The NBA Factor If a quarter century of history is any guide, the last team standing at the end of the dance will be one with at least three future NBA players in its lineup

March 22, 1999

If the NCAA tournament's first week is a series of piquant
morality plays pitting wily underdogs against vulnerable
favorites, then the games of the second week resemble Cold War
propaganda films, solid affirmations that might makes right.
What happens to those Cinderellas once they reach the Sweet 16?
Most lose. Of the 19 teams seeded lower than eighth that reached
the third round between 1990 and '98, only five made it to the
Elite Eight. Not one advanced to the Final Four. Even with five
double-digit seeds among the Sweet 16 this year--the most
ever--don't expect Southwest Missouri State to keep blowing
through the bracket like a nor'easter, and don't figure to be
going gaga over Gonzaga much longer.

Why? For starters, the second week is light years removed from
the first in terms of media attention. Consider Valparaiso,
which was besieged last year after surviving the opening weekend
as a 13th seed. Among other distractions, CBS came to town and
videotaped a re-creation of Bryce Drew's opening-round buzzer
beater against Ole Miss, using all three Valpo players involved
in the play and filming it in an old campus gym. "I think it
made our heads kind of swell," says sophomore forward Jason
Jenkins. "At practice there would be cameras and people
everywhere. Teams like Maryland are used to having to
concentrate with all those people there. Cinderella schools
aren't."

Yet the main difference between the tournament's first and
second weeks, the primary reason that only one double-digit seed
has made the Final Four (No. 11 LSU in 1986), is that the skill
level is higher in the latter. "It's a totally different game,"
says Cincinnati guard Melvin Levett, who made the Elite Eight in
'96. "Everybody is just much more talented. Teams play more
pressure defense, players are quicker, the point guards are
better. In the early rounds you can get away with some things
that guys won't let happen as you advance in the tournament."

The second week also brings together a greater concentration of
future NBA players and therefore produces a style of play that
more closely resembles that of the pros. "The intensity level
goes from level C to level A," says the Denver Nuggets' forward
Johnny Taylor, who played for Tennessee-Chattanooga in the 1997
Sweet 16. "You see more players who make one-on-one, NBA-type
plays."

Says Portland Trail Blazers point guard Greg Anthony, a two-time
Sweet 16 participant with UNLV, "On the second weekend the
execution is a lot better and you see some incredible
shotmaking. But what's more important is the defense. What
separates the Dukes and Kentuckys from the rest is their ability
to defend and rebound."

In an environment in which games are often decided by one or two
possessions, a hairbreadth difference in talent can determine
the outcome. Kansas assistant Matt Doherty, who lined up with
Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy on North Carolina's
1982 national champion, believes that once teams hit the second
weekend, they can no longer hide their deficiencies. "If you're
not strong at every spot, you get exposed," he says.

Or as Duke forward Chris Carrawell says, "Once you get down to
the Sweet 16, talent takes over. You have to have some guys who
can go to the next level."

How important is it to have future pros in your lineup? Let's
just say that in the latter stages of the NCAAs it takes three
to tango. Since 1976 every national champion except Kansas in
'88 has had at least three players who have gone on (or are
projected to go on) to play in the NBA (chart, page 51).

Even the team the Jayhawks beat in the '88 championship game,
Big Eight rival Oklahoma, had three eventual NBA first-round
draft picks: point guard Mookie Blaylock, forward Harvey Grant
and center Stacey King. That Kansas rode the shoulders of
forward Danny Manning all the way to a national title--he was
accompanied by only one other future NBA player, guard Kevin
Pritchard--is all the more remarkable when put into historical
perspective. Michigan State's Magic Johnson had two teammates
with NBA talent. Indiana's Isiah Thomas had three. Duke's
Christian Laettner had four one year and five the next.

Granted, our argument has a few caveats. There's no denying that
some players, such as Arkansas's Clint McDaniel, whose average
jumped from 7.8 points during the regular season to 12.5 during
the last four games of the Razorbacks' NCAA championship run in
1994, probably wouldn't have played in the NBA were it not for
their eye-catching performances in the Big Dance. And having
three future pros doesn't guarantee a trip to the Final Four, or
even the second round, as this year's Arizona and UCLA teams can
tell you.

Which Sweet 16 teams meet the three-pro minimum this year? Who
better to ask than NBA pro-personnel directors, who this season,
thanks to the lockout, have spent more time than ever scouting
the college ranks. Last week SI assembled a panel of top bird
dogs, promised them anonymity and asked them to give us the
scoop on the pro prospects playing for this year's Sweet 16
teams. Prospects could be placed in two categories: surefire NBA
player or fringe player (a top CBA or foreign-league player who
might get a shot at the NBA). We awarded teams one point for
each surefire player and a half point for each fringe player, on
the notion that one of every two fringe players might see time
in the NBA.

Here's what we learned (chart, above). Four teams, which we'll
call Haves, meet or exceed the three-pro minimum:
tournament-favorite Duke, which has five surefire and two fringe
NBA prospects, worth a jaw-dropping 6.0 points in our ratings;
Connecticut, whose five starters earn the Huskies 4.0 points;
Kentucky, which has two surefire picks and four fringe players
for a total of 4.0 points; and St. John's, which rates 3.0
points for its two surefires--one of whom, sophomore forward Ron
Artest, is "sure to be a lottery pick" if he comes out,
according to our scouts--and two fringes.

