Regional Roundup

East Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 11, 2002|By Paul McMullen

Going to Atlanta: In Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Byron Mouton and Lonny Baxter, Maryland has four players who started in the Final Four last year. Believe the Terps' spin: The loss to N.C. State in the ACC tournament semifinals will hone their desire to prove this is the best Terps team ever.

Team on the rise: Back on Dec. 3, Maryland handled Connecticut, 67-55, in the championship game of the BB&T Classic. The Huskies somehow lost to St. Bonaventure and slumped as January became February, but Jim Calhoun's team came out of that rut and is on a nine-game win streak.

Team on the decline: St. John's was 13-4 after a Jan. 20 win over Villanova. Since then, it has gone 7-7, including a 42-point blowout at Duke. The Red Storm has one road win in those 14 games -- over Virginia Tech and its RPI of 196.

Cinderella story: If you don't mind fairy tales with foul mouths, how about the one out in Lubbock, Texas? Bob Knight won three NCAA titles for Indiana, where his overbearing act wore on administrators. Texas Tech was picked to finish 11th in the Big 12. Instead it went 23-8 and earned its first bid in six years, thanks to four junior college transfers.

Prime-time player: Caron Butler, a sophomore who plays bigger than 6 feet 7 for Connecticut, shared Player of the Year honors in the Big East with Pittsburgh's Brandin Knight. Butler averages 19.5 points and 7.6 rebounds, and was MVP of the Big East tournament.

Most underrated player: Lubos Barton was a freshman in 1999, when Valparaiso was flicked aside by Maryland in the first round. Now the slick 6-8 forward from the Czech Republic is a senior, averaging 15.1 points and 6.7 rebounds for a program that reached the Sweet 16 in 1998.

Coaching edge: The East is stocked with men who have championship rings. Besides Knight and Calhoun, Georgia's Jim Harrick (UCLA), Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Michigan State's Tom Izzo all know what it's like to steer a team to a title.

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