Regional Roundup

Midwest Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 11, 2002|By Don Markus

Going to Atlanta: Though its 16-game winning streak was stopped in yesterday's loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament title game, top-seeded Kansas is the favorite to make it to the Georgia Dome for the Final Four. Led by Big 12 Player of the Year and national Player of the Year candidate Drew Gooden, the Jayhawks have been a dominant team for much of the season.

Team on the rise: After starting 14-1 before losing six of the next 10 games, Mississippi State takes an eight-game winning streak into Dallas. Included in that run was the school's second Southeastern Conference tournament title.

Team on the decline: If you go on the assumption that Boston College and Stanford have been disappointments for most of the season, then the pick here would be Florida. Among the favorites to go to the Final Four in the preseason, the Gators started 14-1. They have gone 8-7 since.

Cinderella story: There is not a bigger one this season than Oregon. Picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10, the Ducks won a league considered by many to be one of the strongest in the country.

Prime-time player: While Gooden and Stanford's Casey Jacobsen are going to get most of the media attention, Western Kentucky's Chris Marcus is the player NBA scouts are drooling over. Fully recovered from the foot injury that sidelined him earlier in the season, the 7-foot-1 Marcus is the best true center in the country.

Most underrated player: Despite being overshadowed by Gooden, many consider junior guard Nick Hinrich the glue that holds the Jayhawks together. He is averaging close to 16 points, five rebounds and better than five assists, shooting nearly 56 percent from the field.

Coaching edge: While Williams has the best team, the Jayhawks have been underachievers in March since getting to the Final Four in two of his first three seasons in Lawrence. Steve Fisher won a national championship, but that was at Michigan 13 years ago and not at San Diego State. Bill Self of Illinois has put together an impressive NCAA tournament record (8-3) in a short time, taking both Tulsa and the Illini to the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.

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