A Look Inside The Ncaas
Favorite: North Carolina (1). Based on the way the Tar Heels played against Duke in Sunday’s ACC championship game in Greensboro, this team could be good enough to win the national championship. Antawn Jamison, who had 22 points and 18 rebounds in the 83-68 victory, is the tournament’s impact player.
Dark horse: Xavier (6). The Musketeers, who won the Atlantic 10 tournament, are experienced and are getting excellent guard play from Lenny Brown, Gary Lumpkin and Darnell Williams.
Coach to watch: Bob Knight, Indiana (7). The controversial Hoosiers coach has not won a first-round game since 1994. He draws Oklahoma and ex-Washington State coach Kelvin Sampson.
Player most likely to surprise: Earl Boykins, Eastern Michigan. The mighty mite was the best player in the MAC at season’s end.
Most intriguing story line: Can first-year coach Bill Guthridge take what is essentially still Dean Smith’s team to the Final Four?
Best first-round matchup: Princeton (5) vs. UNLV (12). The Runnin’ Rebels, who defeated Hawaii, Utah, Fresno State and New Mexico to win the WAC and play their way into the tournament, should create some athletic problems for patient Princeton. But they’d better defend the back door.
Upset special: Eastern Michigan (13) over Michigan State (4). EMU has two great guards in Boykins and Derrick Dial.
Biggest surprise: Can’t wait to hear Jim Calhoun of UConn take on the possibility of having to play in a regional against North Carolina at Greensboro with a team that is good enough, under normal circumstances, to contend for the Final Four.
Down the road: I could see both Princeton and Xavier, who played so well in winning the A-10 tournament, sneaking into the Sweet 16.
Survivor: North Carolina.
Favorite: Kansas (34-3) must be the overall No. 1 seed with pairing against Prairie View (13-16). However, Kansas, which has not progressed past Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed in the ‘90s, is having trouble shooting 3s again.
Dark horse: Clemson (6). The Tigers, who played Duke tough in three close losses, have an ACC pedigree. They use waves of bodies, play relentless, physical defense and are starting to make big shots. If only they could shoot free throws.
Coach to watch: Mark Gottfried, Murray State. Gottfried, who is already being penciled in to replace David Hobbs at Alabama, has coached the Racers to 29 wins, a second consecutive Ohio Valley Conference title and and a surprise ninth seed.
Player most likely to surprise: Lee Nailon, TCU. He’s a 6-8 inside scoring machine playing for a team capable of scoring more than 100.
Most intriguing story line: Is this the year Kansas coach Roy Williams finally gets the monkey off his back and wins a national championship?
Best first-round matchup: St. John’s (7) vs. Detroit (10). Fran Fraschilla has helped rekindle interest in college hoops in New York. But Storm shouldn’t overlook Titans, an MCC entry that has a win over Michigan State.
Upset special: College of Charleston (14) over Stanford (3). I like the way John Kresse coaches and I don’t like the way the Cardinal, who lost to UConn by 20 and Arizona by 32, play on the road.
Biggest surprise: Florida State (12) had wins over UConn and Arizona in December, but went down the tubes in the ACC the last month, losing six of its last seven.
Down the road: Clemson could get a chance to test ACC power against experienced Big Ten goliath Purdue in Sweet 16.
Favorite: Duke (1). The Blue Devils, who won the ACC regular-season title by two games, have great coaching and more quality depth than anyone in the 64-team field.
Dark horse: Michigan (3). The Wolverines have become the scourge of the Big Ten. They have a great inside-outside combination in center Robert Traylor and guard Louis Bullock.
Coach to watch: Brian Ellerbe, Michigan. He took over the job on an interim basis and has coached the Wolverines to 24 wins and the Big Ten tournament title.
Player most likely to surprise: Traylor. Call him Tractor Traylor. This 6-8, 300-pound behemoth can be a major force in the middle in this region.
Most intriguing story line: Can Tubby Smith, who did such a good job getting his teams at Tulsa and Georgia to overachieve during Sweet 16 runs, do the same with Kentucky (2)? Wildcats looked frightening during 30-point blowout over South Carolina in SEC final.
Best first-round matchup: Iona (12) vs. Syracuse (5). This game should have been played in Hartford, where Gaels fans could have watched their team play. Tim Welsh used to be on Jim Boeheim’s staff.
Upset special: Butler (13) over New Mexico (4). Butler is well-coached MCC team. Lobos, playing without injured shooter Royce Olney, are completely different team on the road.
Biggest surprise: I didn’t think Miami (11) had a prayer of making the field after its first-round Big East loss to Georgetown.
Down the road: A Kentucky-Michigan Sweet 16 game could be a wild shootout where the winner needs to score in the 90’s.
Favorite: Arizona (1). Forget about the Wildcats’ split with USC and UCLA in L.A. last weekend. They are still 17-1 in Pac-10 and have the best perimeter talent in tournament. Guards Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson are an updated version of Georgia Tech’s Lethal Weapon III.
Dark horse: Maryland (4). Terps finished third in ACC, but have beaten two No. 1s - Kansas and North Carolina.
Coach to watch: Rick Majerus, Utah (3). He can teach with the best of them. Tucson papers are reporting he is negotiating with Arizona State, which should create distractions in Boise.
Player most likely to surprise: Ruben Patterson, Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ 6-8 senior forward missed the first 14 games because he took extra benefits from a booster, but has been the difference, along with center Kenyon Martin, in the Bearcats’ rise to the top of Conference USA.
Most intriguing story line: Can Arizona repeat or will the Wildcats self-destruct again in an early round game?
Best first-round matchup: Temple (7) vs. West Virginia (10). The Owls, who play the best matchup zone in the country, will get to test it against Gale Catlett, who dissected it when the senior-dominated Big East Mountaineers played in the Atlantic 10.
Upset special: South Alabama (12) over Illinois (5). Defensive-minded Jaguars from Sun Belt will test Illini, who may have had confidence shattered during 63-47 loss to Purdue in Big Ten semis.
Biggest surprise: Cincinnati finally got respect it deserved from committee, which made Bearcats a 2 ahead of Utah, which has been locked into Top 10 all season.
Down the road: Maryland could be headed for Sweet 16 matchup against Arizona.