Maryland gets the No. 1 seed, but No. 4 Kentucky gets the toughest matchup in the Eagt's first round. The Wildcats face No. 13 Valparaiso. The following is a capsule on the East Region teams.
Record: 26-4 (15-1, ACC)
Location: College Park, Maryland
Key players: Juan Dixon, G (6-3, Sr.); Lonny Baxter, F (6-8, Sr.); Byron
Mouton, G (6-6, Sr.).
Outlook: After the opening-season setback to Arizona, Maryland has sort of
flown under the radar for much of the season. However, the big win over Duke
in mid-February forced others to take notice that the Terrapins are as
primed as anybody to make a return visit to the Final Four.
Projection: Along with Kansas, probably the nation's most veteran team. Four
starters are seniors, and they all have major NCAA tournament experience.
Maryland can score from numerous places on the floor, but occasionally
appears susceptible to teams with balanced attacks. Still, a major player in
the Big Dance.
Alcorn State Braves
Recrod: 20-9 (16-2, SWAC)
Location: Lorman, MS
Key Players: Marcus Fleming, F (6-8 Sr.); Walt Harper, C (6-8 Sr.): Brian
Jackson, SF (6-6 Jr.)
Overview: The Braves are a team that gets really hot and then really cold
and the inconsistency is on the upswing right now. Alcorn State began the
year 0-5 before winning the next eight games. After going 4-4 over the next
eight, the Braves ended the year by going on another eight-game winning
streak that included winning the SWAC championship, 70-67, over Alabama
State. Fleming is the key player for the Braves, he averages 15 points and
nearly eight boards per game.
Projection: It is unlikely that Alcorn State will win a game. Any win would
instantly become the greatest in tournament history.
Record: 16-18 (19-9, Metro Atlantic)
Location: Loudenville, NY
Key Players: Dwayne Archibold, F (6-6, Sr.); Prosper Karangwa, G (6-7, Jr.)
Outlook: Siena is led by senior forward Dwayne Archibold, who averaged 20.3
points per game on the year and scored 30 against Niagra to help lead the
team to the Metro Atlantic title. Though he is only 6-6, Archibold hits the
boards to the tune of 7.3 rebounds per game.
Projection: Siena has had a tradition of post season success, most notibly a
win over Stanford. Don't expect a similar win this time out. The Saints are
an early tournament sacrifice.
Record: 18-11 (11-5, Big Ten)
Key Players: Kirk Penney, G (6-5, Jr.); Charlie Wills, F (6-8, Sr.); Travon
Davis, G (5-10, Sr.).
Outlook: It hurts to watch, but my goodness is it effective. Defense,
defense, and some defense to go along with Kirk Penney is the chemical
composition for danger in the Field of 64. Wisconsin is even weaker than in
years past offensively as the New Zealand native Penney is the only man on
the team with any true offensive potency. It doesn't matter if the Badgers
score if they can't be scored upon.
Projection: A three-game non-conference losing streak to Weber State, Hawaii
and Georgia Tech, along with a 32-point (80-48) embarrassment at Illinois,
and defeats at the hands of Big Ten cellar dwellers Northwestern and
Michigan, do not bode well. However, the Badgers won their final six
regular-season conference games including W's over Ohio State, Indiana and
St. John's Red Storm
Record: 20-11 (9-7, Big East)
Location: New York, NY
Key Players: Marcus Hatten, G (6-6, Jr.); Anthony Glover, F (6-6, Sr.);
Outlook: The Red Storm are another Big East team that can't separate
themselves from the pack. They have some good wins, most notably victories
over Tennessee, Miami and Wake Forest. They have also been utterly destroyed
by the likes of Duke, Manhattan and Pitt. They are a low-scoring team with
only two players who average in double figures. Hatten is the star. He can
play both guard spots and has been the best player on Mike Jarvis' squad.
Projection: The Red Storm got off the bubble, but they won't stay in the
dance long. A first round win should be considered a success and an
appearance in the Sweet Sixteen would be a major surprise. More than likely
the Storm are one and done.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 26-6, (13-3, C-USA)
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Key Players: Dwayne Wade, G (6-4, So.); Cordell Henry, G (5-10, Sr.);
Odartey Blankson, G/F (6-7, So.)