We think it's felicitous that our four Haves happen to be
playing in four different tournament regions. Taking that as our
cue, we'll go ahead and pick them as our Final Four. May the
best collection of future pros win.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID E. KLUTHO THE NEXT LEVEL With Richard Hamilton and four other future pros, UConn is one of four teams with the makings of a champ. COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN

Pro Active

Every NCAA championship team since 1976, except Kansas in '88,
has used at least three players in the title game who went on
(or are expected to go on) to play in the NBA. Here's the list.

NBA TALENT

1998 Kentucky--Jamaal Magloire, Nazr Mohammed, Scott Padgett,
Jeff Sheppard

1997 Arizona--Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Miles Simon, Jason
Terry

1996 Kentucky--Derek Anderson, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Ron
Mercer, Mark Pope, Jeff Sheppard, Antoine Walker

1995 UCLA--Toby Bailey, Tyus Edney, J.R. Henderson, Charles
O'Bannon, Ed O'Bannon, George Zidek

1994 Arkansas--Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel, Corliss Williamson

1993 North Carolina--George Lynch, Eric Montross, Derrick
Phelps, Kevin Salvadori, Matt Wenstrom

1992 Duke--Brian Davis, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Christian
Laettner, Antonio Lang, Cherokee Parks

1991 Duke--Brian Davis, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Christian
Laettner, Antonio Lang

1990 UNLV--Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson

1989 Michigan--Demetrius Calip, Sean Higgins, Terry Mills, Glen
Rice, Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught

1988 Kansas--Danny Manning, Kevin Pritchard

1987 Indiana--Steve Alford, Ricky Calloway, Dean Garrett, Keith
Smart

1986 Louisville--Pervis Ellison, Billy Thompson, Milt Wagner

1985 Villanova--Dwayne McClain, Ed Pinckney, Harold Pressley

1984 Georgetown--Patrick Ewing, Michael Jackson, Bill Martin,
Reggie Williams, David Wingate

1983 North Carolina State--Thurl Bailey, Lorenzo Charles, Sidney
Lowe, Cozell McQueen

1982 North Carolina--Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, James Worthy

1981 Indiana--Isiah Thomas, Jim Thomas, Ray Tolbert, Randy Wittman

1980 Louisville--Roger Burkman, Jerry Eaves, Darrell Griffith,
Rodney McCray, Derek Smith

1979 Michigan State--Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser, Jay Vincent

1978 Kentucky--Chuck Aleksinas, Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, Rick Robey

1977 Marquette--Bo Ellis, Butch Lee, Bernard Toone, Jerome
Whitehead

1976 Indiana--Tom Abernethy, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, Scott
May, Wayne Radford, Bob Wilkerson

The Contenders, Pretenders And Return-to-Senders

Since it takes a minimum of three future NBA players on a roster
to win a national title, we consulted scouting executives with
three NBA teams to determine which tournament teams have the
goods and which don't. We awarded one point for each surefire
NBAer, like Duke's Elton Brand (above), and a half point for
borderline cases who could end up in the NBA but are as likely
to have pro careers in Europe or in the CBA. Here's what we found.

THE HAVES

DUKE (6.0)

NBA: William Avery, Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon,
Corey Maggette
CBA/NBA: Chris Burgess, Chris Carrawell

CONNECTICUT (4.0)
NBA: Khalid El-Amin, Richard Hamilton, Jake Voskuhl
CBA/NBA: Kevin Freeman, Ricky Moore

KENTUCKY (4.0)
NBA: Jamaal Magloire, Scott Padgett
CBA/NBA: Michael Bradley, Jules Camara, Heshimu Evans, Wayne
Turner

ST. JOHN'S (3.0)
NBA: Ron Artest, Erick Barkley
CBA/NBA: Lavor Postell, Bootsy Thornton

THE MAYBES

AUBURN (2.5)
NBA: Mamadou N'diaye, Chris Porter
CBA/NBA: Doc Robinson

MARYLAND (2.5)
NBA: Steve Francis, Terrence Morris
CBA/NBA: Laron Profit

MICHIGAN ST. (2.5)
NBA: Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson
CBA/NBA: Antonio Smith

OHIO STATE (2.5)
NBA: Scoonie Penn, Michael Redd
CBA/NBA: Ken Johnson

THE HAVE-NOTS

TEMPLE (2.0)
NBA: Lamont Barnes
CBA/NBA: Mark Karcher, Kevin Lyde

FLORIDA (1.5)
NBA: Mike Miller
CBA/NBA: Udonis Haslem

MIAMI (OHIO) (1.0)
NBA: Wally Szczerbiak

PURDUE (1.0)
CBA/NBA:Brian Cardinal, Jaraan Cornell

GONZAGA (0.5)
CBA/NBA: Matt Santangelo

OKLAHOMA (0.5)
CBA/NBA: Eduardo Najera

SW MISSOURI ST. (0.5)
CBA/NBA: Danny Moore

IOWA (0)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)