South Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 11, 2002|By Philadelphia Inquirer

1. Duke

Record: 29-3

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Conference: ACC

Outlook: Is No. 3 Duke as talented as its recent title teams? No. Do the Blue Devils, the defending national champions, have the talent to get back to the Final Four and contend for another championship? Let's see, they have G Jason Williams, the probable national Player of the Year. They have F Mike Dunleavy, one of the most multidimensional players in the nation. And they have role players who will be in the NBA someday. However, they don't have much depth, they don't shoot quite as well as typical Duke teams, and they don't have a powerful front line.

2. Alabama

Record: 26-7

Coach: Mike Gottfried

Conference: SEC

Outlook: A year after a trip to the National Invitation Tournament championship game, Alabama is where it really wants to be. This team is built around two of the SEC's best players -- F Erwin Dudley and F Rod Grizzard. The 258-pound Dudley topped the conference in rebounding and made 58 percent of his shots. The leaner Grizzard is a slasher. The Tide holds opponents to less than 40 percent shooting, and depends heavily on tenacious defense led by an array of athletic guards. G Antoine Pettway is the only legitimate long-range threat for a team that is dismal from three-point distance.

3. Pittsburgh

Record: 27-5

Coach: Ben Howland

Conference: Big East

Outlook: The Panthers were a preseason pick to finish sixth in their division of the Big East, but wound up tying Connecticut for the best conference mark and broke the school record of 25 wins. They compiled a 12-1 record against weak nonconference opponents. G Brandin Knight, named co-Player of the Year in the Big East, finished second in the league in assists. Knight suffered an injured right knee in the conference final.

4. USC

Record: 22-9

Coach: Henry Bibby

Conference: Pacific-10

Outlook: C Kostas Charissis, a 6-foot-11 junior who averages 2.2 points and frequently starts, has been out since Feb. 19 with a broken left ankle, but the Trojans are hoping he will be available for the tournament. G Desmon Farmer often gives the Trojans instant offense off the bench. USC has seven letter winners from the team that reached the Elite Eight for the first time in its history last year. Four of the Trojans' losses came at the buzzer.

5. Indiana

Record: 20-11

Coach: Mike Davis

Conference: Big Ten

Outlook: The Hoosiers are built around F Jared Jeffries, who was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He is among the conference leaders in scoring average and rebounding. A sprained ankle has hampered him lately, however. Dane Fife was the conference co-defensive Player of the Year. G Tom Coverdale leads the Big Ten in assists and has the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.55 to 1).

6. California

Record: 22-8

Coach: Ben Braun

Conference: Pac-10

Outlook: The Bears did not have a player in the conference's top 10 in scoring or rebounding, but they thrived on their balanced scoring. Eight players took game-high scoring honors this season. Still, the Bears shoot poorly from long distance, which could cripple their chances. F Joe Shipp reached double figures in 22 of 28 regular-season games. Cal, which began the season with a 70-58 win over Princeton, had one of the Pac-10's best defenses. It held opponents to 40.5 percent field-goal shooting. Cal, which suffered a 46-point loss to Arizona on March 2, went 4-4 against ranked teams in the regular season.

7. Oklahoma State

Record: 23-8

Coach: Eddie Sutton

Conference: Big 12

Outlook: G Maurice Baker, who had a great junior year, has been slowed by injuries -- a strained groin early in the season, a sprained ankle now. Still, the Cowboys think he could be 100 percent by the time the tournament begins. Before the conference tournament, the Cowboys had won six of their past 10, with losses to Oklahoma, Kansas State, Fresno State and Missouri.

8. Notre Dame

Record: 21-10

Coach: Mike Brey

Conference: Big East

Outlook: The Fighting Irish played some of the nation's toughest teams down to the wire, losing to Indiana by one point and to Alabama by three. They won both meetings against Pittsburgh, now ranked No. 7. They were 8-4 on the road. G Chris Thomas was named conference Rookie of the Year. He ranked fifth in the nation in assists and 15th in free-throw percentage (89.1 percent). F Ryan Humphrey was the team's major inside threat.

9. Charlotte

Record: 18-11

Coach: Bobby Lutz

Conference: Conference USA

Outlook: The 49ers are a tournament-tested team and will be a tough out. In the regular season, Charlotte dropped six games to teams that were among the top 26 squads in the Ratings Percentage Index. They have won eight times against top-100 RPI teams, and worked through the 18th-toughest nonleague schedule. F Cam Stephens has 13 double doubles this season.

10. Kent State

Record: 27-5

Coach: Stan Heath

Conference: Mid-American

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