Every road, even the one that leads to Minneapolis, home of this year's Final Four, should have a rest stop. With that in mind, we present the midseason pause that refreshes: a look at this season's winners and losers.
% By major conferences:
Best team: UCLA
Best player: The gutless pick would be a tie among USC's Harold Miner, Stanford's Adam Keefe and UCLA's Don MacLean. But what's the fun of that?
Miner leads the league in scoring, averages 7.3 rebounds and is perhaps the most exciting offensive player in the country. Keefe is second in scoring, first in rebounding, ninth in assists, fifth in field-goal percentage, first in steals and sixth in free-throw percentage. And the guy plays hard every minute. MacLean recorded the performance of the midseason when he scored 38 points in the Bruins' victory at Arizona. He is third in the conference in scoring, seventh in rebounding, 10th in field-goal percentage and first in free-throw percentage. He was ill when the Bruins beat Stanford but still scored 17 points.
And our choice, by the narrowest of margins: Keefe.
Biggest surprise (team): Stanford.
Biggest surprise (player): Duane Cooper, USC. Everyone knew he was a great defender, but his 11.4-point average, second-best on the team, is a pleasant bonus.
Biggest disappointment (team): California. The Golden Bears had a boffo recruiting year, haven't had any notable injuries and still haven't won a conference game. Runner-up: Arizona State.
Biggest disappointment (player): Billy Dreher, California. He led the conference in three-point shooting last season. This season, he has hardly made a dent.
Coach of the midseason: Jim Harrick, UCLA. The Bruins have beaten Indiana, ended Arizona's home winning streak at 71 and recovered from last season's embarrassing NCAA tournament loss to Penn State. Harrick deserves the credit.
By season's end, everyone will be talking about: UCLA and Miner.
Best team: Duke.
Best player: Christian Laettner, Duke. A 20-point, eight-rebound average -- and he plays only about 28 minutes per game.
Biggest surprise (team): Florida State. The Seminoles, newcomers to the competitive ACC, have a 5-3 conference record, including road victories against North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland and Georgia Tech. Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said the three-guard setup that Florida State uses is "almost like playing a wishbone team for the first time." That makes sense: Point guard Charlie Ward is a backup quarterback on the football team.
Biggest surprise (player): Sam Cassell, Florida State. Despite being rated perhaps the best junior college guard last season, Cassell's scoring success has turned more than a few heads.
Biggest disappointment (team): Wake Forest.
Biggest disappointment (player): Anthony Oliver, Virginia. The senior guard has struggled like a freshman.
Coach of the midseason: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke. And Florida State's Pat Kennedy isn't far behind.
By season's end, everyone will be talking about: Duke and Blue Devils forward Grant Hill.
Best team: Connecticut.
Best player: Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown. The Hoyas will go as far as Mourning's shoulders can carry them.
Biggest surprise (team): Syracuse. Picked sixth in the coaches' preseason poll (the lowest ever for the Orangemen), Syracuse has confounded even coach Jim Boeheim.
Biggest surprise (player): Lawrence Moten, Syracuse. This is a freshman? Connecticut's Donyell Marshall is a close second.
Biggest disappointment (team): St. John's. Picked to win the conference by the coaches, the Redmen can't even beat lowly Miami.
Biggest disappointment (player): Luther Wright, Seton Hall. Wright, the Hall's 7-foot-1 center, still suffers from a severe case of inconsistency.
Coach of the midseason: Based on what he has and what he has done with it, Boeheim squeaks past Connecticut's Jim Calhoun.
By season's end, everyone will be talking about: Connecticut and Mourning.
Best team: Arkansas.
Best player: Todd Day, Arkansas. Has played with a vengeance since returning from a suspension.
Biggest surprise (team): Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, conference champions last season, lost all their starters but have managed to stay within striking distance of the Western Division lead. Included in their victories is one at Vanderbilt, which didn't lose a game at home last season.
Biggest surprise (player): Joe Harvell, Mississippi. Who leads the SEC in scoring? It isn't Day or Louisiana State's Shaquille O'Neal; it's Harvell. Already he has had five 30-
Biggest disappointment (team): Georgia. True to their name, Hugh Durham's team has played like Dawgs. South Carolina, which started the season 8-1 (the Gamecocks are 10-6), also deserve mention.
Biggest disappointment (player): Allan Houston, Tennessee. Scored 36 points against Kentucky. Against Auburn one game later, he scored six. One of the best guards in the country, Houston has underachieved in 1991-92.