richardson's offense. He made 38.4% of his threes and led the
Razorbacks in scoring (14.4 points a game). Watch him late in a
game. He doesn't flinch.
SCOUTING REPORT Richardson, that old dog, tried a new trick
early in the season, making 7-footer Jason Jennings the focal
point of a half-court offense. After a 1-2 SEC start Richardson
returned to his usual 94-foot pressure game. Arkansas won six of
its last nine, including defeats of Kentucky and Auburn, by
surrounding 6'8" forward Derek Hood with Richardson's Runts.
Five players in the eight-man rotation are 6'3" or shorter and
press like dervishes. Opponents will need sure hands and cool
heads to prevail. The Hogs are 8-0 in first-round games in the
Coach Nolan Richardson Record 22-10
Team scoring 78.4 (FG%: 44.4) (3-pointers: 269-741, 36.3%)
Opponent scoring 71.3 (FG%: 41.5)
Rebound margin -2.6 Team FT% 66.2
Whom not to foul Pat Bradley (83%), Kareem Reid (78%)
Whom to foul Chris Jefferies (46%), Brandon Dean (55%)
Quality wins Tennessee 69-52, Kentucky 74-70, Auburn 104-88
PREDICTION The Hogs will make it to the Sweet 16. Will the First
Fan be in Phoenix when Arkansas goes down to UConn?
PLAYER TO WATCH Coach Paul Hewitt compares 6'5" junior guard
Marcus Faison with Kerry Kittles, whom Hewitt coached as a
Villanova assistant. Producer of memorable dunks and an array of
slippery moves, Faison knows how to score (14.6 points per
game), how to shoot (53.0%) and how to stop others from scoring
(2.3 steals per game).
SCOUTING REPORT The third-highest-scoring team in the country,
behind Duke and TCU, Siena (86.9 points per game) employs a
nasty full-court trap that forced 21 turnovers a game. Junior
forward Corey Osinski (14.0 points per game) got the garbage
buckets whenever Faison did miss from the field. No one missed
very often from the line: The Saints led the nation in free
throw percentage (78.8). Still, Siena is vulnerable to teams
that attack the press--the Saints allowed 79.4 points a
game--and it doesn't rebound well.
Coach Paul Hewitt Record 25-5
Team scoring 86.9 (FG%: 45.0) (3-pointers: 241-644, 37.4%)
Opponent scoring 79.4 (FG%: 43.1)
Rebound margin +0.5 Team FT% 78.8
Whom not to foul Scott Knapp (95%), Corey Osinski (87%)
Whom to foul Dwayne Archbold (66%)
Quality win George Washington 106-99
PREDICTION The Saints are fun, but their Faison d'etre in the
NCAAs is to become burnt Siena at the hands of Arkansas.
PLAYER TO WATCH In a starting lineup that includes four seniors,
sophomore point guard Dean Oliver has been the standout. The
5'11" Oliver led the Hawkeyes in scoring (11.9), assists (4.6),
minutes (29.0) and--sadly enough for bulk-impaired
Iowa--offensive rebounds (1.8). His decision-making remains a
question, though: It's hard to love a point guard who has taken
48 more shots than any of his teammates.
SCOUTING REPORT The feel-good story of the year--the Hawkeyes
surge to the fore in support of 60-year-old coach Tom Davis,
who's being forced out by the school--didn't feel so good late
in the season, when injuries and a shooting slump caused Iowa to
sully a 13-1 start with a 5-8 finish. For opponents it's tough
to adjust to the Hawkeyes' three-guard offense, and Davis is 8-0
at Iowa in first-round NCAA games. Easier to handle is the
Hawks' lack of size; top rebounder Jess Settles gets only 4.4
Coach Tom Davis Record 18-9
Team scoring 73.7 (FG%: 46.5) (3-pointers: 160-440, 36.4%)
Opponent scoring 69.8 (FG%: 45.4)
Rebound margin +3.4 Team FT% 70.5
Whom not to foul Kent McCausland (94%), Jess Settles (77%)
Whom to foul Joey Range (59%), Guy Rucker (62%)
Quality wins At Kansas 85-81, at Ohio State 71-68
PREDICTION Davis's first-round magic will work against UAB, but
the Doctor doesn't have the prescription for beating Arkansas.
PLAYER TO WATCH When 6'8" senior forward Fred Williams is on his
game, his Blazers teammates simply throw him the ball and get
out of the way. A slasher with good instincts around the basket,
Williams hit 53.7% of his shots and was UAB's leading scorer
(15.2 points per game) and rebounder (6.0).
SCOUTING REPORT Coach Murry Bartow uses the motion offense that
he learned as a graduate assistant under Bob Knight at Indiana
from 1985 to '87, but he calls his scheme a "commotion offense"
because it breaks down into chaos so often. That's not all bad
since the result is often garbage points for Williams, but it's
also the reason that the Blazers had more turnovers (17 a game)
than assists (15). The inconsistent outside shooting of guards
Damon Cobb and Eric Holmes (35.3% combined from three-point
range) can also get UAB into trouble.
Coach Murry Bartow Record 20-11
Team scoring 74.3 (FG%: 45.5) (3-pointers: 149-461, 32.3%)
Opponent scoring 70.3 (FG%: 41.7)
Rebound margin +2.1 Team FT% 68.4
Whom not to foul Damon Cobb (82%), Fred Williams (75%)
Whom to foul DeWayne Brown (59%), Torrey Ward (61%)
Quality win Tulsa 78-61
PREDICTION The Blazers' questionable at-large bid will continue
to be questioned after they go down to Big Ten-toughened Iowa.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Attack the rackNot only can Moore score, but he also gives UConn a ferocious perimeter defender and another ball handler to complement El-Amin.