LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, on the eve of No. 12 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee's 83--75 upset of No. 4 Boston College in the Chicago region's second round, Panthers senior guard Ed McCants was in his hotel room with his roommate, senior forward James Wright. On TV, Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller was putting up 39 points against the Los Angeles Lakers. As the two watched Miller come off screens and get open time and again, McCants told Wright, "Reggie is going to leave the game of basketball [at the end of this season], and I'm going to pick up where he left off."
Judging from McCants's performance in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, his prediction might not be all that hyperbolic. When facing Boston College and No. 5 seed Alabama, whom the Panthers dispatched in the opening round, the 6'3" McCants bore something of a resemblance to Miller, particularly in the way he lost his defenders. "He has an open three, and I look around and I'm like, Who's guarding him?" said Wisconsin-Milwaukee junior forward Joah Tucker. Against the Crimson Tide, McCants scored 21 points, going 5 for 9 from the arc; against Boston College, McCants pumped in 18, draining 4 of 8 trey attempts. He also fearlessly bodied up 6'6" Eagles forward Sean Marshall. "I wanted the team to know that they were not going to intimidate us, or me," McCants, a psychology major, said afterward.
McCants began developing his offensive skills while growing up in Marion, Ohio. He would shoot hundreds of jumpers with his father, Brian (then Marion High's coach), and three brothers. In Ed's junior year at Marion High, he tore his left kneecap. Wearing a cast, "Ed would stand in one place with his crutch and his brothers would feed him the ball," says Brian. "Up until then, he was a slasher with a midrange shot. The next thing I knew, he was a three-point specialist."
After the emotional victory over BC, McCants was pumping his team for its next foe: top-seeded Illinois. "We're not going to curl up into a ball and go back to Milwaukee," he declared. "Until a team takes us seriously, the upsets continue to happen." --Julia Morrill