Regional Roundup

West Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 11, 2002|By Christian Ewell

Going to Atlanta: It's hard not to like Cincinnati because the Bearcats always play great defense and have a tough-as-nails guard in Steve Logan. It's also hard to like them because they had few quality wins. This shortcoming would seem to put them on equal ground with Oklahoma -- to whom the top seed arguably belonged. The Sooners, while somewhat thin up front, have won 10 of their past 11 games and can operate well at just about any tempo.

Team on the rise: A tough stretch in the middle probably cost Arizona the Pac-10 regular-season title, but the Wildcats enter the tournament with five wins in their past six games (including the league tournament title) and the nation's toughest schedule. A point guard like Jason Gardner doesn't hurt, either.

Team on the decline: Co-honorees UCLA and Mississippi face each other on Friday in Pittsburgh. The Rebels, who enter the NCAAs on the coattails of a strong league, have lost six of nine. Meanwhile, the Bruins are capable of beating anyone in the bracket, but also of losing to a team like their next opponent.

Cinderella story: It's hard not to root for a team like Hawaii, with 27 wins despite traveling thousands of miles each year for road games. Honorable mention goes to Xavier, where the coaches change quickly (Thad Matta, after Pete Gillen and Skip Prosser), but the results (NCAA bids) stay the same.

Prime-time player: Cincinnati's Logan (22.3 points per game) has a pudgy look that doesn't suggest a big-time performance, but he's been supplying it for four years.

Most underrated player: Romaine Sato, Xavier. He has been Mr. Outside for the Musketeers, contributing 16 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Coaching edge: Though Gonzaga got on the map with Dan Monson as coach during a 1999 tournament run, Mark Few has filled in nicely in the three seasons since, with Sweet 16 appearances in the past two seasons and a fair chance at reaching the Final Four this spring. Of course, Lute Olson has been to the national title game twice, winning it in 1997.

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