Midwest Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 11, 2002|By Philadelphia Inquirer

1. Kansas

Record: 29-3

Coach: Roy Williams

Conference: Big 12

Outlook: How did the Jayhawks open the season with a loss to Ball State at the Maui Invitational, anyway? No. 1 Kansas is loaded, but F Drew Gooden is the guy to watch. He led the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding and is the league's player of the year. If the Jayhawks' big guys don't play well, the guards typically pick up the slack. Kansas finished 16-0 in the conference.

2. Oregon

Record: 23-8

Coach: Ernie Kent

Conference: Pac-10

Outlook: The hot-shooting Ducks won their first outright conference regular-season title since 1939, the year they captured the NCAA crown. Entering the Pac-10 tournament, Oregon was 6-1 against ranked teams this season. G Freddie Jones, who canned 52.8 percent of his field-goal attempts, credits Michael Jordan for helping him improve his mid-range shot. They played together at a camp last summer, and Jordan was a mentor to Jones.

3. Mississippi State

Record: 26-7

Coach: Rick Stansbury

Conference: SEC

Outlook: The Bulldogs won their first 11 games, then suffered some lopsided defeats, losing by 34 to Cincinnati, by 28 to Florida and by 18 to Georgia, yet they knocked off Kentucky, 74-69, in overtime. MSU is one of the more accurate shooting teams in the nation. F Mario Austin shoots about 58 percent, and Derrick Zimmerman led the conference in assists.

4. Illinois

Record: 24-8

Coach: Bill Self

Conference: Big Ten

Outlook: Illinois was the hottest team in the Big Ten at the end of the regular season. The Illini had won eight games in a row, including a season-ending comeback against Minnesota, 67-66, to ensure a four-way tie for first in the conference. The Illini broke a three-game conference losing streak at the start of February and won the rest of their regular-season games. Robert Archibald overcame a sprained wrist and injured back to become the Big Ten player of the week on Feb. 25.

5. Florida

Record: 22-8

Coach: Billy Donovan

Conference: SEC

Outlook: Two seasons removed from reaching the national final before losing to Michigan State, the Gators have the talent and depth to make another long run. G Brett Nelson and F Matt Bonner are excellent three-point shooters, and C Udonis Haslem is a bull down low, shooting better than 55 percent. Donovan employs the strategy of his mentor, Rick Pitino, by keeping fresh players on the floor to create an up-tempo pace while launching more than 21 three-point shots a game.

6. Texas

Record: 20-11

Coach: Rick Barnes

Conference: Big 12

Outlook: The United States Basketball Writers Association named G T.J. Ford national freshman of the year. He is on pace to become the first freshman in NCAA history to lead the nation in assists. The Longhorns have three sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. Texas has been without All-America candidate Chris Owens since the forward suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee 11 games into the season.

7. Wake Forest

Record: 20-12

Coach: Skip Prosser

Conference: ACC

Outlook: Prosser has successfully installed his full-court pressing style. The question is whether he can make a big NCAA tournament run with it. In seven seasons under Prosser, Xavier made the tournament four times but never got past the second round. The Demon Deacons had more turnovers than their opponents, but outshot and out-rebounded them. Their top four forwards all shot over 50 percent from the field. Wake Forest had wins over Marquette, North Carolina State and Virginia, but its most impressive performance might have been a one-point loss at Maryland.

8. Stanford

Record: 19-9

Coach: Mike Montgomery

Conference: Pac-10

Outlook: Stanford, which reached the Elite Eight a year ago, went 4-3 against ranked teams during the regular season. The Cardinal is making its 10th tournament appearance in the past 14 years. F Casey Jacobsen led the Pac-10 in scoring with a 22.2 average. C Curtis Borchardt, who may be headed to the NBA this year, led the conference in rebounds. The 7-footer averaged 23.5 points and 13 rebounds in the final week of the regular season.

9. Western Kentucky

Record: 28-3

Coach: Dennis Felton

Conference: Sun Belt

Outlook: C Chris Marcus was the conference player of the year as a sophomore and a junior, and led the nation in rebounding last season. He missed 17 games this season with a stress fracture in his left ankle and is finally rounding into form. The Hilltoppers opened the season with a 12-point victory at Kentucky and own the nation's second-longest winning streak (18 games). The two-time defending conference champs haven't lost since Dec. 30 - a three-point defeat at South Alabama.

10. Pepperdine

Record: 22-8

Coach: Paul Westphal

Conference: West Coast

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