By David Teel
March 16, 2003
NCAA HISTORY: 22nd appearance, ninth straight. Four Final Fours. Lost to Indiana last year in Final Four semi.
COACH: Kelvin Sampson (7-9 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Johnnie Gilbert, F Kevin Bookout, G Quannas White, G De'Angelo Alexander, G Hollis Price.
OUTLOOK: Sooners capable of a second consecutive Final Four, despite lacking a low-post scorer to match Aaron McGhee from last season. Price, a fearless clutch shooter and tenacious defender, is a national Player of the Year candidate, and Ebi Ere provides instant offense, whether starting or coming off the bench.
No. 2 WAKE FOREST (24-5)
NCAA HISTORY: 18th appearance, third straight. Final Four in 1962. Lost to Oregon last year in second round.
COACH: Skip Prosser (2-6 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Josh Howard, F Vytas Danelius, F Jamaal Levy, C Eric Williams, G Taron Downey.
OUTLOOK: The best of a mediocre ACC, the Deacons win the old-fashioned way. They lead the league in free-throw percentage, lead the nation in rebounding margin and play solid defense. Howard, the ACC Player of the Year, shoots threes and slashes to the basket, but otherwise Wake's perimeter offense and ballhandling are suspect.
No. 3 SYRACUSE (24-5)
NCAA HISTORY: 28th appearance, fifth in six years. Three Final Fours, most recent in 1996. Lost to Kansas in 2001 second round.
COACH: Jim Boeheim (32-21 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Carmelo Anthony, F Hakim Warrick, C Craig Forth, G Gerry McNamara, G Keith Duany.
OUTLOOK: Tempting Final Four choice. Anthony is the game's most talented freshman and combines with Warrick for an athletic forward tandem. McNamara, another freshman, has unlimited shooting range, and freshman PG Billy Edelin is emerging as dependable scorer off the bench. The Big East's best since February.
No. 4 LOUISVILLE (24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 30th appearance, first since 2000. Seven Final Fours, most recent in 1986, when it won second of two titles.
COACH: Rick Pitino (26-7 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Luke Whithead, F Francisco Garcia, C Marvin Stone, G Reece Gaines, G Taquan Dean.
OUTLOOK: Conference USA tourney champs have daunting outside-inside combination in Gaines and Stone, reinstated after an eligibility snafu. Cardinals won 17 straight during midseason, climbing to No. 2 in the polls. Then F Ellis Myles sustained season-ending knee injury. At full strength, Louisville defeated Kentucky and Indiana.
No. 5 MISSISSIPPI STATE ( 21-9)
NCAA HISTORY: Sixth appearance, second straight. Final Four in 1996. Lost to Texas last year in second round.
COACH: Rick Stansbury (1-1 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Mario Austin, F Michael Ignerski, G Ontario Harper, G Derrick Zimmerman, G Timmy Bowers.
OUTLOOK: Austin resisted the NBA after a breakout sophomore year but missed this season's first six games due to an NCAA clerical error. His return kick-started the Bulldogs, who won the SEC West and defeated Xavier and Oklahoma outside the league. Dangerous team too often plagued by turnovers from senior PG Zimmerman.
No. 6 OKLAHOMA STATE (21-9)
NCAA HISTORY: 20th appearance, sixth straight. Five Final Fours, most recent in 1995. Titles in 1945 and '46. Lost to Kent State last year in first round.
COACH: Eddie Sutton (32-23 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Andre Williams, F Ivan McFarlin, G Tony Allen, G Victor Williams, G Melvin Sanders.
OUTLOOK: Consistent offense is all that separates the Cowboys from the top 10. Few teams defend better in halfcourt, and few coaches better manage high-stakes games. Sanders, quick and physical, may be the nation's premier perimeter defender. OSU's 82-77 victory against Texas was one of the season's best games.
No. 7 SAINT JOSEPH'S (23-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 17th appearance, second in three years. Final Four in 1961.
COACH: Phil Martelli (3-2 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Pat Carroll, F Dave Mallon, C Alexandre, Sazonov, G Jameer Nelson, G Delonte West.
OUTLOOK: The Hawks flopped amid last season's hype, exiting the NIT in the first round. Now a formidable opponent with victories against Boston College and Gonzaga. They lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense, and Carroll leads in 3-point percentage. Guards are blurry fast, but late-season stress fracture has slowed West.
No. 8 CALIFORNIA (21-8)
NCAA HISTORY: 13th appearance, third straight. Two Final Fours, champ in 1959, runner-up in '60. Lost to Pittsburgh in second round last year.
COACH: Ben Braun (6-6 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Joe Shipp, F Amit Tamir, F Gabriel Hughes, G Brian Wethers, G Richard Midgley.
OUTLOOK: Shipp leads the Pac-10 in scoring, and 6-foot-10 Tamir, the Bears' best passer, rebounder and 3-point shooter, creates matchup problems. The Bears' non-conference schedule, including losses to Kansas and Georgia, inspires little confidence. Not likely to survive the weekend, despite impressive 7-0 Pac-10 start.
