Ncaa Tournament

Regional Roundup

South

March 17, 2003|By CHRISTIAN EWELL

GOING TO NEW ORLEANS

Last year, Maryland had four starters returning from a team that turned in a clunker at the Final Four in 2001. Oklahoma seems like a good bet to redeem itself and emulate the Terps behind the back-court of Big Easy natives Hollis Price and Quannas White.

TEAM ON THE RISE

Penn is the most overrated team in the regional -five teams throughout the tournament have lower seeds while having higher Rating Percentage Index rankings. Nonetheless, the Quakers are on a 15-game winning streak.

TEAM ON THE DECLINE

What reason is there to recommend Auburn for advancing? Precious little. The Tigers' record since Feb. 1 is 5-7. Their best win in that time was a 56-54 victory Feb. 8 over a slumping LSU team that won by 31 points in the rematch three weeks later.

CINDERELLA STORY

Style points separate Auburn from another slumping team, Oklahoma State. It's puzzling to say this of a team that lost at home to Baylor, but the Cowboys also have wins over Oklahoma and Texas this season. Coach Eddie Sutton already has guided an overachieving team to the Final Four in 1995, and the Cowboys could benefit from a light lower half of the East bracket.

PRIME-TIME PLAYER

Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse. If not for a mainstream squeamishness about over-hyping freshmen, the former Towson Catholic star probably would have been the nation's top player. Wake Forest's Josh Howard and Oklahoma's Price are probably next on the list.

MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER

As a freshman, St. Joseph's Jameer Nelson showed what he could be when he nearly had a triple double against No.1 Stanford in 2001. The Hawks haven't risen to the heights they'd hoped at that point, but Nelson has averaged 19.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.2 steals this season for a 23-6 team. Manhattan's Luis Flores, N.C. State's Julius Hodge and California's Joe Shipp are also worthy of mention.

COACHING EDGE

There's no shortage of coaches with Final Four appearances to their credit. Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma made his first visit last year, while Sutton and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse have been there twice. But Rick Pitino of Louisville has been able to get to the pinnacle in varying circumstances - taking a minimally talented Providence team to the national semifinals in 1987, and taking Kentucky all the way in 1996.

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