Outlook: Marquette is one of the nation's bigger surprises. Many thought
they'd be good, but few if any predicted this kind of success. Wade is the
key. A partial qualifier a year ago, he leads the Eagles in scoring, assists
and rebounds and has turned into one of Conference USA's top performers.
Marquette won the Great Alaska Shootout and has not slowed down since.
Projection: Marquette has gotten it done all year, but does it have what it
takes to make an impact in the Big Dance? They have the backcourt to make an
impact, but may lack the inside play to really do some damage. A win is
possible, maybe even two, but don't expect much more.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Record: 26-6 (15-3, WAC)
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Key players: Kevin Johnson, F (6-7, Jr.); Greg Harrington, G (6-2, Sr.);
Dante Swanson, G (5-10, Jr..
Outlook: How does Tulsa do it? The coach doesn't matter. The loss of players
doesn't matter. The occasional change in conference seems immaterial. Tulsa
simply wins 20 games each and every year, and sends fear into the hearts of
its early-round tournament opposition.
Projection: Great balance. Four players average double figures, and another
contributes nine points per game. Athleticism is also a strongsuit, and that
counters its lack of overall size. A dangerous team that has very real Sweet
Record: 20-9 (10-6 SEC)
Key Players: PF-Tayshaun Prince, Sr., SF-Keith Bogans, Sr., SG-Gerald Fitch,
Outlook: The Wildcats thought they had two All-Americans when both Prince
and Bogans decided to return for their senior years, but what they got
instead were two guys that failed to live up to the expectations. The
Wildcats rebound the ball well (over 40 per game), but shoot like
grade-schoolers (45 percent overall, 67 percent at the line and 31 percent
Projection: Prince likes to do pretty much nothing but circle around the
three-point arc waiting to jack up seven or eight treys per game, so putting
a hand in his face is necessary. Stopping Prince is the key to beating
Kentucky, which really hasn't been as difficult as many preseason experts
thought it would be. Anything past the Sweet Sixteen would be a minor shock.
Record: 25-7 (12-2 Mid-Continent)
Location: Valparaiso, IN
Key Players: Lubos Barton, F (6-8, Sr.); Raitis Grafs, C (6-11, Jr.); Antoni
Falu G, 6-5, Jr.
Outlook: The "Foreign Legion" (Valpo has seven non-U.S. residents on its
roster) is always dangerous in the Big Dance, just ask Rob Evans when he was
at Mississippi. Head coach Homer Drew has another good team led by a
physical frontline of Lubos Barton (15.1 points, 6.7 rebounds) and Raitis
Grafs (12.4, 6.7). The aggressive approach by the Crusaders might be enough
to take some team out of its game in the first round.
Projection: Another potential upset waiting to happen. Valpo's overall
record doesn't jump out at you, but it lost road games to Arizona by four
and Kansas by eight during a four-day road swing. They can beat a lot of
teams and could make a small run to the second weekend.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Record: 26-8 (10-6, Big 12)
Key Players: SG-Andre Emmett, So., C-Andy Ellis, Sr., SF-Kasib Powell, Jr.
Outlook: Head coach Bob Knight has done such a masterful job with the
perennial doormat Red Raider program that he is deserving of national Coach
of the Year consideration. His instant discipline style has enabled him to
get the maximum ability out of a bunch of average players. The motion
offense he made famous in leading Indiana to three national championships
now resides in Lubbock, Texas, and has been working extremely well.
Projection: The lack of a good point guard might be the undoing for Texas
Tech. Bobby Knight teams have struggled in the early rounds as of late and
don't expect the Raiders to be much different.
Southern Illinois Salukis
Record: 25-7 (14-4, MVC)
Location: Carbondale, IL
Key Players: Kent Williams, G (6-2, Jr.); Rolan Roberts, C (6-6, Sr.);
Jermaine Dearman, F (6-8, Jr.)
Outlook: The Salukis had some nervous moments on "Selection Sunday," but
their good non-conference wins got them in. They are no longer a bubble team
and are now the team no one wants to face. They have wins over St. Louis,
Iowa State, Murray State and Indiana, while losing by three at Illinois. The
Salukis are a veteran team with a proven scorer in Williams.
Projection: The Salukis have shown the ability to play with the big boys, so
a first-round win isn't out of the question. Things could be tough if they
face teams with good post play, as the starting center is only 6-6. A trip
to the second weekend would be a bit of a shocker.