No. 9 N.C. STATE (18-12)
NCAA HISTORY: 19th appearance, second straight. Three Final Fours, two titles, most recent in 1983. Lost to UConn last year in second round.
COACH: Herb Sendek (2-2 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Marcus Melvin, F Josh Powell, F Julius Hodge, G Scooter Sherrill, G Clifford Crawford.
OUTLOOK: The Wolfpack runs a version of Princeton's spread offense, favoring back-door cuts and 3-point shots. During the ACC tournament, Sherrill and Melvin were uncanny from behind the arc. State needed those two tournament victories to overcome a weak non-conference effort (lopsided losses to Massachusetts and Temple).
No. 10 AUBURN (20-11)
NCAA HISTORY: 8th appearance, first since 2000. Regional finalists in 1986.
COACH: Cliff Ellis (6-7 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Marquis Daniels, F Marco Killingsworth, C Kyle Davis, G Lewis Monroe, G Derrick Bird.
OUTLOOK: Winless on the road in the SEC last season, the Tigers won three league road games this season to compensate for a shameful non-conference schedule. They boast SEC leaders in steals (Daniels), blocked shots (Davis) and shooting percentage (Killingsworth). Don't expect them to survive the weekend.
No. 11 PENNSYLVANIA (23-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 20th appearance, fourth in five years. Final Four in 1979. Lost to Cal last year in first round.
COACH: Fran Dunphy (1-6 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Ugonna Onyekwe, F Koko Archibong, G Jeff Schiffner, G Andrew Toole, G Tim Begley.
OUTLOOK: Even with the Ivy better than ever, the Quakers did not lose a league game. They also beat major-conference opponents such as Temple, Villanova and Southern Cal. Seniors Onyekwe and Archibong among the best F tandems in Ivy annals. Lack of size and quickness a problem for a team that makes 41 percent of its 3-point shots.
No. 12 BUTLER (24-5)
NCAA HISTORY: 6th appearance, fifth in seven years. Never advanced past regional semis. Lost to Arizona in 2001 second round after beating Wake Forest.
COACH: Todd Lickliter (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Mike Monserez, F Lewis Curry, C Joel Cornette, G Brandon Miller, G Darnell Archey.
OUTLOOK: Seventh consecutive 20-victory season and fourth straight regular-season Horizon title for Bulldogs, who howled after last year's NCAA snub. With four senior starters and a deliberate offense, Butler averages a national-low 10 turnovers. But Bulldogs played only one top-50 opponent, losing to Duke by 20.
No. 13 AUSTIN PEAY (23-7)
NCAA HISTORY: Fifth appearance, first since 1996. Advanced one round in 1973 and '87.
COACH: Dave Loos (0-1 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Adrian Henning, C Josh Lewis, G Corey Gipson, G Anthony Davis, G Rhet Wierzbe.
OUTLOOK: The Governors opened the season with an overtime victory against Memphis and lost badly at Missouri before winning the Ohio Valley regular season and tournament. They have no senior starters and have won 15 of their last 16 games. Henning leads team in scoring and rebounding but is foul-prone with eight DQs.
No. 14 MANHATTAN (23-6)
NCAA HISTORY: Fifth appearance, first since 1995 when it upset Oklahoma in the first round.
COACH: Bobby Gonzalez (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Justin Jackette, F Jared Johnson, C Jason Benton, G Luis Flores, G Kenny Minor.
OUTLOOK: The Jaspers defeated St. John's during a 15-game winning streak and later won the Metro Atlantic regular season and tournament. They lost by 22 at Louisville in toughest game. Flores, a Rutgers transfer, averages nearly 25 points per game. Manhattan ranks second nationally in free-throw accuracy at 79.0 percent.
No. 15 EAST TENNESSEE STATE (20-10)
NCAA HISTORY: Sixth appearance, first since 1992. Advanced one round in 1968 and '92.
COACH: Ed DeChellis (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Jerald Fields, F Zakee Wadood, G Ben Rhoda, G Tim Smith, G James Anthony.
OUTLOOK: High-scoring Southern Conference champs (82 ppg) start no seniors. Smith, who played at Denbigh High, named league's freshman of year and MVP of Southern tournament. Bucs upset Charleston in semis and defeated Chattanooga in final. Lost to Vandy, Virginia, South Carolina and UNC Wilmington during regular season.
No. 16 SOUTH CAROLINA STATE (20-10)
NCAA HISTORY: Fifth appearance. Winless in previous four.
COACH: Cy Alexander (0-4 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Dustin Braddick, F Thomas Zimmerman, C Charles Gilmore, G Moses Malone, Jr., G Clary Judge.
OUTLOOK: The Mid-Eastern Athletic regular-season and tournament champions are 18-3 after a 2-7 start. Among those seven defeats were road games at South Carolina, Auburn and Wake Forest. Zimmerman, South Carolina's top high player two years ago, sat out last season and was MEAC's newcomer of year this season.
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