Ncaa Tournament

Regional Roundup

South

March 17, 2003|By TRIBUNE NEWSPAPERS

1. TEXAS

Record: 22-6, 13-3 in Big 12 Conference.

RPI: 4.

Location: Austin, Texas (52,273 students).

Coach: Rick Barnes, fifth season, 112-49.

Tournament history: This is the 20th appearance for the Longhorns, who have been to two Final Fours but none since 1947. Texas has been to just one Sweet 16 since then.

Top players: PG T.J. Ford (15.1 ppg, 7.2 apg), SF Brandon Mouton (14.2 ppg, 41.1 three-point FG pct), F/C James Thomas (11.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg).

Skinny: The Longhorns have legit Final Four hopes, thanks to Ford, who is the nation's best point man and might be the best player. He's a jet with the ball and likes to get everyone involved in the offense. Thomas is a beast underneath. Barnes never has taken a team past the Sweet 16, and his team's Achilles' heel this season might be its outside shooting. Strengths are its defense, its work on the boards and Ford.

Famous grad: Tex Schramm, longtime president of the Dallas Cowboys.

Little-known fact: Austin has the most movie screens per capita in the United States.

2. FLORIDA

Record: 24-7, 12-4 in Southeastern Conference East.

RPI: 15.

Location: Gainesville, Fla. (45,937 students).

Coach: Billy Donovan, seventh season, 148-72.

Tournament history: This is the 10th appearance and fifth in a row. The Gators advanced to the Final Four in 1994 and in 2000, when they were the runners-up.

Top players: PF Matt Bonner (15.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 48.8 three-point FG pct.) G Anthony Roberson (12.6 ppg), SF Matt Walsh (12.7 ppg, 43.2 three-point FG pct.).

Skinny: This team has a ton of offensive weapons and has become much more adept at playing a half-court style than previous Billy Donovan teams. At the same time, UF's defensive lapses -- particularly down low -- can be a cause for concern, and the Gators' lack of athleticism can be exploited. UF hasn't been able to press like Donovan would like, and that has led to a team that doesn't score like normal Donovan teams. Still, with three key seniors (Matt Bonner, Justin Hamilton and Brett Nelson) who know about NCAA pressure and all those scorers, this team should go a long way, assuming Bonner is healthy.

Famous grad: Newsman Forrest Sawyer, home-improvement guy Bob Vila and writer/columnist Carl Hiassen.

Little-known fact: Florida didn't win its first SEC basketball title until 1989. Still, that was two years before the school won its first conference football title.

3. XAVIER

Record: 25-5, 15-1 Atlantic 10 Conference.

RPI: 20.

Location: Cincinnati (6,300 students).

Coach: Thad Matta, second season, 51-11.

Tournament history: 14 previous appearances, reached Sweet 16 in 1990. Most recent appearance was last season, when Xavier defeated Hawaii before losing to Oklahoma, 78-65, in the second round.

Top players: F David West (20.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg), G/F Romain Sato (18.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), G Lionel Chalmers (11.6 ppg, 4.0 apg).

Skinny: The Musketeers have one of the nation's best inside-out combos in the gifted and rugged West, a contender for national player of the year, and the lithe and mobile Sato. There's not much West can't do, or hasn't done. And when teams sag on him, Sato tends to light up. If Chalmers can provide steady play at the point, this veteran Xavier team could make a long run.

Famous grad: Sen. and former major-league pitcher Jim Bunning.

Little-known fact: Among the first students at Xavier, founded in 1831, were French-speaking men from Louisiana forbidden by the school to speak French during recreation because it might retard their progress in learning English.

4. STANFORD

Record: 23-8 overall, 14-7 in Pacific-10 Conference.

RPI: 21.

Location: Palo Alto, Calif. (13,075 students).

Coach: Mike Montgomery, 16th season, 493-232.

Tournament history: 17-10 in 11 NCAA appearances; defeated Dartmouth, 53-38, to win the 1942 title; lost in overtime to Kentucky, 86-85, in 1998 Final Four.

Top players: G Julius Barnes (15.7 ppg, 3.8 apg), F Josh Childress (14.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg), F Justin Davis (10.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg).

Skinny: The void left by two starters bailing for the NBA's riches was filled by Barnes, a natural shooting guard, stepping in admirably at the point after starting point guard Chris Hernandez was lost for the year in December after twice breaking his left foot. The Cardinal did not miss a beat, despite being upset at home by Montana and Richmond, and handed No. 1-ranked Arizona its lone league loss of the season, 82-77, in Tucson. A smart team that does not beat itself.

Famous grad: Actress Sigourney Weaver.

Little-known fact: When Stanford changed its nickname from Indians to Cardinal in the early 1970s, its mascot became a tree because Palo Alto, where the university is located, means "tall tree" in English.

5. CONNECTICUT

Record: 21-9, 10-6 in Big East Conference.

RPI: 28.

Location: Storrs, Conn. (23,419 students).

Coach: Jim Calhoun, 16th season, 378-150.

Tournament history: 23 appearances (30-23). One Final Four and one championship (1999).

Top players: G Ben Gordon (19.5 ppg), C Emeka Okafor (15.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg).

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