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Regionals at a glance

By Times staff, wire reports
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000


Birmingham | Buffalo | Cleveland | Minneapolis
Nashville | Salt Lake City | Tucson | Winston-Salem

Birmingham, Ala.

Friday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 16 South Carolina State; No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Missouri; No. 5 Connecticut vs. No. 12 Utah State; No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette.
  • BEST PLAYER: Though proven stars like UConn point guard Khalid El-Amin and Tennessee forward Vincent Yarbrough are further along in their careers, it's hard to overlook Stanford freshman sensation Casey Jacobsen. The 6-foot-6 scorer plays with the tenacity and competitiveness of a third-year player and can stay on the court all game if coach Mike Montgomery asks him to. He can shoot the three, score going to the basket and hit his free throws. In a guard-oriented tournament, Jacobsen's uncanny ability to make plays should make him a household name at the end of March.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: It's hard to believe the defending national champ could get bounced from the tournament in the opening round, but that's the case this time. They may have won 24 games, but the Huskies have shown vulnerability and inconsistency and may depend too much on El-Amin. Should he have a bad day, Utah State has an early and good chance to ensure there will be a new national champ.
  • BEST STORY LINE: The Tar Heels had a very mediocre season and likely got in based on their pedigree. Of course, North Carolina still is talented, but it faces in Missouri a hungry team anxious to prove it was better than its 18-12 record. The matchup of former Duke player Quin Snyder, now coach of the Tigers, against the Tar Heels adds an old Tobacco Road dimension to the game. Keep this in mind: a much better North Carolina team lost to Weber State in the opening round last year.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: A No. 1 seed has never lost in the opening round, and that's likely to stay the same with the Cardinal. Stanford is too talented and too deep to lose. Tennessee's excellent perimeter play should get it to the Sweet 16. Look for Volunteers point man Tony Harris to have a big opening weekend and change the fortunes of a program that has only one NCAA win since 1983.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "Jacobsen was huge. He played 37 minutes. I asked him if he was tired a couple of times and he said: "Coach, I want them all the way.' He's a great competitor." -- Montgomery on Jacobsen's play in the Cardinal's 65-57 win over Arizona State on Saturday.
  • ADVANCING: Stanford and Tennessee.

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Buffalo, N.Y.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000


Friday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 2 Temple vs. No. 15 Lafayette; No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 Seton Hall; No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Hofstra; No. 6 Indiana vs. No. 11 Pepperdine.
  • BEST PLAYER: Indiana's A.J. Guyton. The senior guard was averaging 20.5 points entering the Big Ten tournament. His textbook form and release have been compared to former Hoosier great Steve Alford. Guyton can curl off a Bobby Knight-coached screen as well as Alford did (witness his 43.4 percent shooting from three-point range), but he has the speed and athletic ability to create his own shot, too. He's arguably the best player in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: Sorry, A.J., but as good as you are, and as well as you and your Hoosier teammates play defense, Pepperdine has played extremely well all season against top-flight competition. Remember, it lost to UCLA when the tying shot was ruled late.
  • BEST STORY LINE: Oregon is a team on the rise for former star Ernie Kent, in his third year as coach. Oregon last made the tournament in 1995, but this is just its second berth since 1961. Seton Hall is its East Coast counterpart. Former Duke star Tommy Amaker, in his third year as a coach, has the Pirates back in the Show for the first time since 1994. Neither team has a big name, but both have plenty of quality, whether it's Oregon's senior guard Alex Scales or Seton Hall's senior guard Shaheen Holloway.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: Temple, which won the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time since 1990, easily could have been a No. 1 seed. When senior point guard Pepe Sanchez is on the floor, this team can beat anyone. And has. The Owls used their signature matchup zone and better-than-normal perimeter shooting (Mark Karcher and Lynn Greer) to win at Cincinnati last month.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "A team like Temple can beat anyone in the country. Their matchup zone is so difficult to play against. If you have an off shooting night, they're going to beat you." -- ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty.
  • ADVANCING: Temple, Oklahoma State

—Brian Landman

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Cleveland

Thursday, Saturday

  • GAMES: No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 16 Valparaiso; No. 8 Utah vs. No. 9 Saint Louis; No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 12 St. Bonaventure; No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Samford.
  • BEST PLAYER: Michigan State guard Mateen Cleaves is a two-time Big Ten player of the year who couldn't beat out teammate Morris Peterson for the honor this season. But Cleaves is battle-tested and overcame a preseason foot injury to again lead his team. Cleaves averaged 11.5 points and 7.7 assists, and he had a Big Ten-record 20 assists in a recent victory over Michigan. And his experience is crucial.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: After Saint Louis' run to the Conference USA tournament title, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to suggest the Billikens could knock off Utah. No other first-round upsets appear likely, but a second-round game between Kentucky and Syracuse looms and makes the Wildcats a strong underdog.
  • BEST STORY LINE: The Billikens seemingly had no hope of securing an NCAA bid after losing five of their last six Conference USA games. Then they won four straight in the tournament, including victories over three league rivals they lost to during that stretch (Southern Miss, Cincinnati and DePaul) to claim an automatic bid. The team has two seniors and three juniors.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: The Spartans should have no trouble reaching the Sweet 16, but a blockbuster matchup awaits in the second round with Kentucky and Syracuse. The Wildcats are a dangerous No. 5 seed who played the most difficult schedule in the country and shared the SEC title. The Orangemen once were 19-0 but finished 5-5, including an embarrassing loss to ninth-seeded Georgetown in the Big East tournament. Once ranked fourth, Syracuse will be fortunate to make the Sweet 16.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "I know it will be to the school, the alumni, my wife and everybody else. I think I'm realistic enough to know that. But somehow, some way, within a week after that (final) game, I'm going to make sure we know this has been a special group that has done a lot of great things. And I am not going to judge them on one or two games. But I'm realistic enough to know that you don't have many chances to win national championships. We have as good a chance as some, and you'd like to try to make a run at it." -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo on the expectations of his team making it to the Final Four for the second straight year.
  • ADVANCING: Michigan State and Kentucky.

