East

March 12, 2001|By Chicago Tribune

1. Duke (29-4)

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski.

Conference: Atlantic Coast.

How they made it: The Blue Devils spent the season at or near the top of the polls and won a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.

Key to advancing: Duke had an astounding 49.7 field-goal percentage this season. But if Carlos Boozer can't bounce back from a foot injury, someone else will have to provide toughness on the boards.

2. Kentucky (22-9)

Coach: Tubby Smith.

Conference: Southeastern.

How they made it: Kentucky opened the season 3-5, but rallied to win the SEC title for the 41st time.

Key to advancing: If Tayshaun Prince (16.1 points a game) and Keith Bogans (16.0 a game) get into sync, the Wildcats could make a run to Minneapolis.

3. Boston College (26-4)

Coach: Al Skinner.

Conference: Big East.

How they made it: The Eagles effected the most dramatic turnaround in Big East history, becoming the first team ever to go from worst to first in its division. They were led to the mountaintop by Troy Bell, who followed up his rookie-of-the-year 1999-2000 campaign with an even better season, averaging better than 20 points and four assists.

Key to advancing: Xavier Singletary and Kenny Harley, both averaging 11 points and five rebounds a game, must provide solid support for the spectacular Bell.

4. UCLA (21-8)

Coach: Steve Lavin.

Conference: Pac-10.

How they made it: The Bruins beat No. 1 Stanford in Palo Alto and finished second in the Pac-10.

Key to advancing: Press, press, press. The Bruins took off after Lavin installed the press in midseason. It's a tough defense to prepare to face on short notice.

5. Ohio State (20-10)

Coach: Jim O'Brien.

Conference: Big Ten.

How they made it: Emergence of Brian Brown as one of the league's top guards and the shot-blocking electricity of center Ken Johnson helped the Buckeyes to a 7-0 finish in the Big Ten regular season.

Key to advancing: Offense, turnovers. This team thrived on defense, but ended up near the bottom of the league in scoring, steals and turnover margin.

6. Southern California (21-9)

Coach: Henry Bibby.

Conference: Pac-10.

How they made it: The up-and-down Trojans lost to Northwestern, but overcame that embarrassment by finishing fifth in the Pac-10.

Key to advancing: Point guard Brandon Granville has a 5-foot-9 frame but a large heart. He has been an inconsistent scorer, but if he heats up, the Trojans may stick around for a couple of rounds.

7. Iowa (22-11)

Coach: Steve Alford.

Conference: Big Ten.

How they made it: Good question. With Luke Recker and Ryan Hogan sidelined by knee injuries, the once high-flying Hawkeyes dropped seven of their last eight games to finish 7-9 in the league.

Key to advancing: Recker. If Recker can't play at all or can't play at full strength, Iowa will be going home faster than a homesick 8-year-old at summer camp.

8. Georgia (16-14)

Coach: Jim Harrick.

Conference: Southeastern.

How they made it: The Bulldogs started 6-6, with embarrassing losses to Wake Forest, Cal and Fresno State, before rebounding to finish third in the rugged SEC East.

Key to advancing: Having won a national title at UCLA and having nearly reached the Final Four with Rhode Island, Harrick is a wily tourney coach and can outmaneuver a coach who has superior weapons.

9. Missouri (19-12)

Coach: Quin Snyder.

Conference: Big 12.

How they made it: Loss of sophomore forward Kareem Rush to a thumb injury for three weeks almost proved the Tigers' undoing, but they slipped into the field, anyway.

Key to advancing: Rush. The impact of having one of the country's most prolific scorers (21 ppg) back and healthy could make Missouri a team worth watching.

10. Creighton (24-7)

Coach: Dana Altman.

Conference: Missouri Valley.

How they made it: One of the final at-large selections. The regular-season MVC champions, the Blue Jays lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament to eventual champion Indiana State.

Key to advancing: Creighton is an outside-shooting team that has featured balanced offense throughout the season. Kyle Korver (14.8 ppg) and Ben Walker (12.3) lead the attack. This is the third straight NCAA appearance for Creighton.

11. Oklahoma State (20-9)

Coach: Eddie Sutton.

Conference: Big 12.

How they made it: The Cowboys became the feel-good story of the season by bouncing back from a fatal plane crash to make the NCAA field. Oklahoma State made its case for a berth by closing the regular season with five wins in the last six games.

Key to advancing: Maurice Baker. The junior point guard has been off the mark lately and is still disturbingly turnover-prone.

12. Utah State (27-5)

Coach: Stew Morrill.

Conference: Big West.

How they made it: Aggies won their second straight Big West tourney title with a 50-38 victory over Pacific Saturday night. Tony Brown and Shawn Daniels average 12 points a game, leading a balanced offense that features five players at nine ppg or more.

Key to advancing: Continuing to play tenancious defense. Aggies' three opponents in Big West tournament shot less than 37 percent.

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