MARCH 13, 15 / OKLAHOMA CITY
COACH Roy Williams RECORD 34-3
TEAM SCORING 84.2 (FG%: 49.2) (3-pointers: 216-564, 38.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.5 (FG%: 40.4)
REBOUND MARGIN +8.4 TEAM FT% 68.2
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Paul Pierce (75%), Raef LaFrentz (75%)
WHOM TO FOUL Kenny Gregory (41%), T.J. Pugh (59%)
QUALITY WINS Arizona 90-87, UMass 73-71, TCU 94-78
PLAYER TO WATCH You're thinking LaFrentz, the senior, but you're
wrong. Keep an eye on junior Pierce, a junior, who has outplayed
his more ballyhooed teammate when it has counted most: In the
last two NCAA tournaments, the 6'7" Pierce has outscored (16.7
to 12.1) and outrebounded (8.6 to 8.3) the 6'11" LaFrentz. Last
year Pierce nearly saved the Jayhawks from losing to Arizona
with 27 points. LaFrentz was held to 14.
March 16, 1998
SCOUTING REPORT The offense is in good hands with LaFrentz
(19.7) and Pierce (20.3) supplying nearly half of the points.
The concern is defense. Kansas' three losses--to Maryland,
Hawaii and Missouri--exposed the D of junior guard Ryan
Robertson, whose sneakers appeared to weigh 80 pounds. There's
the weight of expectations, too. Kansas has been a No. 1 seed
three other times in the 1990s and flamed out early each time.
If it does again, the Wheat State may be renamed the Mental State.
PREDICTION The Final Four, and more--if only because, in this
year of Elway and Earnhardt, there's breakthrough in the air.
16 Prairie View
COACH Elwood Plummer RECORD 13-16
TEAM SCORING 73.2 (FG%: 40.3) (3-pointers: 118-436, 27.1%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 79.1 (FG%: 41.9)
REBOUND MARGIN -4.4 TEAM FT% 60.1
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Kevin Bell (74%), King Whetstone (69%)
WHOM TO FOUL Julius Marble (52%), Saladin Bilodeau (57%)
QUALITY WIN At Tulane 69-64
PLAYER TO WATCH Tamarron Sharpe, a lefthanded senior guard who
leads the Panthers in scoring (17.1), finally may have found his
outside touch. He shot 23.1% from three-point range in the
regular season but made 6 of 8 as surprising Prairie View swept
through the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.
SCOUTING REPORT Perhaps because of their woeful history--in the
seven seasons before this one, the Panthers won a total of 30
games--or because they don't rebound well and usually can't
shoot a lick from the line or the arc, the Panthers have a knack
for lulling opponents into complacency. They came back from a
41-21 deficit against top-seeded Texas Southern in the final of
the SWAC tournament and won the game. How do they do it? They've
got a nothing-to-lose attitude, and they press well. The 17.6
turnovers a game they caused were third in the league.
PREDICTION After they're blown out by Kansas, the Panthers can
at least contemplate this: Six years ago they were 0-28.
8 Rhode Island
COACH Jim Harrick RECORD 22-8
TEAM SCORING 77.1 (FG%: 44.6) (3-pointers: 230-612, 37.6%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 71.2 (FG%: 41.1)
REBOUND MARGIN -4.4 TEAM FT% 71.3
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Cuttino Mobley (86%), Joshua King (75%)
WHOM TO FOUL Luther Clay (60%), Tyson Wheeler (65%)
QUALITY WINS UNLV 91-73, at Temple 74-64, at UMass 87-85
PLAYER TO WATCH Harrick had to sit down in the preseason with
Wheeler, his 5'10" blur of a point guard, and have a
heart-to-heart about his shot selection: Harrick wanted him to
put more emphasis on passing and less on shooting. Since then,
the diminutive NBA prospect has been less of a free-Wheeler, and
his scoring average has gone down from 16.4 a year ago to 14.6.
However, the improved scoring of backcourtmate Mobley (17.1
versus 12.2 a year ago) has more than compensated.
SCOUTING REPORT After developing 13 NBA players while at UCLA,
Harrick has one of the nation's best backcourts in Wheeler and
Mobley, both seniors. Rhode Island, though, is hardly Ram-tough
inside. At 6'9" Clay is a bit short for a center, and he lost 14
pounds in midseason because of tonsillitis. As a result, Rhode
Island's rebound deficit was the second worst in the Atlantic 10.
PREDICTION With one great exception, Harrick hasn't been much of
a tournament coach, and Murray State will be the beneficiary.
