West at a glance

March 13, 2000|By Don Markus

Going to Indianapolis: Despite its off-court problems with the NCAA involving point guard Erick Barkley, the Red Storm has won 11 of its past 12 games. St. John's gets solid inside play and relies on Barkley and senior Bootsy Thornton (Dunbar) from the perimeter.

Team on the rise: It has been a season-long comeback for LSU, which has returned from a virtual NCAA death penalty under third-year coach John Brady and stars Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith.

Team on the decline: Purdue lost its regular season finale to Indiana, then helped Wisconsin get into the NCAA tournament by losing to the Badgers in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.

Cinderella story: In a region filled with glass slipper possibilities, including a Gonzaga team that nearly made it to the Final Four last year, Southeast Missouri has to be the biggest rags-to-riches story.

Prime-time player: Many think that Chris Mihm will be the NBA's No. 1 draft pick this June. The 7-foot, 262-pound senior had made steady progress during his four years in Austin, taking what was primarily a high-post game and working his way inside. With Loren Woods out for Arizona, Mihm might lead the Longhorns straight to the Elite Eight.

Most underrated player: Lavor Postell does a lot of the dirty work for St. John's and has a knack for hitting big shots. He had 24 points in last year's loss to Ohio State in the South Regional final.

Coaching edge: Kelvin Sampson has brought Oklahoma back to the national spotlight. Last year, he successfully matched X's and O's with former boss Lute Olson in opening-round upset en route to Sweet 16s. With Olson talking about retiring at Arizona, Sampson appears to be next in line.

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