—Bob Harig

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Minneapolis

Thursday, Saturday

  • GAMES: No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 15 Central Connecticut State; No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 10 Creighton; No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 14 Iona; No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Ball State.
  • BEST PLAYER: Iowa State's Marcus Fizer was the Cyclones' top scorer in 15 straight games to end the regular season, and he scored 30 or more in four of the final five games. Fizer, who averages 23.2 points, does much of his damage inside, but he also can hit the 15-foot jump shot. He also is a strong defensive player in coach Larry Eustachy's strict man-to-man scheme. Fizer did not foul out this season.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: Although Auburn made it to the Southeastern Conference title game, the Tigers limped into the post-season with four straight defeats. They clearly are not the same team without forward Chris Porter, making them vulnerable against any team, even Creighton in the first round. In the second round, UCLA could give Maryland a battle.
  • BEST STORY LINE: Iowa State might be the most unheralded No. 2 seed in quite some time. The Cyclones were picked by many to finish near the bottom of the Big 12. Instead, they went 26-4 to claim their first regular-season title since 1944-45 and had a school-record 13 straight victories at one point. They finished the regular season 10-1 and won the Big 12 tournament.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: All of the first-round games should go according to the seedings, with Iowa State breezing to the Sweet 16. Maryland and UCLA provide an intriguing second-round matchup. The Terps were bounced by Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference final, but they knocked off the Blue Devils during the regular season. The Bruins appear too inconsistent, but they do have a strong bench if they can keep a game with Maryland close.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "We've been fighting all year to get respect. We're a tough team." -- Eustachy.
  • ADVANCING: Iowa State and Maryland.

—Bob Harig

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Nashville, Tenn.

Friday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 15 UNC Wilmington; No. 7 Tulsa vs. No. 10 UNLV; No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Appalachian State; No. 6 Miami vs. No. 11 Arkansas.
  • BEST PLAYER: Given the absence of Bearcats star Kenyon Martin (broken leg), this is a real tossup. The Buckeyes' Scoonie Penn (15.4 ppg) and Michael Redd (17.2 ppg), Miami's Johnny Hemsley (18 ppg) and Mario Bland (12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Cincinnati's Pete Michael (13.4 ppg) and Appalachian State's Rufus Leach (16.6 ppg), the second highest-scoring sixth man in the nation, create a logjam. But in the end, deep NCAA experience and the fact that he handles the ball on almost every play make Penn mightier than the sword.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: Who knows if this will be considered much of an upset, but the Seahawks of UNC-Wilmington have a chance to topple the devastated Bearcats. Cincinnati has seen early exits in the tournament and simply isn't the same team without the Grand Kenyon. The Bearcats' loss to Saint Louis in the second round of the C-USA tournament, the same Saint Louis team they devoured by 43 earlier in the season, is proof to some that coach Bob Huggins' crew is snakebitten.
  • BEST STORY LINE: Written off as dead three weeks ago and considered NIT-bound just seven days ago, the Razorbacks are in Hog Heaven. That's not a good thing for Leonard Hamilton's Hurricanes. Arkansas, playing very close to home, enters the tournament having won four straight. Can you spell dangerous?
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: Coach Bill Self has done a fine job with the Golden Hurricane, and it should provide some entertainment. Remember, one of Tulsa's wins this season was over Tennessee. Ohio State easily could have been a No. 1 seed, particularly with its tested backcourt. With Cincinnati not likely to challenge, the Buckeyes should be playing in the Sweet 16.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "I think we opened a lot of people's eyes. We're not pushovers. They've got to take us seriously." -- Razorbacks freshman guard Joe Johnson on the team's surging confidence.
  • ADVANCING: Ohio State and Tulsa.