9 Murray State
COACH Mark Gottfried RECORD 29-3
TEAM SCORING 87.1 (FG%: 50.5) (3-pointers: 201-500, 40.2%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.9 (FG%: 41.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +6.0 TEAM FT% 67.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL De'Teri Mayes (78%), Chad Townsend (76%)
WHOM TO FOUL Duane Virgil (55%), Isaac Spencer (64%)
QUALITY WINS Arkansas 94-83, at Dayton 76-69
PLAYERS TO WATCH With his quick hops and quicker release, Mayes,
the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year with a 21.7
average, is coming down from his jumper while defenders are
still rising. He's the perfect running mate for Townsend, a
25-year-old senior who spent two years in the Air Force and
distributes the ball (5.2 assists) with military precision.
SCOUTING REPORT The well-named Racers, who come into the NCAAs
riding a 12-game winning streak, must play an up-tempo game to
compensate for a frontcourt that stands 6'6", 6'7" and 6'9". In
its win over Arkansas, Murray State gave the Hogs a taste of
their own hellish medicine, led by Mayes, who had 42 points.
Inside, the Racers rely on Spencer, a sophomore forward and
former Mr. Basketball in Alabama, who averages 13.7 points and
8.2 rebounds despite being only 6'6".
PREDICTION The Racers should beat Rhode Island--and Gottfried's
mentor, Jim Harrick--before succumbing to Kansas' size.
MARCH 13, 15 / OKLAHOMA CITY
COACH Rob Evans RECORD 22-6
TEAM SCORING 80.9 (FG%: 45.4) (3-pointers: 194-523, 37.1%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.0 (FG%: 40.4)
REBOUND MARGIN +6.8 TEAM FT% 65.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Keith Carter (78%), Ansu Sesay (73%)
WHOM TO FOUL Anthony Boone (45%), Jason Smith (52%)
QUALITY WINS At Kentucky 87-76, Arkansas 81-65
PLAYER TO WATCH Sesay, a lefthanded 6'9" senior forward, has an
all-around, inside-outside game that stumps teammate Joezon
Darby, who says, "I'd need a dictionary to describe him." In
January, after Evans chided him for being too unselfish, Sesay
dropped 33 points on Mississippi State. "And when teams have
doubled Ansu," says Evans, "he's had six or seven assists."
SCOUTING REPORT It wasn't that long ago that Ole Miss announced
that it was promoting its head basketball coach to assistant
football coach. With defense, balance and an epochal win this
season at Kentucky, Evans has created an instant hoops
tradition. The Rebels have two tournament-time premiums:
versatile depth--"We can go big, and we can go small," Evans
says--and steady guard play from Jason Flanigan, Michael White,
Carter and Darby, who's Mississippi's best buzzer-beating option.
PREDICTION In this plodders' regional, the Rebels stand out for
their mobility. They want their Valpo--and Kansas, too. A
possible Final Four team.
COACH Homer Drew RECORD 21-9
TEAM SCORING 74.0 (FG%: 47.3) (3-pointers: 165-442, 37.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 67.9 (FG%: 42.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.6 TEAM FT% 69.6
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Jamie Sykes (84%), Bryce Drew (80%)
WHOM TO FOUL Jason Jenkins (56%), Antanas Vilcinskas (60%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH After an operation during his sophomore year at
Valparaiso (Ind.) High to correct a heart condition, Bryce Drew
led the Vikings to the state finals his senior season and was
named Indiana's Mr. Basketball before signing to play for his
dad at his hometown college. Four years later he's the career
leader in assists in the Mid-Continent Conference, and the
Crusaders are the only major-college team to have won both their
regular season conference title and their conference tournament
four years in a row. If there's a basketball god, Valparaiso
will win at least one game in the NCAA tournament.
SCOUTING REPORT The Crusaders have five seniors in their
rotation, including twins Bob and Bill Jenkins, a pair of
forwards who combined for 15.2 points and 12.4 rebounds a game
this season. The only nonsenior starter, center Zoran Viskovic
(13.6 points), is fifth in the nation in shooting percentage
PREDICTION There is no hoops god--and if there were, first-round
foe Ole Miss, with no NCAA wins, would have as divine a case.
