By David Teel
March 16, 2003
NCAA HISTORY: 22nd appearance, 19th straight. Four Final Fours, champ in 1997, runner-up in 2001. Lost to Oklahoma in last year's West semis.
COACH: Lute Olson (39-23 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Luke Walton, F Rick Anderson, C Channing Frye, G Jason Gardner, G Salim Stoudamire.
OUTLOOK: The team to beat, despite Pac-10 tournament loss to UCLA. Wildcats have unrivaled depth and balance, with five players averaging at least 10 points, nine at least 10 minutes. Seniors Gardner and Walton lead a squad teeming with young talent. Wildcats' 91-74 victory at Kansas in January was the season's signature performance.
No. 2 KANSAS (25-7)
NCAA HISTORY: 32nd appearance, 14th straight. Eleven Final Fours, two titles, most recent in 1988. Lost to Maryland last year in Final Four semi.
COACH: Roy Williams (29-13 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Jeff Graves, F Keith Langford, C Nick Collison, G Kirk Hinrich, G Aaron Miles.
OUTLOOK: All-American seniors Collison and Hinrich won't go quietly, but losing PF Wayne Simien (14.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg) to a shoulder separation makes a second consecutive Final Four problematic. Junior college transfer Graves is foul-prone and not nearly the scoring threat Simien was. Offense, as usual, is solid. Defense not so.
No. 3 DUKE ( 24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 27th appearance, eighth straight. Thirteen Final Fours, three titles, most recent in 2001. Lost to Indiana last year in South semis.
COACH: Mike Krzyzewski (58-15 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Dahntay Jones, F Casey Sanders, C Shelden Williams, G Chris Duhon, G J.J. Redick.
OUTLOOK: Poor, occasionally atrocious defense and a reliance on 3-point shooting sentenced the Devils to their lowest seed since 1996. Freshman Williams has shown flashes of low-post dominance, but can he sustain them? If so, Redick, Jones and Duhon are bound to get open shots from beyond the arc, where Duke lives and dies.
No. 4 ILLINOIS (24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 23rd appearance, fourth straight. Four Final Fours, most recent in 1989. Lost to Kansas last year in Midwest semis.
COACH: Bill Self (9-4 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Brian Cook, F Roger Powell, F James Augustine, G Dee Brown, G Devon Williams.
OUTLOOK: The most talented team in a watered-down Big Ten. Cook, a horse inside, leads the league in scoring, and Harrington leads in 3-point percentage. Illini defeated Missouri, won at Michigan and Minnesota and rank second nationally in field-goal percentage defense. PG Brown and Augustine are freshmen.
No. 5 NOTRE DAME (22-9)
NCAA HISTORY: 27th appearance, third straight. Final Four in 1978. Lost to Duke last year in second round.
COACH: Mike Brey (2-4 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Dan Miller, F Jordan Cornette, C Torin Francis, G Chris Thomas, G Matt Carroll.
OUTLOOK: No team can match the Irish's early December, when they defeated Marquette, Maryland and Texas. Notre Dame shoots well from the free-throw line and beyond the arc, but Thomas too often plays out of control. Team defense and interior offense suspect, weaknesses that showed in a first-round Big East loss to St. John's.
No. 6 CREIGHTON (29-4)
NCAA HISTORY: 14th appearance, fifth straight. Regional runner-up in 1941. Upset Florida in first round last year before losing to Illinois.
COACH: Dana Altman (2-5 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Kyle Korver, F Brody Deren, F Mike Lindeman, G Tyler McKinney, G Larry House.
OUTLOOK: Beware the Bluejays. They lead nation in field-goal percentage and force more than 18 turnovers per game. They're 10 deep but lean on 6-foot-7 Korver, a versatile All-American who scores from anywhere, rebounds and defends. Creighton defeated Notre Dame and BYU and won the Missouri Valley tournament.
No. 7 MEMPHIS (23-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 17th appearance, first since 1996. Final Four in 1985.
COACH: John Calipari (11-5 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Chris Massie, F John Grice, C Earl Barron, G Antonio Burks, G Anthony Rice.
OUTLOOK: Tigers used last season's NIT championship as a stepping stone and are capable of a deep NCAA run. Nine players have started at least six games, and eight average more than eight points. Led by 6-foot-8, 262-pound Massie, Memphis pounds opponents on glass. Defeated Syracuse, Illinois and won at Louisville.
No. 8 CINCINNATI (17-11)
NCAA HISTORY: 22nd appearance, 12th straight. Six Final Fours, most recent in 1992. Titles in 1961 and '62. Lost to UCLA last year in second round.
COACH: Bob Huggins (18-12 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Jason Maxiell, F Leonard Stokes, C Kareem Johnson, G Field Williams, G Taron Barker.
OUTLOOK: Huggins remains maniacal despite an offseason heart attack, but his Bearcats aren't nearly as good as last season's No. 1 seed. This marks the first time in eight years Cincy did not earn at least a share of Conference USA regular-season title. Bearcats defeated Oregon in December but lost five of six late in season.
