Regional Roundup

March 12, 2001|By Paul McMullen

Going to Minneapolis: Michigan State made it to St. Petersburg, Fla., two years ago, won it all in Indianapolis last year and has the depth and versatility to make its third straight Final Four. The unselfish Spartans have four players who average between 15.4 and 11 points.

Team on the rise: Fourth-seeded Oklahoma has won 14 of its past 16 games, the losses coming at Oklahoma State and Maryland. No one gets more out of his talent than Kelvin Sampson.

Team on the decline: North Carolina would have been a No. 1 seed if it had showed up against Duke yesterday, but since the Tar Heels crushed Maryland on Feb. 10, they're 4-4, including an inexplicable loss to Clemson. The wins were over Florida State, North Carolina State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, the latter in the ACC semifinals on a gift from the officials.

Cinderella story: Penn State was picked to finish eighth in the Big Ten, but tied for sixth and upset Michigan State in the conference quarterfinals to snag its first bid since 1996, when Jerry Dunn was a rookie head coach. He's doing it with a three-guard lineup that features the Crispin brothers, Joe and Jon, and Titus Ivory.

Prime-time player: Joseph Forte and all of the other North Carolina stars disappeared against Duke the past two Sundays, but the sophomore from DeMatha carried the Tar Heels to the Final Four last year, and he's still the nation's most dangerous shooting guard.

Most underrated player: Virginia's Travis Watson is going to have his hands full with Gonzaga's Casey Calvary, a 6-foot-8 banger. The senior has been an educated selection to some All-America teams, but he plays in regular-season obscurity in the West Coast Conference.

Coaching edge: North Carolina's Matt Doherty lacks postseason experience. Temple's John Chaney and Fresno State's Jerry Tarkanian are the workhorses. Billy Donovan got Florida to the Final Four last year, but Michigan State's Tom Izzo is a proven motivator who will use the Big Ten tournament loss to Penn State to ignite his warriors.

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