West

March 12, 2001|By Chicago Tribune

1. Stanford (28-2)

Coach: Mike Montgomery.

Conference: Pac-10.

How they made it: The Cardinal, champion of the Pac-10, was the last Division I team to lose a game and ruled the polls for most of the season. Casey Jacobsen is one of the best players in the land.

Key to advancing: Stanford can shoot -- its 51.4 percent field-goal accuracy leads the nation -- but it has to make sure its perimeter defense is solid.

2. Iowa State (25-5)

Coach: Larry Eustachy.

Conference: Big 12.

How they made it: Led by electrifying point guard Jamaal Tinsley (17 points, six assists), the Cyclones shook off a stunning 94-78 loss to Texas to claim the Big 12 regular-season title outright.

Key to advancing: Inside play of senior forward Martin Rancik. Keeping Tinsley healthy. Maintaining momentum. The Cyclones have come a long way without Marcus Fizer, but a return trip to the Elite Eight won't be easy.

3. Maryland (21-10)

Coach: Gary Williams.

Conference: Atlantic Coast.

How they made it: The Terrapins lost three straight in November and February, but appear to be finding their gear at the right time.

Key to advancing: The Terps usually disappoint, but that could change this year if guard Juan Dixon stays on a roll. He averages 18.4 points a game and makes almost half of his shots.

4. Indiana (21-12)

Coach: Mike Davis.

Conference: Big Ten.

How they made it: By rallying around the quiet but emotional Davis, who did something Bob Knight couldn't in recent years: He has the Hoosiers peaking (7-2 in last nine regular-season games) at just the right time.

Key to advancing: Kirk Haston. If the standout junior center continues to score at his recent clip (18 ppg.), the Hoosiers' string of early tournament burnouts may end.

5. Cincinnati (23-9)

Coach: Bob Huggins.

Conference: Conference USA.

How they made it: This is not one of Huggins' great teams. But after struggling early, it started playing some smothering defense and rode strong performances by guards Steve Logan and Kenny Satterfield.

Key to advancing: The Bearcats are traditionally noted for their rugged inside play, but this season they have been soft underneath. So their hopes rest not only on Logan and Satterfield, but also on improved play from their big men.

6. Wisconsin (18-10)

Coach: Brad Soderberg.

Conference: Big Ten.

How they made it: By overcoming the early-season retirement of Dick Bennett with grit and determination. The defense of Mike Kelley and shooting of Roy Boone offset a 5-7 road record.

Key to advancing: Shooting. The Badgers don't have to worry about defense, but when their shots don't drop it's a kiss of death.

7. Arkansas (20-10)

Coach: Nolan Richardson.

Conference: Southeastern.

How they made it: The Hogs closed fast, just as they did a year ago. They won nine of 12 late in the regular season to clinch second place in the SEC West.

Key to advancing: Arkansas seems to be jelling at the right time. But with Richardson talking about quitting after someone shot one of his horses, the Razorbacks need to eliminate off-the-court distractions.

8. Georgia Tech (17-12)

Coach: Paul Hewitt.

Conference: Atlantic Coast.

How they made it: The Yellow Jackets notched some terrific wins -- defeating UCLA and Kentucky and sweeping Virginia -- but had to overcome a late slump to slip into the field.

Key to advancing: Georgia Tech needs to get balanced production from its three top scorers -- Tony Akins, Shaun Fein and Alvin Jones, who averaged between 13.6 and 14.3 points a game.

9. St. Joseph's (25-6)

Coach: Phil Martelli.

Conference: Atlantic 10.

How they made it: St. Joseph's dominated the conference season, finishing with a 14-2 regular-season Atlantic 10 record. The Hawks' potent offense is led by Marvin O'Connor's 21 points a game.

Key to advancing: Freshman Jameer Nelson must continue to be steady at the point, not allowing the tournament hullabaloo to drive down his average of 12 points and conference-leading six assists.

10. Georgetown (23-7)

Coach: Craig Esherick.

Conference: Big East.

How they made it: The Hoyas survived a difficult last-season stretch to win four of their last five. Point guard Kevin Braswell, who averaged 11 points a game despite sublimating his shoot-first tendency, guided a deep bench with a sure hand.

Key to advancing: The Hoyas have to focus on rebounding, which is what they do best. They also have to focus on getting the ball inside to their bevy of big men:Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, Wesley Wilson and Lee Scruggs.

11. Georgia State (28-4)

Coach: Lefty Driesell.

Conference: Trans-American.

How they made it: Driesell matched Eddie Sutton's accomplishment of taking four different schools to the NCAA tournament. Georgia State won the conference tournament. Driesell previously took Davidson, Maryland and James Madison to the NCAAs. Shernard Long averages 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Key to advancing: Driesell says he's proud of his team's defense, but Georgia State will need more than that. More than one upset seems unlikely.

12. Brigham Young (24-8)

Coach: Steve Cleveland.

Conference: Mountain West.

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