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By BOB HARIG, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000

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.

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