No. 9 GONZAGA (23-8)
NCAA HISTORY: Sixth appearance, fifth straight. Regional runner-up in 1999. Lost to Wyoming last year in first round.
COACH: Mark Few (4-3 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Kyle Bankhead, F Ronny Turiaf, C Cory Violette, G Blake Stepp, G Winston Brooks.
OUTLOOK: After three consecutive years of bracket busting, Zags entered the 2002 tournament with great fanfare, only to exit in the first round. Less attention this year might be the perfect tonic. Gonzaga, nine deep, beat Utah and N.C. State in non-conference, but lost to San Diego on the Toreros home court in West Coast tournament final.
No. 10 ARIZONA STATE (19-11)
NCAA HISTORY: 12th appearance, first since 1995. No Final Fours, regional runner-up three times.
COACH: Rob Evans (0-2 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Donnell Knight, F Tommy Smith, F Ike Diogu, G Curtis Millage, G James Braxton.
OUTLOOK: Freshman PF Diogu, one of the most touted recruits in program history, leads the Sun Devils in scoring and rebounding. ASU feasted on the bottom half of the watered-down Pac-10 but had impressive non-conference victories against Utah and Purdue. Anything past the first round would prompt celebration.
No. 11 CENTRAL MICHIGAN (24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: Fourth appearance, first since 1987. Advanced one round in 1975.
COACH: Jay Smith (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Mike Manciel, C Chris Kaman, G J.R. Wallace, G T.J. Meerman, G Tony Bowne.
OUTLOOK: The Chippewas, 9-19 last year, won the regular season and tournament in the Mid-American, the conference that produced last season's surprise regional finalist, Kent State. First NCAA since the days of Dan Majerle. Kaman, a 7-foot junior and the MAC Player of the Year, averages 22.7 points and 12.3 rebounds.
No. 12 UW-MILWAUKEE (24-7)
NCAA HISTORY: First appearance.
COACH: Bruce Pearl (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Dylan Page, F Clay Tucker, C Nate Mielki, G Ronnie Jones, G Jason Frederick.
OUTLOOK: The Panthers earned their first NCAA bid in the program's 107 years, despite losing F Adrian Tigert for the season to a knee injury. They lost to Wisconsin and Georgia but defeated Butler twice in three games, including a decisive 17-pointer in the Horizon tournament. Tucker was voted MVP of the league tournament.
No. 13 WESTERN KENTUCKY (23-8)
NCAA HISTORY: 19th appearance, third straight. Final Four in 1971. Lost to Stanford last year in first round.
COACH: Dennis Felton (0-2 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Nate Williams, F David Boyden, G Filip Videnov, G Mike Wells, G Patrick Sparks.
OUTLOOK: Chris Marcus, a 7-foot-1 center and All-America candidate, missed the entire season with a foot injury. Still, the Hilltoppers defended their Sun Belt regular-season and tournament titles. Four starters average between 11 and 15 points, balance that has fueled a current 11-game winning streak. Beat Auburn by 19, fell to Arizona by 39.
No. 14 COLORADO STATE (19-13)
NCAA HISTORY: Eighth appearance, first since 1990. Regional runner-up in 1969.
COACH: Dale Layer (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Brian Greene, F Darian Burke, C Matt Williams, G Andy Birley, G Shelton Johnson.
OUTLOOK: The Rams finished sixth in the Mountain West but won the conference tournament, defeating UNLV on the Rebels' home court in the final. They lead the nation in shooting percentage (51) and overcame a seven-game midseason losing streak. Matt Nelson, a 7-footer, comes off the bench. He was MVP of the conference tournament.
No. 15 UTAH STATE (24-8)
NCAA HISTORY: 15th appearance, third in four years. Regional runner-up in 1939 and '70. Upset Ohio State in first round in 2001.
COACH: Stew Morrill (1-3 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Desmond Penigar, F Toraino Johnson, C Spencer Nelson, G Mark Brown, G Cardell Butler.
OUTLOOK: The Aggies are the type of team that gives high seeds fits, as Ohio State will attest from two years ago. Morrill relies on junior college transfers and a deliberate attack that forces opponents to defend for extended periods. Seeded third, Utah State won the Big West tournament. Also defeated state rivals Weber State and Utah.
No. 16 VERMONT (21-11)
NCAA HISTORY: First appearance.
COACH: Tom Brennan (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Taylor Coppenrath, F Grant Anderson, C Matt Sheftic, G Andre Anderson, G David Hehn.
OUTLOOK: Don't bank on the Catamounts in the pool, but bank on Brennan garnering plenty of pub. A former William and Mary assistant, he co-hosts a popular morning radio show and has Vermont in the NCAA for the first time in its 103 seasons. Coppenrath averages 20 points, and Sheftic was MVP on America East tournament.
Copyright © 2014, Newport News, Va., Daily Press