March 12, 2001

1. Michigan State (24-4)

Coach: Tom Izzo.

Conference: Big Ten.

How they made it: Same old way -- with defense and rebounding. The defending NCAA champs clinched their fourth straight NCAA berth by winning their last six regular-season games.

Key to advancing: The freshmen. If Zach Randolph and Marcus Taylor emulate poised veterans Jason Richardson, Andre Hutson and Charlie Bell, MSU could be Final Four-bound again.

2. North Carolina (25-6)

Coach: Matt Doherty.

Conference: Atlantic Coast.

How they made it: Winners of the ACC regular-season title, the Tar Heels came together nicely in Doherty's first season at his alma mater.

Key to advancing: Guard play is paramount in the NCAAs, and Joseph Forte, who averaged more than 23 points per ACC game, could lead the Tar Heels back to the Final Four.

3. Florida (23-6)

Coach: Billy Donovan.

Conference: Southeastern.

How they made it: The Gators overcame a rash of injuries to claim a share of the SEC regular-season crown. But recent back-to-back routs of Mississippi by 20 and Alabama by 21 served notice that Florida is ready for another run at the Final Four.

Key to advancing: The Gators need to have all their parts working, including forward Brent Wright, who averages 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game but was questionable with a stress fracture in his foot as tourney time approached.

4. Oklahoma (26-6)

Coach: Kelvin Sampson.

Conference: Big 12.

How they made it: By winning enough games to be tournament-worthy before Sampson booted junior J. R. Raymond off the team for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Key to advancing: More offensive production from senior shooting guard Kelley Newton, who got his starting job back when Raymond was dismissed.

5. Virginia (20-8)

Coach: Pete Gillen.

Conference: Atlantic Coast.

How they made it: The Cavaliers beat Duke, North Carolina and Maryland in the ACC as well as Tennessee, Missouri and Purdue in nonconference play.

Key to advancing: A stunningly athletic team, Virginia has to prove it can play away from Charlottesville. The Cavs lost at North Carolina State and got bombed by 42 at Duke.

6. Texas (25-8)

Coach: Rick Barnes.

Conference: Big 12.

How they made it: By going 16-1 at home. A December win over Illinois and blowout of league champ Iowa State are two signs the Longhorns are for real. Junior forward Maurice Evans was unstoppable down the stretch, with 28 points against the Cyclones and 21 against Missouri.

Key to advancing: The point guard position. Struggling freshman Royal Ivey was benched Feb. 26 against Missouri and senior Chris McColpin took his place.

7. Penn State (19-11)

Coach: Jerry Dunn.

Conference: Big Ten.

How they made it: Upsets of Kentucky and Temple before Christmas, an overtime win over Illinois and a split with Ohio State outweigh a 7-9 league mark.

Key to advancing: The Crispin bothers. If Joe and Jon get hot, the Nittany Lions are capable of an upset.

8. California (20-10)

Coach: Ben Braun.

Conference: Pac-10.

How they made it: The Golden Bears finished fourth in the super-competitive Pac-10.

Key to advancing: Chicagoan Sean Lampley is the leading scorer in California's storied basketball history. But someone else has to contribute or the Bears will be back in Berkeley after one weekend.

9. Fresno State (25-6)

Coach: Jerry Tarkanian.

Conference: Western Athletic.

How they made it: The Bulldogs were steady all season and ended it as their league's champ. They were led by WAC Player of the Year Melvin Ely, a senior center who averaged 16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Key to advancing: Tarkanian is a flamboyant figure and his teams are often regarded in the same way. But his best ones at Nevada-Las Vegas always played a strong defense that was unappreciated. The Bulldogs must prove they are able to do the same.

10. Providence (21-9)

Coach: Tim Welsh.

Conference: Big East.

How they made it: Welsh has done a masterful job of blending a team of role players into a dangerous bunch. Three players -- Erron Maxey, Abdul Mills and John Linehan -- average 11 points apiece to lead the Friars.

Key to advancing: Karim Shabazz, who averages almost eight rebounds and two blocks per game, must make his presence felt defensively.

11. Temple (21-12)

Coach: John Chaney.

Conference: Atlantic 10.

How they made it: Temple, in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in a dozen years, avoided that fate by finishing with four straight regular-season victories, then carrying that momentum into the conference tournament, where it won three more.

Key to advancing: Lynn Greer, who averages 17, and Quincy Wadley, who adds 14, cannot afford an off-night if the Owls are to advance.

12. Gonzaga (24-6)

Coach: Mark Few.

Conference: West Coast.

How they made it: The Zags swept through their conference tourney and sweep into the NCAA tourney as winners in 18 of their last 19 appearances. Their star is Casey Calvary, who is shooting 55.4 percent, averaging 19.6 points and 6.4 rebounds and is a Wooden Award finalist.

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