South at a glance

March 09, 1998|By Ken Murray

Going to San Antonio: Duke and Kentucky appear locked on a collision course for the regional final. The pick here is No. 2 Kentucky to beat No. 1 Duke and reach its third straight Final Four. The Wildcats are peaking with six straight wins and 10 in their past 11 games. The Blue Devils' offense disappeared at crucial times in the ACC tourney.

Team on the rise: Michigan snatched its first Big Ten title since 1986 when the 17th-ranked Wolverines dusted Purdue, 76-67, in the tournament final yesterday. They've won six in a row and seven of eight. They can go inside to Robert Traylor or outside to Louis Bullock. They've already beaten Duke once this year, but would have to get past Kentucky first.

Team on the decline: What to make of UCLA? They underachieved with Jelani McCoy, and they are still looking for an identity without him. They have lost three of their last five games.

Cinderella story: The Iona Gaels garnered their first NCAA bid in 13 years with a searing run through the MAAC tournament. With MVP John McDonald -- a transfer from Loyola -- showing the way, the Gaels trailed for only 11 seconds in the tournament.

Prime-time player: Robert "Tractor" Traylor was clearly on top of his game in the Big Ten tourney. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound intimidator shot 26-for-41 in the three games and took 38 rebounds.

Most underrated player: Lari Ketner, a 6-10, 268-pound junior, blossomed as an inside force for UMass this season. He lead the Atlantic-10 in blocked shots and intimidation.

Coaching edge: Mike Krzyzewski has done a wonderful job putting Duke back among the elite this season, and Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton did his usual sterling job this season. But the man who has his team playing the best basketball right now is Kentucky's Tubby Smith.

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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