Record: 21-9 (10-5, SEC)
Location: Athens, GA
Key Players: SF-Jarvis Hayes, Soph., SG-Ezra Williams, Jr., PF-Chris
Outlook: If you haven't had the opportunity to watch sophomore sensation
Jarvis Hayes play yet, don't pass it up the next time you get a chance. The
first-year transfer is one of the best players that America's never heard
of, and one of the most exciting as well. Projection: Opposing teams will
key on stopping Jarvis Hayes, which won't be easy, and that will free up the
sweet shot of Ezra Williams. Big forward Chris Daniels is a load under the
hoop as well and the Bulldogs could very easily surprise some people in the
Murray State Racers
Record: 19-12 (10-6, OVC)
Key Players: Justin Burdine, G (6-1, Sr.); James Singleton, F (6-8, Jr.);
Antione Whelchel (6-5, So.).
Outlook: Murray State upended conference power Tennessee Tech in the finals
of the Ohio Valley Conference, and earned the right to square off against
Georgia, a mainstay in the SEC's upper echelon all season. The Racers are
athletic and at times bulky, but not very tall. Six-eight, 240 appears to be
the commonality along the front line. Burdine is the key. He averages over
20 points per game.
Projection: An upset is not out of the question. Murray State is already
playing on borrowed time, and knocked off a strong opponent in Tennessee
Tech to earn a spot in the field. At the very least, it has the opportunity
to make that first-round game competitive.
North Carolina State
Record: 22-10 (9-7, ACC)
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Key players: Anthony Grundy, G (6-3, Sr.); Julius Hodge, G (6-6, Fr.);
Marcus Melvin, F (6-8, So.).
Outlook: Certainly battle tested given the competition in the ACC, and
firmly entrenched around the middle of the league. NC State has generally
beaten the teams it should, and lost to the better part of the conference.
Grundy and Hodge are a dangerous backcourt combination.
Projection: Up and down, as can be expected with a youthful team. North
Carolina State might be good for one win come tournament time, but will
probably have to play above its head to survive into the second week.
Michigan State Spartans
Record: 19-10 (10-6, Big Ten)
Key Players: Marcus Taylor, G (6-3, So); Adam Ballinger, F (6-9, Jr.); Chris
Hill, G (6-3, Fr.).
Outlook: Taylor has improved 100 percent from the beginning of the season,
scoring 32 and 34 versus Ohio State and Iowa consecutively in the final two
regular-season conference contests. Bad loss at Northwestern (61-49), and
four-game midseason losing streak pose questions of consistency.
Projection: Although not nearly as balanced talent-wise as in years past,
the Spartans play prototypical team basketball. Tom Izzo's kids manhandled
Arizona at the Breslin Center. Spartans big fellas can stroke it hardcore,
posing matchup dilemmas for slow post defenders. Although smooth and steady,
MSU simply not all that dangerous on offense. They will not make their fifth
consecutive Final Four.
Record: 24-6 (13-3, Big East)
Location: Storrs, Connecticut
Key players: Caron Butler, F (6-7, So.); Emeka Okafor, F/C (6-9, Fr.);
Taliek Brown, PG (6-1, So.)
Outlook: The Huskies have a nice balance of outside and inside talent, but
have been an enigma. They can win the big game, then falter against a lesser
opponent. Brown provides the glue, while Butler may be the best player in
the Big East. Okafor is a shotblocker in the middle.
Projection: UConn is a nightmare for your bracket. At times they look like a
great dark horse for a long run, then the next day they look like a likely
"mid-major" upset victim. The fans in Storrs will be disappointed if the
Huskies don't win at least one game.
Record: 26-6 (17-1 MEAC)
Location: Hampton, VA.
Key Players: Tommy Adams, G (6-3, Jr.); Devin Green, G (6-6, Fr.); Isaac
Jefferson, G (6-5, Jr.)
Outlook: The Pirates stunned North Carolina in Chapel Hill to start the
season. While that win isn't as shocking due to Carolina's poor season,
Hampton rode that success to a great season. The Pirates have won 18 of
their last 19 games, after a tough four-game losing streak. Adams is a solid
scorer, while Jefferson has the unique role of being the club's leading
rebounder and assist man.
Projection: Last year the Pirates shocked Iowa State. This year teams will
be ready for them, making a first round upset a bit harder. The Pirates
could steal a game, but it won't be easy.