Sweet 16 follows familiar formula

NCAA: Several old standbys, a few newcomers and two Cinderellas fill the roster of survivors after the tournament's first weekend.

Analysis

Ncaa Tournament

March 18, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Somehow, the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 never changes from season to season.

You round up the usual suspects - Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut and UCLA. You mix in former perennials like Indiana and Oklahoma with new faces such as Oregon, Texas, Pittsburgh and Missouri. And, of course, there are the token Cinderellas, this year Kent State and Southern Illinois.

You have the same old hands on the sidelines - from Mike Krzyzewski to Tubby Smith, from Lute Olson and Jim Calhoun to the Williams boys, Gary and Roy. You have the hot young gun, Quin Snyder of Missouri. And, of course, there are the token Cinderella coaches, this year Kent's Stan Heath and Southern Illinois' Bruce Weber.

And, of course, you have the All-Americans, from Duke's Jason Williams to Maryland's Juan Dixon to Drew Gooden of Kansas; the second-tier stars like Kentucky's Tayshaun Prince, Connecticut's Caron Butler and Missouri's Kareem Rush, and this year's Cinderella players, Kent State's Trevor Huffman and Southern Illinois' Kent Williams.

After all the tumult and confusion created by this year's pod system that mixed teams from different regions at the same first- and second-round sites, after all the last-second shots and upsets, a bit of normalcy will return to the tournament this week for the regional semifinals in Syracuse, N.Y.; Madison, Wis.; San Jose, Calif., and Lexington, Ky.

Here's a look at how the Sweet 16 shapes up.

West Regional

Yesterday's double-overtime win over top-seeded Cincinnati will keep the talk-show trashers off UCLA coach Steve Lavin for another week at least, and pits the heretofore underachieving Bruins against another regular-season disappointment, Missouri.

The Bruins might be a bit too deep and athletic inside for most teams, and the Tigers are no exception. If Missouri center Arthur Johnson gets in early foul trouble as he did against Ohio State, Dan Gadzuric could dominate. The matchup of Rush and Jason Kapono is a wash.

Considering what the Tigers did in their second-round rout of Ohio State, you'd figure they could do the same to UCLA. But both teams have the ability to blow out the opposition, as well as get blown out. Lavin has the experience, yet Snyder's years with Krzyzewski could bode well.

Oklahoma's bruising style, as well as its three-point shooters, could be a little too much for a finesse team like Arizona. Sooners forward Aaron McGhee will give Arizona's Luke Walton all he can handle, and the Hollis Price-Jason Gardner matchup will be interesting.

Walton and Gardner were part of last year's Arizona team that lost to Duke in the championship game, and Olson has a championship ring on his finger and five Final Four appearances. Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson often has been mentioned as Olson's likely successor in Tucson once Cool Hand Lute calls it a career.

South Regional

The best coaching matchup will be at Rupp Arena, where the ghost of Adolph Rupp will be hanging over Krzyzewski and his mentor, Indiana's Bob ... . oh, you can wish, can't you? Duke-Indiana doesn't have the same ring as it did in the 1992 national semifinals.

The Blue Devils won that game and should win this one, too. The Hoosiers and Mike Davis have done a wonderful job distancing themselves from their former Coach K, but beating another team from North Carolina, one from Wilmington, isn't the same as beating the one from Durham.

Jared Jeffries had his way against the Seahawks, but the Blue Devils have a defensive stopper in Dahntay Jones and too much offensive firepower with national Player of the Year candidate Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy.

Talk about an undercard. Kent State should have been higher than a 10th seed, and Pittsburgh is one of the least talked-about third seeds in recent history. But the showdown between Huffman and the Panthers' Brandin Knight could be one of the best in the tournament, and the winner will be leading his team within a game of the Final Four.

The way Kent State handled Oklahoma State and Alabama - the seventh and second seeds, respectively - the Panthers don't seem to be any more an obstacle. You get the feeling Duke had its close game against Notre Dame on Saturday in Greenville, S.C., and none of these teams seems capable of beating the Blue Devils.

Midwest Regional

Kansas proved quite a bit in its blowout win over Stanford on Saturday, running out to a 15-0 start with Kirk Hinrich still sitting on the bench. The Jayhawks are even better with Hinrich on the floor, and the scare they received from 16th-seeded Holy Cross was a pretty good wake-up call.

In Illinois, the Jayhawks see their mirror image. The Fighting Illini are strong in the backcourt, led by Frank Williams and Cory Bradford. A team that reached the Elite Eight last year - losing to Arizona - started slowly but has played well of late, and should give Kansas a much better game than Stanford did.

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