Syracuse Regional

March 14, 2005|By Ken Murray

GOING TO ST. LOUIS

North Carolina's most dangerous game could come in the second weekend against the winner of a probable Florida-Villanova matchup. The other half of the Syracuse bracket offers lots of tradition -- Connecticut and Kansas -- but neither team can match Carolina's depth of talent. The Tar Heels' loss in the ACC semifinals will turn out to be a blessing.

TEAM ON THE RISE

No team in this bracket had as good a week as Florida did, winning the SEC tournament and drubbing Kentucky in the process. Yesterday's 70-53 victory marked the Gators' second win over Kentucky in a week. They also beat Mississippi State and Alabama -- both in the NCAA tournament -- in their weekend run.

TEAM ON THE DECLINE

The Kansas Jayhawks endured a grueling finish, losing five of their past eight games and three in a row at one point. But the five losses were by a total of 18 points and included two overtime decisions. A three-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinals sentenced the Jayhawks to a No. 3 seed.

CINDERELLA STORY

Northern Iowa didn't win the regular-season title in the Missouri Valley Conference and got bounced out of the MVC tournament in the quarterfinals by Southwest Missouri State. But the defending tournament champs returned to NCAA tourney play with a 21-10 record and a three-guard offense.

MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER

Danny Granger delivered a Herculean effort in New Mexico's 60-56 victory over Utah in the Mountain West Conference championship game with 28 points and 11 rebounds. The 6-8, 225-pound senior forward was the tournament MVP after averaging 18.6 points and 8.7 rebounds in the regular season.

COACHING EDGE

North Carolina's Roy Williams knows how to get to the Final Four -- if not win it -- but the coach who gets the most out of his team this time of year is Jim Calhoun of Connecticut. The Huskies are defending champs, and even if they lost to Syracuse in the Big East semifinals, they pose a legitimate threat in this bracket.

PRIME-TIME PLAYER

North Carolina's Rashad McCants can be a major force in the tournament, or a major distraction, depending on your point of view. McCants returned to the court in the ACC semifinals for the first time since Feb. 19 after suffering from an intestinal virus, and the Tar Heels did not play very well in the two games he appeared. The chemistry question is one to ponder now.

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