COACH Billy Tubbs RECORD 27-5
TEAM SCORING 97.6 (FG%: 49.7) (3-pointers: 208-560, 37.1%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 77.3 (FG%: 42.9)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.7 TEAM FT% 73.1
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Mike Jones (81%), Malcolm Johnson (79%)
WHOM TO FOUL Dennis Davis (59%)
QUALITY WINS LIU 105-95, Hawaii 126-84, New Mexico 95-64
PLAYER TO WATCH Horned Frogs hoss Lee Nailon, a 6'9" junior
forward, was the nation's second-leading scorer (24.6), but
Tubbs calls Jones, a slashing junior guard, his best player. A
6'3" center in high school, Jones was passed over by
recruiters--including Tubbs for a long while--who didn't think
he had the requisite perimeter skills. Now Jones is among TCU's
top three in scoring (21.4), rebounds (5.8), assists (5.6) and
SCOUTING REPORT Call it the extreme games theory: No one wants
to play teams that score too little (Princeton) or too much
(TCU) in the NCAAs. Owners of the nation's most prolific
offense, the Frogs press for nearly 40 minutes a game and shoot
more often than a disgruntled postal worker. (Why not, when you
had the fourth-best field goal percentage in the country?) How
to beat the Frogs? Play zone to keep the score down. (See 82-78
loss to Syracuse.) TCU is only 4-4 when it scores less than 80
PREDICTION The Frogs, who haven't broken 80 in three of their
last four, are ready for a breakout game--or several.
12 Florida State
COACH Steve Robinson RECORD 17-13
TEAM SCORING 70.5 (FG%: 45.4) (3-pointers: 118-409, 28.9%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.3 (FG%: 40.4)
REBOUND MARGIN +5.0 TEAM FT% 65.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Terrell Baker (80%), LaMarr Greer (73%)
WHOM TO FOUL Karim Shabazz (45%), Corey Louis (57%)
QUALITY WINS Connecticut 67-60, Arizona 84-79
Players to Watch Baker and Greer played grade-school ball
together in Lawnside, N.J., and later played on the same AAU
team in high school, but they weren't reunited until this
season, after Greer persuaded Baker to transfer from Champlain
College in Burlington, Vt. The results have been felicitous:
Baker, a 6'6" junior guard, led the Seminoles in scoring (12.6),
while Greer, a 6'5" senior guard, paced Florida State with 37
SCOUTING REPORT The Seminoles were dangerous--in November and
December. Early victories over Connecticut and Arizona were
enough for the tournament committee, despite Florida State's
horrific finish, in which it lost six of its last seven. The
Seminoles have a balanced attack (four players average at least
10 points), but their three-point shooting sputtered down the
stretch, which makes them easy pickings for a zone defense.
PREDICTION If TCU's style gets them into an up-and-down game,
and they recover their winning December form, the Seminoles
could get out of the first round. Otherwise, it's one and done.
MARCH 13, 15 / CHICAGO
COACH Gene Keady RECORD 26-7
TEAM SCORING 84.2 (FG%: 48.8) (3-pointers: 220-582, 37.8%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 73.2 (FG%: 44.9)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.6 TEAM FT% 75.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Jaraan Cornell (81%), Brian Cardinal (79%)
WHOM TO FOUL Gary McQuay (56%)
QUALITY WINS UMass 82-69, at Illinois 68-58, at Mich. St. 99-96
PLAYER TO WATCH Not for nothing is sophomore forward Cardinal
called Citizen Pain. He leads Purdue in charges taken (36) and
floor dives (93), two stats assiduously tracked on the bench.
Keady appointed Cardinal co-captain in December, mainly because
seniors Chad Austin and Brad Miller weren't doing the job. "Chad
and Brad are extreme introverts," assistant coach Frank Kendrick
says. "Brian is hardly an introvert."
SCOUTING REPORT Austin and the 6'11" Miller are a dangerous
inside-outside scoring threat. If Austin (17.2) doesn't sink
you, Miller (17.4) usually will. The best free-throw-shooting
team in the tournament, Purdue is concerned about Cornell, a 50%
three-point shooter whose sprained ankle could keep him from
playing. And there's always the annual Purdue swoon: It has
advanced past the second round only once since 1988.
PREDICTION If the Boilermakers meet Clemson for the right to
play Kansas, the edge goes to Purdue, which is as good from the
line as the Tigers are bad.
COACH Mike Brey RECORD 20-9
TEAM SCORING 73.6 (FG%: 44.8) (3-pointers: 174-472, 36.9%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.5 (FG%: 43.0)
REBOUND MARGIN -0.7 TEAM FT% 71.9
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Tyrone Perry (79%), Darryl Presley (78%)
WHOM TO FOUL John Bennett (67%), Keith Davis (68%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYER TO WATCH There were great expectations when Presley, a
sophomore forward, joined the Blue Hens after playing one season
at Virginia. He hasn't laid an egg. He leads Delaware in
rebounding (7.7) and is second in scoring (12.9). More
important, perhaps, he handles the pressure well in big games.
Against Boston University in the America East Conference
tournament final, he scored 25 points, had 13 rebounds and was
named tournament MVP.
