Regional Roundup

March 12, 2001|By Paul McMullen

Going to Minneapolis: Notorious for its March flameouts, Arizona has been absent from the past two Sweet 16s, but it has the nation's most talented team. If the Wildcats can put aside their egos, Lute Olson should have his fifth Final Four team.

Team on the rise: Charlotte has going nowhere in early February, but the 49ers took nine of their past 10, albeit against a tame Conference USA pack.

Team on the decline: The obvious choice is Tennessee, Charlotte's first-round foe. The Volunteers suffered a five-game losing streak in February, but Wake Forest has been even more mediocre. Six of the Demon Deacons' eight wins in the Atlantic Coast Conference have come over Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina State. Wake did not deserve its seventh seed.

Cinderella story: A 23-point loss at Fresno State on Feb. 11 dropped Hawaii to 10-12 overall. The Warriors have since gone 7-1, with the past three wins coming in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. Freshman Carl English, who averaged 3.9 points in the regular season, exploded for 25 in the WAC final to upset Tulsa.

Prime-time player: Cory Bradford's outside shooting can break open a game for Illinois, and Troy Murphy's complete game carries Notre Dame. But Michael Wright has Arizona on a roll. The junior forward is averaging 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, and he scored the winning basket with three seconds left last week at Stanford.

Most underrated player: Mississippi has an unknown bunch, but the Rebels gained a No. 3 seed with a young team that leaned on Rahim Lockhart, it's 6-foot-8, 255-pound center who averaged 12.8 points on 56.1 percent shooting and 8.2 rebounds.

Coaching edge: Illinois' Bill Self worked wonders with Tulsa last season. Kansas' Roy Williams and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim are as famous for not meeting expectations, which brings us back to Olson. He lost his wife to cancer earlier this season, but the Wildcats have rallied around him and gone 15-2 since a Jan. 6 loss to Stanford.

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