Today's games

Ncaa Tournament

March 15, 2002|By Christian Ewell

East Regional at MCI Center

No. 7 North Carolina State (22-10) vs. No. 10 Michigan State (19-11)

Time: 12:15 p.m.

Conferences: North Carolina State, Atlantic Coast; Michigan State, Big Ten.

Outlook: Of these teams, Michigan State has the greater momentum after winning five of its past six games, a run that has made the difference between playing today and playing in the National Invitation Tournament. N.C. State shot better than 60 percent in ACC tournament wins over Virginia and Maryland before getting blasted by Duke in the final. Led by guard Anthony Grundy (17.9 ppg, 3.6 apg), the Wolfpack has thrived under a motion offense installed this season by coach Herb Sendek. In contrast, the Spartans -- looking for an improbable fourth straight Final Four appearance -- would seem to have the advantage in pure brawn. Starters Aloysius Anagonye, Alan Anderson and Adam Ballinger all weigh over 230, while sophomore point guard Marcus Taylor (16.8 ppg, 4.1 apg) has become increasingly comfortable in a lead-scorer role, scoring 30 or more in two of the team's past three games.

No. 2 Connecticut (24-6) vs. No. 15 Hampton (26-6)

Time: 2:45 p.m. approximately

Conferences: Connecticut, Big East; Hampton, Mid-Eastern Athletic.

Outlook: Eight Huskies players are freshmen or sophomores, but the team plays as if it were experienced, having won nine straight heading into the NCAAs, including the Big East tournament final. Connecticut has a strong core, led by sophomore Caron Butler (19.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), but doesn't seem to go deeper than six players. Hampton is far different from last year, when the team leaned on center Tarvis Williams while beating No. 2 seed Iowa State in the tournament. Guard Tommy Adams (19.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is the focal point for the perimeter-dominated lineup, which coach Steve Merfeld described as "four guards and a power forward." Hampton must overcome a size disadvantage, as no one stands taller than 6 feet 7.

No. 8 Wisconsin (18-12) vs. No. 9 St. John's (20-11)

Time: 7:50 p.m.

Conferences: Wisconsin, Big Ten; St. John's, Big East.

Outlook: The Red Storm has three wins over NCAA tournament teams (Connecticut, Boston College and Notre Dame) in the past month but has not performed well away from home, with only three road wins this season. Still, Marcus Hatten (19.9 ppg, 4.6 apg), a junior guard from Mervo, is a tough player for any team to stop. St. John's also has a certain amount of bench strength, with 21.5 points a game coming from reserves. The Badgers -- led by junior guard Kirk Penney (15.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) -- come into the tournament with wins in six of their past seven games. In the team's first season under Bo Ryan, Wisconsin retains the aggressive man-to-man defense of the Dick Bennett regime, but the team runs a little bit more than before.

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