SCOUTING REPORT It has taken Brey, a former Duke assistant, just
three seasons to build a winner, and he has done it with an
exciting, reckless style. He has built the offense around an
explosive pair of undersized forwards in 6'6" Presley and 6'5"
sophomore Mike Pegues (16.8 points per game), who can slash to
the hoop and score or kick the ball back to spot up three-point
shooters Perry (40.6%) and Kestutis Marciulionis (33.9%).
PREDICTION The Hens may keep Purdue cooped up for a half, but
Delaware has no answers for the Boilermakers' frontcourt.
7 St. John's
COACH Fran Fraschilla RECORD 22-9
TEAM SCORING 73.2 (FG%: 43.8) (3-pointers: 140-434, 32.3%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.2 (FG%: 40.6)
REBOUND MARGIN +7.4 TEAM FT% 63.8
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Lavor Postell (83%), Tarik Turner (71%)
WHOM TO FOUL Reggie Jessee (44%), Ron Artest (52%)
QUALITY WINS Illinois 83-66, UConn 64-62, West Virginia 77-69
PLAYER TO WATCH Freshman forward Artest was only supposed to
lose his starting spot for one game after he showed up late for
a practice in early January, but Fraschilla noticed that Artest
was more relaxed in that game and has brought him in off the
bench ever since. Thanks largely to his 11.2 points and 6.9
boards per game as sixth man, St. John's won 13 of its last 16
SCOUTING REPORT Sophomore forward Postell slammed his face into
the floor while diving for a loose ball in the second half at
Providence on Jan. 17. He got eight stitches in his chin and
four in his lip but still played the last seven minutes of a
63-56 win. Let that be a warning: The Red Storm isn't the
prettiest team, but it's winning and--after years of
underachieving--starting to save face with a physical front line
of Artest, Postell, Tyrone Grant and Zendon Hamilton.
PREDICTION St. John's spotty guard play will make the only NCAA
appearance of Felipe Lopez's career a brief one.
COACH Perry Watson RECORD 24-5
TEAM SCORING 75.3 (FG%: 46.3) (3-pointers: 194-517, 37.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 62.5 (FG%: 39.9)
REBOUND MARGIN +3.4 TEAM FT% 74.2
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Desmond Ferguson (88%), E.J. Haralson (86%)
WHOM TO FOUL Bacari Alexander (62%)
QUALITY WINS At Michigan State 68-65, at Butler 54-51
PLAYERS TO WATCH Derrick Hayes, a transfer from Iowa State, is
the leading scorer (13.7) and most talented Titan. But Detroit
is the Jackson Five, led as it is by junior point guard Jermaine
Jackson. On a team that goes eight deep, only Jackson plays more
than 30 minutes a game. He averages 4.8 assists, or 2.6 for
every turnover, and penetrates well enough to score 12.3 points
a game despite being one of the Titans' worst three-point
SCOUTING REPORT Watson, long a successful Detroit high school
coach (NBAers Jalen Rose, Howard Eisley and Voshon Lenard played
for him at Southwestern High), has an entire team of players
born or raised in the Motor City area. The Titans' depth buoys a
defense that doesn't tire. The offense loves the three
(especially Hayes, who converts 43.6%) but too often ignores
center Brian Alexander, who can fill it up (10.1 points on 60%
PREDICTION The Titans should win their first NCAA game since
Dick Vitale was coach and then go down gallantly to Purdue.
MARCH 13, 15 / CHICAGO
COACH Mike Montgomery RECORD 26-4
TEAM SCORING 80.9 (FG%: 45.9) (3-pointers: 229-550, 41.6%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 68.2 (FG%: 42.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +9.1 TEAM FT% 72.9
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Kris Weems (87%), Arthur Lee (86%)
WHOM TO FOUL Jarron Collins (59%), Mark Madsen (61%)
QUALITY WINS Rhode Island 70-69, at UCLA 84-81
PLAYER TO WATCH On a team that has been likened to an NFL line,
Madsen is the Cardinal's very own Fuzzy Thurston. A 22-year-old
sophomore, he packs 235 pounds on his 6'8" frame--having matured
during a two-year Mormon mission in Spain--and sets
tungsten-strength screens to spring scorers free.
SCOUTING REPORT You want outside? The Cardinal has five regulars
who shoot the three at 40% or better. You want inside? With
eight players 6'7" or taller, Stanford is "the most dominant
team around the basket in the country," says UCLA coach Steve
Lavin. Trouble is, guards Lee and Weems are Stanford's only
light-footed starters. "We've had real problems with the two
premier teams we've played that had tremendous quickness," says
Montgomery. That would be Arizona (twice) and UConn, which
scored victories by an average of 23.3 points.
