`Underdog' Iowa State, `favorite' Auburn like the tags

Seedings aside, Cyclones hungry, Tigers confident

Midwest Regional notebook

Ncaa Tournament

March 18, 2000|By Jamison Hensley and Paul McMullen | Jamison Hensley and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- Auburn may have lost its leading scorer, but the seventh-seeded Tigers have not lost their swagger.

They seemed overly relaxed a day before facing No. 2 Iowa State (30-4) at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. They played "hangman" on the locker-room chalkboard, and one of the answers read: "Final Four." Yet no one was laughing.

"I really feel like we're the No. 1 seed," forward Mack McGadney said. "It's just unfortunate that the NCAA didn't pick us as the No. 1 seed. I think it would be an upset if Iowa State beats us."

Auburn forward Chris Porter, the team's top scorer (14.6), was declared ineligible on Feb. 27, when the school learned he had accepted $2,500 from an agent. The Tigers (24-9) lost four consecutive games after Porter's suspension but have regrouped to win three of their last four and reclaim their confidence.

Iowa State's mentality is the exact opposite of Auburn's. The Cyclones, picked for last in the Big 12 conference, became the winningest team in school history with an underdog tag and welcome the Tigers taking the favorite's role.

"We can understand that," Iowa State's Marcus Fizer said. "We're going to play like we're a No. 16 seed. We're going to play with the hunger that, no matter what, we're going to win that game."

Long ago, far away

Maryland handled UCLA, 70-54, in the Puerto Rico Shootout the day after Thanksgiving in 1998. But the Terps had Steve Francis, and the Bruins were without point guard Baron Davis, who would join Francis in the NBA draft. It was the third college game for UCLA's sophomore class of Matt Barnes, Dan Gadzuric, Jerome Moiso, JaRon Rush and Ray Young.

The 54 points were UCLA's lowest total since its defending champions fell, 43-41, to Princeton in 1996's first round. The Bruins were an offensive mess again last December, when they lost to Gonzaga, 59-43. That followed their most lopsided win of the season, a 100-39 whipping of Morgan State.

"We were just trying to feel each other out as a team," junior Rico Hines said of UCLA's last encounter with Maryland. "They kind of rubbed it in but I remember coach [Gary] Williams telling us to keep our heads up, that we were going to be good."

Hines, a native of Greenville, N.C., spent the 1995-96 season at Frederick's St. John's at Prospect Hall, which then coveted a player from one of the public schools in town, Thomas Johnson's Terence Morris.

"Our coach, Stu Vetter, tried to get him to come play with us," Hines said.

A mike for Williams?

Williams walked into yesterday's news conference with a Minnesota Vikings cap, explaining: "We're going for the home crowd."

The Terps' coach was asked how he would feel if the new, controversial requirement that NBA coaches wear or allow microphones during televised games spread to the college game.

"Me? No, there would be a $100,000 fine," said Williams, who is known for his strong language. "I'm not good in the gym, vocabulary-wise. I don't talk like that away from the gym, but there's something about the game -- it's like I've got a second language."

Et cetera

Terps freshman guard Steve Blake has 211 assists. The school single-season record, 221, was set by Keith Gatlin in 1985, and Terrell Stokes had the Terps' second-best total, 213, last season. Backcourt partner Juan Dixon's 95 steals match Francis' total of last season, second-best in Maryland history. Johnny Rhodes set the record, 110, in 1996. UCLA reserve guard Ryan Bailey was recruited by Maryland. He started his college career at Penn State in 1996 and set a freshman record for assists, then transferred to UCLA. Iowa State's starting five is the smallest in this year's tournament. Fizer, a 6-foot-8 center, is the only player taller than 6-4. Three of the four teams in December's BB&T Classic at the MCI Center -- Maryland, Illinois and Seton Hall -- have advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of 32. Only the BB&T's champion, George Washington, did not receive a NCAA invitation. Fizer has led Iowa State in scoring in 18 of its last 19 games. With 85 victories, Auburn's senior class of Doc Robinson, Daymeon Fishback, Mamadou N'Diaye and Porter is the all-time winningest group in the school's history.

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