Regional Roundup

March 12, 2001|By BRENT JONES

Going to Minneapolis: Duke is always a good bet to go far in the tournament, and this year is no different. The Blue Devils have performed fine without center Carlos Boozer, winning the ACC tournament and beating arch-rival North Carolina twice in the span of a week. The threes are falling for Duke (19 combined in their last two games), and if Boozer comes back from a hurting ankle, as expected, the Blue Devils could easily win their first title since 1992.

Team on the rise: Voters midway through the season did not have Kentucky in the Top 25. The Wildcats proved how ridiculous an oversight that was by splitting the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with Florida, then winning the SEC tournament to earn a No. 2 seed.

Team on the decline: Georgia. The Bulldogs barely, and some think undeservingly, got in the tournament after dropping seven of their last 10 games and finishing just two games over . 500. They did however, face a tough out-of-conference schedule, which propelled them past Alabama in the selection process.

Cinderella story: Creighton earned an at-large bid and has defeated Iowa, its first-round opponent, four out of the last five times. Another win over Iowa could give Creighton the confidence needed to make a run to the Sweet 16.

Prime-time player: Shane Battier. The best offensive, defensive player in the country, Battier is also the emotional leader of the Blue Devils and the favorite to be named the national Player of the Year.

Most underrated player: Boston College guard Troy Bell is the primary reason why his team went from worst to first in the Big East. Bell leads the team, averaging 20 points a game.

Coaching edge: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has led the Blue Devils to an incredible nine Final Fours since 1986. Duke and Kentucky have played some memorable games in the NCAA tournament before, and if Krzyzewski and Wildcats coach Tubby Smith get to match wits against each other, it will be one of March Madness' most compelling games.

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