PREDICTION Stanford got a lucky draw: Charleston, then probably
Clemson and possibly Purdue, none of which is overly quick. But
if Western Michigan or Detroit survives, watch out.
14 College of Charleston
COACH John Kresse RECORD 24-5
TEAM SCORING 70.5 (FG%: 46.5) (3-pointers: 101-293, 34.5%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 55.0 (FG%: 38.5)
REBOUND MARGIN +2.0 TEAM FT% 69.4
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Marc Himes (78%), Shane McCravy (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Carlos Brown (64%)
QUALITY WINS None
PLAYERS TO WATCH In Sedric Webber, a willowy 6'6", 200-pound
junior center, the Cougars have the Trans America conference's
best player. He spent last season in the shadow of Thaddeous
(the Shaq of the TAAC) Delaney, but he has been busy this year,
leading Charleston in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.1) and
the conference in steals (2.3). He'd bring the ball up the
floor, too, but the Cougars have a sure-handed--though
diminutive--backcourt in 5'11" juniors McCravy (4.6 assists a
game) and Jermel President (10.4 points).
SCOUTING REPORT Charleston's defense gives up only 55.0 points a
game, the third-lowest total in the nation, but its offense
struggles. The Cougars lost 52-40 to UMass, the one quality
opponent on their schedule. If they can score in the 80s, the
odds favor them: They are 99-0 under Kresse when they score 84
or more points. But they did that only three times this year.
PREDICTION A year ago the Cougars got a No. 12 seed and proved
the committee wrong. This season the suits got it right.
COACH Rick Barnes RECORD 18-13
TEAM SCORING 72.2 (FG%: 47.2) (3-pointers: 158-465, 34.0%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 65.0 (FG%: 43.0)
REBOUND MARGIN +1.5 TEAM FT% 61.4
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Terrell McIntyre (77%)
WHOM TO FOUL Tom Wideman (44%), Tony Christie (46%)
QUALITY WINS Maryland 78-65, S. Carolina 62-57, Wake Forest 71-46
PLAYER TO WATCH McIntyre, a junior guard, may be just 5'9", but
he left a large void when he went out with a badly bruised left
foot in mid-December. He missed three games and subsequently
played in 10 games without practicing. The Tigers were 4-6
during that stretch but closed out the regular season with a 5-2
run after McIntyre resumed practicing.
SCOUTING REPORT Clemson likes to shove opponents around: Witness
its ACC-record 41 fouls against North Carolina on Jan. 28. What
the Tigers can't do is shoot from outside. Temple transfer
Johnny Miller was supposed to help, but he made 28.1% from
three-point range, and top-scoring forward Greg Buckner (16.4)
gets his hoops mostly on slashing drives. It's not surprising
that Clemson had more trouble against zone teams like Virginia
(a 78-74 Tigers loss) than against man-to-man clubs like Duke,
which beat the Tigers three times by a total of seven points.
PREDICTION With Clemson's guard play on an uptick as the
tournament gets underway, the regional finals are possible.
11 Western Michigan
COACH Bob Donewald RECORD 20-7
TEAM SCORING 79.5 (FG%: 47.4) (3-pointers: 188-462, 40.7%)
OPPONENTS' SCORING 69.9 (FG%: 43.7)
REBOUND MARGIN -3.8 TEAM FT% 75.0
WHOM NOT TO FOUL Jason Kimbrough (83%), S. Washington (81%)
WHOM TO FOUL Brad VanTimmeren (52%), Shaun Jackson (59%)
QUALITY WINS At Michigan 68-63, at Eastern Michigan 102-82
PLAYER TO WATCH Senior Saddi Washington, who worked for
Kellogg's last summer, dispatched Michigan (by scoring 33
points) and UNC-Charlotte (32) with the cool of a cereal killer.
Washington endured blowouts of each of his knees during his
Broncos career to become one of the best scoring (21.7) guards
in the country. He drew so much defensive attention that
backcourtmates Rashod Johnson (18.8) and Kimbrough (157 assists,
58 turnovers) had career seasons too.
SCOUTING REPORT Western Michigan lives as do most three-guard
schemes--by the three. Four players shoot 41% or better from
behind the arc, but the Broncos lost in the MAC quarterfinal to
Miami (Ohio) because they made only 1-of-19 threes. Though 6'7"
swingman Jackson is effective on the boards (7.7 overall, 3.0
offensive), the last thing the Broncos need is a big, physical
PREDICTION As it happens, one of the biggest, most physical
teams in the draw, Clemson, awaits. Uh-oh.