—Roger Mills

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Salt Lake City, Utah

Thursday, Saturday

  • GAMES: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Jackson State; No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Fresno State; No. 5 Texas vs. No. 12 Indiana State; No. 4 LSU vs. No. 13 Southeast Missouri State.
  • BEST PLAYER: If he's playing, Wildcats center Loren Woods easily could emerge as the top player in this subregional. Woods averages 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds and could prove problematic for defensive matchups. He's quicker and taller than Texas center Chris Mihm. But a healthy Mihm is likely a top-three pick in the NBA draft and if the rumors about Woods not playing in the tournament are true, no one is going to stop Mihm.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITY: It would only be considered a slight upset considering the seedings but coach Jerry Tarkanian and Fresno State are in a strong position to knock off Wisconsin. This is a classic war of contrasting coaching styles but considering that the Bulldogs haven't been to the tournament since 1984, they might be just a little hungrier.
  • BEST STORY LINE: Arizona won it all in 1997 and the Wildcats are going to try to do it again on the the strength of Jason Gardner, a freshman point guard. No longer can Gardner -- who has ample support from fellow freshman sensation Gilbert Arenas -- be considered a first-year player. After a grueling Pac-10 season, Gardner is a proven talent and with Woods' health still in question, a lot will be expected of him.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: Even without Woods, the Wildcats are overloaded with talent. The tournament could become the coming-out party for Arenas, a shooting guard who hasn't seen a jumper he can't take, and forward Luke Walton, son of former NBA great Bill Walton, who has come into his own.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "That information has not reached me yet. (Team trainer) Ed Orr is right here and Ed certainly would have told me if he's gotten the final report from the doctors, unless somehow or another the committee had information directly from the doctors." -- Arizona coach Lute Olsen on rumors that Woods' back problems will sideline him for the tournament.
  • ADVANCING: Arizona and Fresno State.

—Roger Mills

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Tucson, Ariz.

Thursday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Dayton; No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Winthrop; No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Gonzaga; No. 2 St. John's vs. No. 15 Northern Arizona.
  • BEST PLAYER: Oklahoma forward Eduardo Najera averages 18.7 points and 9.5 rebounds, but his greatest contribution doesn't show up in the statistics. The 6-8 senior plays as hard as anyone in the country, even through pain, and his violent collision with Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves was perhaps the lasting memory of last year's tournament. His 21 second-half points Saturday rallied the Sooners past Texas and into the Big 12 title game.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: Led by 6-10 senior center Mark Ashman, Dayton had some impressive wins this season and is a potential sleeper. The Flyers upset Kentucky at home and stopped New Mexico's 41-game home winning streak, and at 22-8 had their best record since the 1967 team that went 21-5 and lost to UCLA in the NCAA championship game. A win over an uninspiring Purdue team wouldn't be a terrible shock. The Boilermakers were in the middle of the pack in most of the Big Ten's offensive and defensive statistics, thriving instead on chemistry and unselfishness. Under coach Gene Keady, they have rarely gone deep into the NCAAs.
  • BEST STORY LINE: Gonzaga was last year's Cinderella team. The last at-large team to earn a bid, the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight last season with stunning wins over Minnesota, Stanford and Florida before a West Region final loss to eventual national champion Connecticut. This year they're in as the West Coast Conference tournament champions. They return most of the starters from last year's team and won't sneak up on anyone.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "We pretty much know what it takes, we know what's going to have to happen during a tournament like that. We've got to come out, play hard and be physical. We have to be happy warriors." -- Mike Robinson, Purdue senior forward.
  • ADVANCING: St. John's, Oklahoma

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Winston-Salem, N.C.

Friday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 Lamar; No. 8 Kansas vs. No. 9 DePaul; No. 5 Florida vs. No. 12 Butler; No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Penn.
  • BEST PLAYER: Duke's Chris Carrawell. The 6-6 forward, the Blue Devils' lone senior, averages 17.4 points (tied for the team lead), 6.1 rebounds (a team high) and 3.3 assists (second on the team) and plays 35.7 minutes a game (the most). He's also Duke's top perimeter defender. Carrawell, a role player throughout his career, was All-ACC and a first-team All-America selection by both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the United States Basketball Writers Association.
  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: DePaul, led by former Florida State coach Pat Kennedy, has the talent with Quentin Richardson, Lance Williams, Bobby Simmons and sophomore point guard Rashon Bruno to upend the tradition-rich, but mercurial Jayhawks. The Blue Demons have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1992 and have not won an NCAA game since 1989.
  • BEST STORY LINE: Really, folks, the NCAA selection committee had no idea of the possibilities for the second round if form holds, but it's a dandy. Former Florida coach Lon Kruger, who took the Gators to the Final Four in 1994 and has rebuilt Illinois into a national power, could meet the Billy Donovan-led Gators.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: Duke lost Trajan Langdon to graduation, saw Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette bolt early for the NBA, then had key reserve Chris Burgess transfer from last year's consensus No. 1 team that lost to UConn in a thrilling national title game at Tropicana Field. With Carrawell, Shane Battier and Nate James all stepping up to the challenge of expanded roles and the rapid development of freshmen Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy, the Blue Devils are poised for another Final Four run.
  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "Our team's good, it's not great. But it has a chance and it has a chance because we understand we have weaknesses." -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
  • ADVANCING: Duke, Illinois.

—Brian Landman

Birmingham | Buffalo | Cleveland | Minneapolis
Nashville | Salt Lake City | Tucson | Winston-Salem

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