St. Louis

Regional Roundup

March 15, 2004

1. Kentucky

Location: Lexington, Ky.

Record: 26-4

RPI: 2

Record against tournament field: 11-2

Road record: 7-2

Record in past 10: 9-1

Impressive victories: Dec. 13, Michigan State, 79-74; Jan. 13, at Mississippi State, 67-66; Feb. 3, at Florida, 68-65.

Disturbing losses: Jan. 17, Georgia, 65-57; Feb. 14, at Georgia, 74-68.

Top players: Sr. Erik Daniels, F, 14.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg; Sr. Gerald Fitch, G, 15.7 ppg, 40.6 3-pt. FG%; Jr. Chuck Hayes, F, 10.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg.

Skinny: Kentucky plays smart, tough basketball. The Wildcats are especially strong on defense, holding foes to just 39.9 percent shooting from the field. The 'Cats also pound the boards despite not having a truly elite big man. Depth is severely lacking, but that may not matter in the NCAA tourney, when coaches shorten their rotations. Outside shooting is a potential trouble spot, as only Fitch has been consistent from the outside.

Famous grad: Actress Ashley Judd.

Little-known fact: Kentucky has won seven NCAA basketball titles, second only to UCLA.

2. Gonzaga

Location: Spokane, Wash.

Record: 27-2

RPI: 9

Record against tournament field: 3-2

Road record: 10-0.

Record in past 10: 10-0.

Impressive victories: Nov. 29, Georgia, 82-76; Dec. 6, at Maryland, 82-68; Dec. 13, Missouri, 87-80.

Disturbing losses: None.

Top players: Jr. Ronny Turiaf, F, 15.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg; Sr. Blake Stepp, G, 14.7 ppg, 6.6 apg; Sr. Cory Violette, C, 14.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg.

Skinny: The West Coast Conference champions are making their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance with arguably the best team in school history. Boasting talent, depth and senior leadership, the Bulldogs have a 20-game winning streak after posting a 16-0 record against teams in the overmatched WCC. Gonzaga's success starts with a formidable front line led by 6-foot-10 Ronny Turiaf and 6-8, 265-pound Cory Violette. Point guard Blake Stepp, the two-time WCC Player of the Year and a Wooden Award finalist, runs the show.

Famous grads: Bing Crosby, John Stockton.

Little-known fact: Coach Mark Few's father, the Rev. Norm Few, performed the marriage ceremonies for his son and Gonzaga assistant coaches Bill Grier and Leon Rice and their wives.

3. Georgia Tech

Location: Atlanta

Record: 22-8

RPI: 16

Record against tournament field: 10-6

Road record: 6-5

Record in past 10: 6-4

Impressive victories: Nov. 26, at Connecticut, 77-61; Feb. 10, North Carolina, 88-77; March 3, Duke, 76-68.

Disturbing losses: Jan. 3, at Georgia, 83-80.

Top players: Jr. B.J. Elder, G, 16.3 ppg; So. Jarrett Jack, G, 12.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.8 apg; Sr. Marvin Lewis, G, 11.4 ppg.

Skinny: If you're looking for a darkhorse Final Four pick, this might be your team. Georgia Tech had its best conference finish since 1995-96, and Paul Hewitt's team is athletic and explosive. The Yellow Jackets knocked off Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium two weeks ago, ending a 41-game home winning streak for the Blue Devils. Elder and Jack have carried Georgia Tech this season, but Isma'il Muhammad could be the most exciting player in the tournament. The 6-6 junior has earned the reputation as one of the best dunkers in the country, and more recently, he's been hitting from the outside as well.

Famous grad: President Jimmy Carter.

Little-known fact: On Oct. 7, 1916, Georgia Tech's football team defeated Cumberland University, 222-0, the most lopsided game in college football history.

4. Kansas

Location: Lawrence, Kan.

Record: 21-8

RPI: 15

Record against tournament field: 2-6

Road record: 5-5

Record in past 10: 6-4

Impressive victories: Feb. 7, Texas Tech, 96-77; March 7, at Missouri, 84-82.

Distrubing losses: Dec. 21, at Nevada, 75-61; Jan. 22, 69-68; Feb. 15, at Nebraska, 74-55.

Top players: Jr. Wayne Simien, F, 17.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg; Jr. Keith Langford, G, 15.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg; Fr. J.R. Giddens, G, 10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg.

Skinny: The Jayhawks had lost four straight on the road before winning at Missouri in the last game of the regular season. They get 79.1 percent of their scoring from starters, so the bench is weak. Simien was a force all season, but outside shooting is the team's key. When the Jayhawks get it, their offense works. When they don't, opponents pack it in down low and shut down both Simien and that offense.

Famous grad: Dean Smith, former North Carolina coach.

Little-known fact: Dr. James Nai- smith, who invented the game, was Kansas' first basketball coach. He was hired in 1898 at the salary of $1,300 per year. In his first season, the Jayhawks finished 7-4.

5. Providence

Location: Providence, R.I.

Record: 20-8

RPI: 21

Record against tournament field: 7-4

Road record: 8-3

Record in past 10: 6-4

Impressive victories: Nov. 29 Alabama, 76-61; Jan. 24, at Connecticut, 66-56; Feb. 7, Syracuse, 74-61.

Disturbing losses: Dec. 6, at Rhode Island, 89-79; Feb. 4, at Virginia Tech, 69-57.

Top players: Jr. Ryan Gomes, F, 18.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg; Jr. Rob Sanders, F, 11.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg.

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