In March Madness, know your ABC's

College basketball: From Ebi Ere to Tubby Smith, from Gonzaga to Xavier, the NCAA tournament offers an endless supply of story lines.

March 13, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The Maui Invitational has faded from memory, right along with Ball State's victory there over Kansas. Other teams were upset along the way, too, and some people, like former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, were merely left upset. The college basketball regular season is over, thankfully in many cases.

The NCAA tournament has arrived.

And so has The Sun's A to Z guide to this year's proceedings.

A is for Atlanta. It has been a quiet year for college basketball in this southern metropolis, but that will change when the Final Four arrives at the Georgia Dome in a few weeks. For those planning to attend, wear comfortable shoes and bring binoculars. Some seats seem a time zone away from the court.

B is for Boston College. After being one of the warm and fuzzy stories last season before a disappointing finish with a second-round tournament loss to Southern Cal, the Eagles now get to prove themselves worthy of being perhaps the most questionable at-large choice by this year's selection committee.

C is for Cincinnati. The Bearcats were the only uncertain top seed, and now are faced with a West Regional bracket replete with teams capable of knocking them off. This will be an opportunity for All-America guard Steve Logan to show he belongs among the best players in the country.

D is for Dayton. While the Flyers didn't make it to the tournament, their arena did. For the second straight year, the building was the host of the opening game, between the 64th and 65th teams. In this case, Siena beat Alcorn State last night for the right to play Maryland on Friday in Washington.

E is for Ebi Ere. The junior college transfer has been something of a surprise for Oklahoma. The 6-foot-5 guard has given the Sooners a boost in the backcourt, causing all kinds of matchup problems and taking some of the pressure off star Hollis Price. Ere was named the Big 12's top newcomer.

F is for Fisher. San Diego State's Steve Fisher is one of a number of big-name coaches who've resurrected their careers at smaller schools. Fisher, who led Michigan to the 1989 title as an interim coach, is one of eight coaches in this year's tournament (five in the East Regional) to have won national championships.

G is for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs might have been a darkhorse for the Final Four had they not been given the most questionable seeding and toughest draw of any Top 10 team. Seeded sixth in the West, Gonzaga would likely have to beat top three seeds Cincinnati, Oklahoma and Arizona to get there.

H is for Hawaii. The Rainbows have been one of the most interesting teams in the country this season. Picked to finish near the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference, Hawaii has a rainbow coalition of foreign talent and a coach, Riley Wallace, who was nearly killed in an automobile accident last spring.

I is for Ivy League. It's a good thing that Penn won the three-team playoff over Princeton and Yale, since the Quakers probably would not have received an at-large bid. Given Penn's size and athleticism inside, Cal better not take this game lightly.

J is for Jones. Start with Oregon's Frederick Jones, one of the major reasons for the team's turnaround this season in winning the Pac-10. There's also Duke's Dahntay Jones, who could play a major role - good or bad - in the Blue Devils repeating or getting their hopes of a second straight title derailed.

K is for Knight. Not Bob, whose national Coach of the Year candidacy might be legitimized should Texas Tech make a run. The most important person with that surname is Brandin, the point guard who has catapulted Pittsburgh to the No. 3 seed in the East, carrying the Panthers the way big brother Brevin did at Stanford.

L is for luck. Every team needs some during March, whether it means having an opponent's game-winning jumper spin out at the buzzer or seeing some top seeds tumble in your bracket. The only team with built-in luck is Notre Dame, and the Irish will need every ounce if they play Duke in the second round.

M is for Maryland. The Terrapins looked like a lock to make the Final Four, and seemed to have their best shot at winning it all. That was before Saturday's loss to N.C. State, a game that could either raise doubts or fuel the ACC regular-season champions to their first national title.

N is for North Carolina. The state is well represented in the tournament, with three teams (Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest) from the ACC as well as Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington and Davidson. But isn't it strange not to see the Tar Heels in there? It might be a couple more years before they are back.

O is for Owls. Florida Atlantic will be playing in its first NCAA tournament, having knocked out Georgia State and Lefty Driesell in the Atlantic Sun Conference title game. The most well-known Owl is coach Sidney Green, the former UNLV star who looks like he could be Eddie Murphy's stand-in as Professor Klump.

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